No, this post isn’t about Japan’s outrageous plastic waste (good guess, though). It’s literally about plastic soup. So yes, this post is about food. There’s something called sampuru. If you’ve been in Japan you’ve definitely seen it in the restaurant windows; the plastic food samples. Sampuru has existed for ages and has become a true form of art. This also means if you wanted to buy it (while in Tokyo I thought it would be a funny souvenir) it’ll cost you more than you would expect, because the food replicas are made by hand. The fake food ends up costing around ten times more than the real food.
The very first one was a rice omelette, back in 1917, when menus were non-existent and color photography still had to be invented. By the time menus became mainstream, everybody was used to seeing the plastic dishes in the window. Ideal for tourist who are lost deciphering the kanji. In addition, sampuru has another great benefit: while a menu describes the dish, the sample shows exactly how your dish will look like. And there is no scamming in that, no bigger shrimp or bigger quantity of sauce -after all, it still is Japan we’re talking about. The artists not only work with photos, but also with dishes sent by the restaurants. They even strive to reflect the taste and temperature of the dish!
Originally sampuru was made out of wax, but that might melt or fade in the sunlight. Nowadays plastic, resin and vinyl are used. Last summer it was exceptionally hot in Japan that even those started to melt. (You can read about it in this article).
I’m a big fan of sampuru because it’s an intersting and funny aspect of Japanese culture. Couldn’t resist buying some adorable sushi magnets to spice up my refrigerator 🙂