Poke bowls made with grilled prawns, vegetables, cabbage, edamame, bean sprout, wakame, boiled egg, spicy mayo served on a bed of steamed rice. Flat lay top-down composition on blue background. Vertical image with copy space.
Food - Drink
The Reason
So Many Restaurants In Japan Have Plastic Food
On Display
Instead of artfully written menus, Japanese restaurants have a tradition of putting out eye-catching displays of their dishes and beverages. The practice of showing off food samples — which the Japanese call "sampuru" — was first recorded in 1917, with samples made with wax by Soujiro Nishio.
While Nishio may have been the first, Takizo Iwasaki is the one who made food models what they are today. Iwasaki’s company, Iwasaki Be-I — established in 1932 — is still the leading supplier of plastic and wax food, providing as much as 60% of all the realistic fake food dishes across Japan.
ANA says the Japanese themselves aren't sure why restaurants appear to be willing to spend money to decorate their window displays with plastic copies of the food they serve. It is believed that the trend peaked after World War II when restaurants had begun serving both Japanese and Western-style dishes, so it was easier for customers — both local and international — to know what they were eating if they could "see" it first.
These realistic food samples — once marketing and advertising tools, as well as visual aids for restaurants — have become popular with tourists today, who consider them to be unique souvenirs. Shoppers can pick up a range of plastic foods — from doughnuts and cakes to eggs and pieces of fruit.