Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Plastic Food in Japan


Sweet Willie
 Share

Recommended Posts

Those items that you refer to collectively as plastic food are called shokuhin sanpuru (food samples) in Japanese. According to this webpage (Japanese only), food samples first appeared in Japan in 1917, and they were made of wax. It also says that those made of vinyl chloride first appeared about 30 years ago (the webpage was created in 2004), which brought a technological breakthrough in the history of food samples.

I can tell you that when I was small, food samples were not as sophisticated as they are now. I mean, they were often bigger than life. For example, the piece of shrimp tempura in a ten don food sample was often much bigger than that actually served. I remember that the sandwich that I ordered at a rooftop restaurant of a department store was smaller than the food sample. If I were served the same sandwich today, I would surely make a complaint to the restaurant.

There is a detailed book on food samples in Japanese, titled "The Japanese, who eat with the eye".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Those items that you refer to collectively as plastic food are called shokuhin sanpuru (food samples) in Japanese.  According to this webpage (Japanese only), food samples first appeared in Japan in 1917, and they were made of wax.  It also says that those made of vinyl chloride first appeared about 30 years ago (the webpage was created in 2004), which brought a technological breakthrough in the history of food samples.

I can tell you that when I was small, food samples were not as sophisticated as they are now.  I mean, they were often bigger than life.  For example, the piece of shrimp tempura in a ten don food sample was often much bigger than that actually served.  I remember that the sandwich that I ordered at a rooftop restaurant of a department store was smaller than the food sample.  If I were served the same sandwich today, I would surely make a complaint to the restaurant.

There is a detailed book on food samples in Japanese, titled "The Japanese, who eat with the eye".

Here's an article on plastic food in English, which also traces it to 1917.

Tokyo's Kappabashi restaurant supply district (where there's a landmark building with a gigantic toque-topped mustachioed chef's head on the roof) has a lot of stores that sell the plastic food models, some of which are incredibly expensive. I was particularly struck by the models of Western foods that depict things such as a stream of cream being poured in mid-air from a pitcher. The models make great souvenirs, but all I could afford to buy were a couple of pieces of nigiri! :laugh:

This blog has photos of the area.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...

Sorry, I have been busy and haven't been posting much.

I am really curious about those plastic food displays in front of japanese restaurants i see all the time and how they look very much like the real thing.What are these called in japanese?Any japanese websites featuring them?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, Min. Long time no see. :biggrin:

They are called shokuhin sanpuru (food samples) in Japanese.

You want Japanese sites? Just google 食品サンプル.

The first three sites that I found were:

http://www.bidders.co.jp/bpu/2472644

http://www.foodmodelstyle.net/

http://www.geocities.jp/mitsuwa_sample/

I also found a food sample making class:

http://www.kankou-gifu.jp/en/experience/food.html

(in English)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I imagine the industry must be suffering, as plastic food models really seem to be going out of style, at least in Tokyo. It's rare to see them in new restaurants, other than occasionally in department stores.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for all the information and links :smile:

Lobster,

Plastic food displays shouldn't be a fashion statement or something stylish, i assume?They're suppose to guide non-japanese like myself when making decisions on what to order.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, no, food models in Tokyo restaurants really have nothing to do with guiding foreigners on how to order - for that goal the English-langauge menu is cheaper and more efficient. Food models function as advertising (in the same way as other window displays do), so in that sense being stylish is important. And they're pretty much out of style.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

Years ago, I bought a bunch of these boxes of gum which have the really cool miniature food stuffs inside them. I am looking at an art project which very well could get published and I'd like to know....

Do these little boxes actually have a name? How do you guys refer to them, culturally? I just call them "those little boxes of miniature Japanese food," but what can I call them on an art project? (Actually, I'm making jewelry with them...)

THANKS!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Years ago, I bought a bunch of these boxes of gum which have the really cool miniature food stuffs inside them. I am looking at an art project which very well could get published and I'd like to know....

Do these little boxes actually have a name? How do you guys refer to them, culturally? I just call them "those little boxes of miniature Japanese food," but what can I call them on an art project? (Actually, I'm making jewelry with them...)

THANKS!

Culturally?? The manufacturer calls them petit samples. They also use the term petit doubutsu (= animal) if they are animal-shaped, as well as petit mode collection. They also call them miniatures and simply "items".

I would simply call them omake (giveaways) :raz: .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A number of years ago while on a business trip, I went to the fish market in Tokyo. On my way out, I passed a restaurant supply store. It drew me in like a magnet, who could resist? I bought a knife which they assembled on the spot; you choose the blade and handle.

There were shelves filled with these food models. I guess common items are mass produced. That is why they all look as if they were made by the same person.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actual food samples are still used in many restaurants and eateries in Japan.

For instance a University dining hall/canteen might have portions of real food set up on display with prices next to them located near the vending machine which dispenses meal vouchers for these items.

You might also see actual food in a display case outside of a restaurant or just set up on a table with a layer of cling film/saren wrap over it.

Whilst these displays are certainly useful (especially for me) they aren't particularly enticing. There's also the additional factor that if I can't put aside an association with the food placed at a grave or family altar I assume other Japanese people are making a similar association.

It doesn't stop me from eating at places where real food is used as an advertisement/guide, but I'm partly eating there despite the real food samples - not because of them (bit complicated).

Plastic/wax food supplies no such reservations.

I'm going to make some assumptions here: If it was 'standard' to use real food in the past (and I assume also that it would have been - literacy rates were about 40% in 1870) this would have continued to the point of the revolutionary 1920s wax replicas. I also imagine that these first replicas would have been a big draw by themselves being a technological break-through. I find it hard to believe it was solely to introduce the Japanese to new food, although, naturally, it was a perfect way to do this.

Like many people who visit Japan I'm hypnotised by the proliferation of food programs. I've seen at least one fascinating one about how these plastic models are manufactured. So interesting I figured that there would be others and at least one of them would have made it to youtube.

I used 'sample' as a search term - サンプル and found this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOpaOXA9Ows

It shows norimaki, tempura & napolitan spaghetti samples being made

---

Here's a sample competition which also shows more being made:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmLloZeQsTk

Edited by MoGa (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am slightly confused because as opposed to display items being made for restaurants, I am talking about those miniature versions that are sold in gum boxes. I assume they are being marketed for the maniacal collector so when somebody collects those miniature food items, do they say they are collecting "omake"?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am slightly confused because as opposed to display items being made for restaurants, I am talking about those miniature versions that are sold in gum boxes. I assume they are being marketed for the maniacal collector so when somebody collects those miniature food items, do they say they are collecting "omake"?

It is confusing as sometimes the miniature versions are sold with gum, and sometimes they aren't. For instance I've seen miniature food sets sold with candy, such as a tea and wagashi from around Japan series - Castella and 'Western' tea set from Nagasaki, cherry blossom mochi and bean cakes for Kyoto. Yet in places such as Tokyu Hands I've seen similar items sold in boxes without candy and these seem destined for Doll Houses.

My impression of 'omake' (the mystery collector items that get sold with candy) is summed up by the images on this Google snapshot of the word: http://images.google.com/images?q=%E3%81%8...m=1&sa=N&tab=wi

which includes these images:

kazumisan19.jpg

okasi1.jpg

20070614_ooiocha.jpg

052102400.jpeg

and the classic source for omake:

gurikoehon.jpg

Edited by MoGa (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am slightly confused because as opposed to display items being made for restaurants, I am talking about those miniature versions that are sold in gum boxes. I assume they are being marketed for the maniacal collector so when somebody collects those miniature food items, do they say they are collecting "omake"?

Sorry, I didn't mean to confuse you. Like I said, I would call them omake, but serious collectors like you wouldn't want to use that word! (Note that there are serious omake collectors in Japan.) So, probably for those particular items of that manufacturer, petit sample should be the right term.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am slightly confused because as opposed to display items being made for restaurants, I am talking about those miniature versions that are sold in gum boxes. I assume they are being marketed for the maniacal collector so when somebody collects those miniature food items, do they say they are collecting "omake"?

Sorry, I didn't mean to confuse you. Like I said, I would call them omake, but serious collectors like you wouldn't want to use that word! (Note that there are serious omake collectors in Japan.) So, probably for those particular items of that manufacturer, petit sample should be the right term.

Thanks -- is there a Japanese term or do they use the English? I actually prefer omake.

The reason I'm asking is that I am going to be using the pieces to make jewelry, like this ring, and want to make sure I'm using the right vernacular!

2452528420_1fbd3ea0a4.jpg

Edited by Carolyn Tillie (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...