I enjoyed reading this story about the fake food industry in Japan. Speaking from experience, when you visit any mall or shopping center you see elaborate displays like this one:
The food, as you may or may not be aware, is fake. It’s plastic, but the likeness is pretty impressive, and as the article above states, it’s often hand-made by trained artisans in Gifu Prefecture among other places. Fake food there is practically an art form there.
The article covers the life of one veteran artisan named Shimada who has been in the industry for 16 years, and while the career was difficult at times, he took his job very seriously, learned to cook the recipes he would imitate, and like a true artist, took inspiration from competitors and other people’s work. It’s a fun article to read, and puts a face behind all those fake food displays you see daily there when eating out. Also, the exacting standards that go behind such displays is very impressive too.
As I will be visiting again in April (a warm season at last!), we will likely visit a “family restaurant” or famiresu more than once,1 and those are nice places to view fake food. If you’re in the Tokyo area then, don’t be surprised if you see a big chubby foreigner there staring at the window display of a restaurant with an appraising eye before his Japanese wife smacks him in the head, telling him to sit down.
Updated: Edited this post with a photo I took of fake-food in Japan, as opposed to a photo from Wikipedia.
1 Family restaurants are like the ones you see in the US, but much cleaner and nicer customer service. Good comfort food too, good hours, and great treats for the kids. If you’re a parent there: best. idea. ever.