Replica Food: The art of making fake food in Tokyo

Photos by Rey Waters
Photos by Rey Waters

Replica Food: The art of making fake food in Tokyo

by Rey Waters
Japan Travel

While on your visit to Japan you will come across many restaurants that present food samples of their offerings. The plastic food looks so real and the details make your mouth water. Go to the top floor of any department store and almost all the restaurants will showcase realistic looking dishes. Many times when dining alone I show the waitress my choice by pointing to the display in the window.

Back in the Showa period a man named Takizo Iwasaki decided to form a company to make replica food. In 1932 he opened a factory in Osaka and it became the largest food display company in Japan. Originally the sample food was made of wax, but after sitting in the display case for a long period of time during the hot weather their shape changed, so in the 1970’s they switched to a durable plastic.

Miwa and I recently booked a class at Iwasaki’s “Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya” company in Tokyo, which holds workshops for making replica food. Today it was Lettuce and Tempura. I chose shrimp and potato for the tempura.

Toyama-san, our instructor, explained to me in English the process we would experience during our class. She also noted that many foreigners join her workshops.

The first and most important step is to heat the water to 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 F). Today we used three colors to make our samples of green, white, and light yellow.

There were a total of 7 students, so the class moved along pretty quickly.

To make the Tempura pieces you need to hold a cup with the liquid 60 cm high and pour slowly into the vat. For shrimp, pour in a rectangular shape and for the potato pour in a circle. Place the shrimp onto the rectangle and slowly submerge in the water while wrapping the ends. When complete, place in cold water and there you have Shrimp Tempura. It does look real, even the one I made.

The lettuce process was a little more complicated using two colors, however the results were the same. We chose to have ours cut in half showing the realistic inner texture.

Ganso offers several other choices of sample food making at their two Kappabashi locations.

The class was very inexpensive when you consider what the cost would be to purchase the three items we made. Our workshop cost 2160 yen ($14.27). The prices vary according to the food you want to make.

I am by no means an artist, but this process will give you a feeling of accomplishment, and even children are welcome to take the class.

Downstairs from the workshop is a retail store where you can purchase items for your home or restaurant. They have two stores in Tokyo and one at the Red Brick Warehouse in Yokohama.

During your visit to Japan this workshop is a nice way to spend a couple of hours while taking home a neat souvenir that you personally made.

For additional information go to their website, or call 0120-81-1839.

The workshops must be done in groups with a limit of 16 per class. Both workshop locations are just minutes walking distance from Tawaramachi Station or Asakusa Station in the Kappabashi-dori area of Tokyo.

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