Shokuhin Sampuru: Japan's World of Model Food

Shokuhin Sampuru: Japan's World of Model Food

They say you eat with your eyes first and no where is this mare true than Japan.

If you’ve ever been to a Japanese restaurants, the very first thing you may have seen, even before walking in, is a display in the window of the delicious food served inside. And no, this isn’t freshly made food left out to entice you - It's actually model food.

Model food, or shokuhin sampuru, has a long tradition in Japan. While stories vary about when the first display foods were created, it can generally be traced to between 1917 and 1932, roughly at the time when the number of restaurants in Japan was exploding in the Taisho and early Showa eras.


Shokuhin Sampuru: Japan's World of Model Food


While having actual food items out on display would be wasteful and lead to spoilage, these wax and resin display foods offered a way for restaurants to show off their food and entice customers into the store.

And while you might think that all the model foods are mass produced and widely sold, a great many are actually custom ordered and made to replicate the actual
dishes as closely as possible. This service does not come cheap though as having model food created can easily cost more than USD$500.


Shokuhin Sampuru: Japan's World of Model Food

The art of making model food has become so popular that there are even shopping districts in Japan that specialize in model foods and cooking supplies. One such place to visit is the Kappabashi-dori shopping district in Tokyo. This shopping street located near Asakusa sells everything you need for your kitchen or restaurant, including many model foods.

Not to be outdone, Doguyasuji in Osaka is another well known hub for everything kitchen related in Japan.

Regardless of which shopping district you visit, chances are you’ll be able to
find a delicious looking souvenir that will keep your stomach rumbling and your eyes pleased.


About the author: 

Michael BugajskiMichael Bugajski

Michael is originally from Chicago, IL in the United States, but has lived in Japan for seven years in Niigata and Hokkaido. He is an avid home chef, baker, and coffee enthusiast, but his one true love is ramen.  Ever in pursuit of the perfect bowl of noodles, you can always find him by listening for the tell-tale slurp of ramen being enjoyed!

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