Perusing the Japanese Menu with Fake Food

Today we’re not going to discuss Japanese food–at least not the type of food you can eat. Instead, we’re going to examine the fake Japanese food you’ll find adorning many restaurant windows in Japan. If you live near a Japantown or a Japanese marketplace with a food court or even some Japanese restaurants in the West, you may still see some examples of these fake food displays outside of the Japan.

Japanese restaurants often (but not always) make room for display windows featuring plastic incarnations of most of their dishes. These display cases can take up as much as half of the restaurant’s facade in a food court or even line the entire length of a larger restaurant in a mall. (For example, take a look at this video.) The actual-size replicas of the restaurant’s main dishes include replicas of all of the sides served with the food and even similar (or the same) bowls and plates. Along with the food item is usually a placard indicating the name of the dish, the price and the dish number so that you can order by number instead of item. (Although can still name the item if you wish.)

The fake food is usually so lifelike that you can see glaze where there’s supposed to be glaze or swear you’re staring at broth in a noodle dish. The food doesn’t lie lifelessly on the dish; rather, it’s arranged as if it were the food you’d be ordering, complete with noodles crossing every which way and overlapping main courses. Of course, much of the fake food is displayed vertically so that you can get a good look; this means that you won’t be confusing the food for real food, despite how real it looks!

Most fake food displays are custom-made for the individual restaurant. In fact, there are prominent companies in Japan that specialize in producing these individualized creations, such as Iwasaki Be-I, Japan’s largest fake food manufacturer. Much of the manufacturing process is kept secret, although it’s widely known that plastic is the most often-used material in the creations. Japanese restaurants can spend the equivalent of hundreds or even thousands of dollars to have these fake foods made for their menus.

Have you ever seen the fake food in Japanese restaurant windows? Do you think that the fake food can help you make a better choice when deciding what to order?

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Tags: fake food, Food, japan, japanese culture, japanese menu, Rice, sushi