It’s called shokuhin sampuru and was invented by Takio Iwasaki (1895-1965). The idea behind the replicas is to show what a restaurant is selling, without the need to remake the dishes daily. The first molded food resembled an omelette, based on the one Iwasaki’s wife would make at home. In fact the replica was so convincing, even his wife couldn’t tell which one was fake.
With this in mind, Iwasaki continued improving his skills and eventually founded Iwasaki Be-I Co., Ltd. Even today his company has about 70 % market share.
To create these incredible sampuru replicas, the craftsmen use wax, plastic, gelatin and other materials. So when you go to a restaurant and don’t known any Japanese, the display will help you, offering a lot more information than a menu would.
Making the replicas is considered an art form, but it’s offered in workshops as well. Tourists visiting the town of Gujo-Hachiman, the capital of food replicas in Japan, are able to participate and create their own artificial food.
For those who can not visit Japan, they can purchase several DIY kits online and try it at home. And if you just want to watch it, below is a selection of fake food models, that just look like the real deal. But don’t forget, none of them are edible.