Japan Culinary Tour Highlight: Sampuru “Fake Food”

Japan culinary tour

Japan Food Tour

If you haven’t discovered the Access Trips Japan tour yet, it’s time. Our Japan tour gives you an insiders view of the cultures we visit, and as with all Access Trips tours, it’s through the lens of the cuisines that shape daily life.

We recently showcased our stop at the Sampuru factory on the Access Trips blog and thought it was worth revisiting. Imitation food is big business in Japan, from storefronts to grocery stores. Think of this art form as the calling card to good eats. Restaurants invest in intricate replicas of their meals to entice you in to dine.

Fake Food on a Japan Culinary Adventure?

We ran this blog several months ago but it is well worth a revisit. How often do you celebrate fake food on a culinary tour? On day two of our Japan Culinary excursion, guests tour the streets of traditional Tokyo, discovering shops full of kitchen wares. We taste authentic Japanese foods (real ones) and, witness the unbelievable art of Sampuru. Here, in the heart of Tokyo, unidentifiable plastic replicas of some of the world’s most favored culinary dishes claim high prices. Fake food takes center stage for a brief moment on our delicious Japan culinary tour.

But this isn’t just plastic play food. In Japan, Sampuru, or “sample” is a common sight at the entrance of restaurants, grocery stores, and markets, and it isn’t cheap. Replica entrees often cost upwards of $100. These fake food displays are serious business and meant to attract customers, making them worthy of an investment by business owners. Part of the Japanese love of food is its aesthetic, and customers not only appreciate a preview of what they might eat but often expect it. This has created a booming business for patient artists who painstakingly replicate everything from multi-course meals of rice, proteins, and vegetables, to simple whole fruits and meats, all in vinyl, and they do so with incredible accuracy.

Now, eager culinary travelers need not worry, you will dine on the real deal while on tour with Access Trips, but this is a fun and exploratory cultural stop worth your time. Prepare to see replicated raw eggs that seem suspended by magic, noodles steaming into a ramen broth frozen in time, and sushi so perfect you’ll want to take a bite (but we’ll stop you and remind you the good stuff comes later that day).

For more information about this important facet of Japan’s culinary culture, we highly suggest this NPR story about the psychological reasons that Japanese culture focuses on fake foods, and also this CNN piece on the business behind producing these works of art.