Fake Food 101: Make Your Own Wax Food in Gujo, Japan
Don’t you just love seeing food replicas displayed in restaurant counters? These “food samples”, or sampuru as they call it in Japan, aren’t there just for the sake of attracting customers. It’s there so customers can visualize the look of the food they are offering in their place. It’s a clever way of introducing dish, in the most creative way possible.
Sample Kobo in Gujo, where we made our own fake food!
When our guide mentioned that we will be doing a food sample, we were curious as to what that meant. We arrived at Gujo Hachiman, known as the “Fake Food Capital of Japan,” where we were taught how to make our own food samples which show Japan’s artistry and tradition.
Don’t they look so realistic?
Gujo’s Food Replicas are a highly regarded form of art which dates back to 1917. It was said that the business of creating food replicas started when Takizo Iwasaki, the Father of Food Replicas, accidentally discovered that he could make something out of wax. When he was a child, he saw a hot wax drip down from a candle to a puddle of cold water. He touched the surface and then saw a shape of a flower. From then on, he used this discovery to make a business out of it, thus opening Sample Village Iwasaki in 1932. Now with more than 80 years of Food Replica-making, it is recognized as a special art tradition that puts Gujo on a pedestal.
It’s sushi time!
We headed to Sample Kobo to try our hands at creating fake food. Being a bad cook myself, I thought that maybe this Food Replica experience will change the way I see food—or so I thought. Going inside the place, a wide variety of food replica souvenirs will greet you in various shapes and sizes. These trinkets are definitely a must-buy for souvenirs as you can see sushi key chains, ref magnets, toys, and even a wall clock. As much as I am excited to hoard souvenirs, I was eager to create my own fake food.
Our sensei teaching us the steps to make our own fake tempura
The before and after of our fake tempura
I put on my apron to formally start the sample-making. A Japanese replica artist thoroughly explained the step-by-step process of making our own food sample. For that day, we had to create fake tempura and cabbage. The artist also showed the materials they use to create these samples: wax, water, and a ready-made fake shrimp. Making tempura is good for beginners because all you have to do is to drip off the wax, let it solidify for a few seconds, cover it with the “tempura batter”, and there goes your sample tempura! After it hardens, you’ll really see that it looks so realistic that you’ll want to eat it but we warn you, IT’S NOT EDIBLE!
Prices: 3 pcs of Tempura and Lettuce at ¥1,290
We were so proud of ourselves for making tempura but right after we tried doing a more challenging one: the cabbage. This is a bit harder because we had to carefully mold the cabbage using our own hands to perfect the realistic figure of its leafy greens. We each took turns to make our own cabbage replica and brought them home as a souvenir. After our food replica making, the artists from Sample Kobo showed us the place where they make the more complicated ones. With delicious-looking dishes lined up for all of us to see, it was truly hard for us to stop ourselves from wanting to taste it. We all craved for ramen right after we saw this beautiful bowl of inedible noodles.
It’s the perfect place to buy souvenirs for your friends!
Aside from cabbage and tempura, one can also choose to make fake sweets. If you’re planning to bring kids, those 6 years and above are allowed to join this exciting Food Replica making. Just remind yourself of their golden rule: no eating, sample only!
Tip: Check out samplekobo.com/quiz/ and take their awesome Real or Fake quiz challenge!
Address: 956 Hashimotocho, Hachiman-cho, Gujo City, Japan
Operating Hours: 9 am to 5 pm
How to get here: Get off at Gujo Hachiman Jokamachi Plaza station and walk for 5 minutes towards Sample Kobo.
Written by Jastine Valeriano