At almost every restaurant across Japan what catches the eye of the potential customer are the array of exquisitely made sample dishes showcased on the outside of the store. Each one of them portrays exactly how the actual dish looks like when the customer orders it. The idea of replicating food sprouted with Takizo Iwasaki in the early 1930’s and immediately took off in the restaurant business.Kappabashi-dori in Tokyo is home the widest variety of food replica stores as well as other kitchen utensils. Anything that is needed in a restaurant can be found on this street. For example, one food replica store on this street, called Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya, not only sells food replicas, and other little food trinkets, but also makes them and holds food replica making workshops, which is what I got to do earlier this year.
(CR: ganso-sample.com)Originally, the replicas were made of wax. Nowadays, though, restaurants showcase the replicas with hot lights to show off their dishes. The heat from the lights would melt the wax, so food replicas are now made with vinyl to help them last longer. However, when doing the workshop, the food is still made using wax.Here are some of the various displays that the store had.
The following pictures aren’t from Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya but another place along Kappabashi-dori.
This store actually had food replicas just for holding cell phones or picture frames. It was pretty amusing seeing all of the different things stores actually made food replicas for.
In the workshop the item that was made was tempura. Everyone got to choose two different tempura items to make from a selection composed of shrimp, pumpkin, sweet potato, lotus root, pepper, etc. The two items I chose were shrimp and sweet potato. After the tempura was finished, everyone made a head of lettuce.To make the items there were metal tubs filled with 40 degree Celsius water along with three different colored pots of hot wax beside it. The first part of the tempura is the crispy shell, and in order to make that the wax was put into a cup and the cup was held above one’s head. The wax was then poured into the tub of hot water in the shape of whatever food that person was making.
The picture below shows a student performing this task and one can see the wax bubbling up just like how tempura looks.
After the “batter” for the tempura is in the tub the pre-made food is placed within the center of the wax like the picture below.Once that is done, the whole thing is dunked into the water and, while it is underneath the water, the tempura is shaped around the food so that it covers the entire item. Then it is chilled in cold water and done.The more challenging food to make was the head of lettuce. A small portion of the green wax was scooped up and then slowly poured along the water’s edge like in the picture below.
(CR: ganso-sample.com)Then a larger scoop of the white wax was poured along the edge of the line of green wax. After that more green wax was added to it as well like below.
(CR: hisgo.com.mm)The wax was then dragged out in the water to make it longer and when it reached almost the other side of the tub it was taken out of the water. As one took it out of the water everybody had to roll it on each side into a ball-like shape, just like a head of lettuce. This was the most difficult aspect of making the wax food since the wax would only stay malleable for so long.The end product of both looks like this:
These are the shrimp and sweet potato that I made. The shrimp got a little too long and looks a bit bent.
This is what the head of lettuce looks like. After the lettuce was formed the instructor cut it into two.Overall, this was a really fun and unique experience that is definitely recommended when coming to Japan, especially since the food replicas are not made with wax anymore.Access:www.ganso-sample.com
Address: 3-7-6 Nishi Asakusa, Taito-ku, TokyoHours: 10am-5:30pmTravel: 5 minute walk from Asakusa Station12 minute walk from Tawaramachi StationIn order to do the replica workshop it must be done in groups of people and the limit is 16 people.