For foreigners, walking while hungry in a Japanese city without any idea where to possibly dine or decide what to eat can spell trouble because most menu are written in Japanese characters only. In order to help non-Japanese speaking people, food establishments have resorted to using fake food made from plastic that customers can look at before making an order. While there may be customers who find it helpful, there are also those who find it uncanny and disagreeable.
Alberto Pellegrini is among those who appreciate the practice. A non-Japanese speaker, Pellegrini admitted that it helped him when he, together with his wife, would dine in a Japanese restaurant. “I point at the food and I just say ‘I want this, I want that’. It is easier because choosing from a list [in Japanese] is impossible,” he shared. The Italian tourist also said that having food models displayed helped him decide what to eat as he would see some of the ingredients of a dish. As there are two sides of a coin, so is the case with some customers’ reaction to Japan’s fake foods. Among those who find it unpleasant was Elda Rozencvaag, an Israeli tourist. “When I see this it makes me feel like I don’t want to eat it. It is too weird,” he said referring to sushi. He also says seeing too many details on the fake food puts him off.
Most of the sophisticated food establishments also refuse to follow the practice. According to Takashi Nakai, a spokesman of plastic food maker Iwasaki Co., such may be the response of high-end food establishments “partly because we need real dishes to produce food samples so geographical distance is a hurdle.” Iwasaki Co. opened its business in 1932. During the time, wax was used instead of plastic. Besides fake foods, the company also produced mobile phone accessories and key chains that look like food. However, they have to put “This is not edible” warnings on the sushi accessories and bacon key chains.
Yasunobu Nose, a journalist, said that making fake food or food model was not the primary purpose of the trade. “The original craftsman was working for doctors and making models for pathological studies, such as skin diseases and human organs, before he was asked to make food samples for a restaurant,” said Yasunobu, who has also written a book about food models used in the industry.
[via France 24]