Lettuce, sushi, and hamburgers are made by artisans at Gujo Hachiman that are so plastic that it is impossible to distinguish fake ones.
Gujo Hachiman City is the hub of a $ 90 million food model-making industry, about three hours west of Tokyo. The father of this industry is Takizo Iwasaki. He was inspired by drops of candle wax flowing down a sedge mat in the house where he lived with his wife, Suzu, in Osaka, according to the Guardian.
After months of perfecting the technique, Iwasaki made a realistic omelette for his wife. The egg was decorated with ketchup, and Suzu couldn’t tell what was fake.
Before him, several craftsmen created rudimentary food models in the 1920s, but Iwasaki was a pioneer in the production method of accurate mass calculation and opened a workshop in his hometown of Gujo Hachiman. His scrambled eggs appeared in a department store in Osaka in 1932 and that was the time when the food model-making industry was born in Japan.
Real banana (left) and fake banana (right). Photo: Guardian.
Katsuju Kaneyaman, president of Sanpuru Kobo, a food model maker in Gujo Hachiman with two-thirds of the domestic market share, said the company has 10 full-time craftsmen, making around 130,000 works per year from PVC.
“The trick is a balance between the real and the aesthetics. The model needs to look delicious, not necessarily the real thing,” he said.
At the Sanpuru Kobo store, tourists fill bags with models of magnets attached to refrigerators, hard drives, pencils and other souvenirs, as well as try making tempura or fake lettuce.
These handicrafts are not cheap. Some dishes cost a few hundred dollars, more expensive than real food. The craftsmen in Sanpuru Kobo all handcraft, paint and paint each item until they are perfect, indistinguishable from the real thing.
Kaneyaman has no concerns that the industry will be replaced by 3D printing.
“3D printers make products that are lifelike, but longer, more expensive. I can easily distinguish the model made from the printer and from the handcraft. The handmade item is so delicate, which I think the machine is. 3D printing can’t do “.
Craftsmen paint meat colors in the Sanpuru Koro workshop. Photo: Guardian.
In the workshop, the craftsmen are dabbing seeds on a piece of banana, or attaching a piece of tuna meat to a rice ball. In front of their desks is a model of a bowl of noodles with chopsticks that seem to be hanging in the air above the top of the bowl.
Kaneyama believes his craftsmen can make the most complex dishes, meeting the needs of tens of thousands of restaurants across the country. When asked what was the hardest dish to make, he laughed and said, “Sushi”.