In Japan sometimes the fake food in the window is better than the real food inside

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Image: Sampuru

Via: Timothy Takemoto/CC BY-SA 2.0 /Flickr:nihonbunka

These pictures might look like real, prefectly prepared food but it's all completely fake. This is sampuru (サンプル), a word which comes from the English "sample". But unlike the free samples you might nibble on at a market over here, in Japan sampuru is just to look at and is usually made from plastic and vinyl.

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Strawberry Cake

Via: L Weiling/CC BY-SA 2.0 /Flickr: l_weiling

The theory is that Japanese customers like to see what they're getting before they order, and will decide based on the quality of the sampuru displayed in the window. With culinary aesthetics playing such an important part in Japanese culture, this really is a feast for the eyes. 

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Tart

Via: L Weiling/CC BY-SA 2.0 /Flickr:l_weiling

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Cream

Via: S Sandars/CC BY-SA 2.0 /Flickr:ssandars

Sampuru sell for 20 or 30 times the cost of the meal replicated and the artists who make them are considered master craftsmen. It takes more than a decade, for example, to learn the art of making perfect plastic ramen.

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Egg

Via: S Sandars/CC BY-SA 2.0 /Flickr:ssandars

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Cheese

Via: David/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr:randomwire

Sampuru was invented in the 1920s by a young businessman called Takizo Iwasaki in his home town of Gujo. The company he founded is now the number one producer of food models in the country. In 1932 he perfected the wax rice omelette and demand for sampuru exploded overnight. His factory is now a booming tourist attraction and legend has it that the first wax omelette sits proudly on display, still in perfect condition.

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Skewer

Via: David/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr:randomwire

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Cakes

Via: Sanctu//CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr:mithril

In the 1980s sampuru production switched from wax to PVC and plastics, which means the models can last pretty much forever.

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Eggs

Via: Sarahtz/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr:120420083@N05

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Uzu

Via: Mo Riza/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr:moriza

An unexpected but welcome side-effect of the demand for fake food is that baffled tourists can now point at the dish they want, rather than upsetting everyone by getting out their phrase books and ordering "two knees and your mother".

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Burger

Via: Clio 1789/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr:clio1789

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Spaghetti

Via:J Griffin Stewart/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr:jgriffinstewart