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Japan’s plastic artists get creative

#Japans #plastic #artists #creative

From the “leaning pizza tower,” to a fish that slices and cooks itself, to a dragon emerging from a dragon fruit, Japanese artisans’ whimsical food sculptures were on display at an exhibition this week in Tokyo.

The models have been crafted with the same meticulousness as the rock-hard noodle soups and crispy-looking plastic snacks that have long been displayed outside Japanese restaurants, where they’re dubbed “shokuhin sampuru,” or “sample food products.”

Sampuru are widely available outside of ramen shops and family restaurants across Japan, a century after stores began using wax models to present their menus to a growing middle class.

“Usually we have to follow the instructions of our customers. We take their views into account when making items,” plastic artist Shinichiro Hatasa, 57, told AFP.

But when you come up with fun designs, “you can let your imagination run wild. How it ends is entirely up to you,” he said.

For the exhibition, Hatasa made a corncob that was comfortably sunbathing on the beach.

Other creations on display included a fried shrimp with four breaded legs that roamed like a tiger on a mountain of shredded cabbage and a chicken Tetris game.

A Japanese breakfast dish made from fermented soybeans called natto seemed to squirm in the air, resembling a powerful cyclone — nicknamed “nattornado,” of course.

Around 60 sculptures were on display, some silly but others designed to showcase the artists’ impressive skills.

“They’re not real, but they look so real. It’s wonderful,” said exhibitor Reiko Ichimaru.

– ‘Burgers are for beginners’ –

All models have been handcrafted by specialists from the Iwasaki Group, Japan’s leading manufacturer of “Sampuru”, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.

At an Iwasaki factory in Yokohama, near Tokyo, artisans first take molds from ingredients from actual meals prepared by the company’s restaurant customers.

Then they begin the meticulous work of decorating the samples to look as realistic as possible, from drops of moisture on chilled glass to subtle bruising on the surface of a fruit.

“Fresh things are harder to make. Fresh vegetables, fresh fish. Cooked products are simpler” because the colors are less complicated, factory manager Hiroaki Miyazawa, 44, told AFP.

“Hamburger patties are for beginners,” he added.

Counterfeit food is a multi-million dollar market in Japan, but sampuru production has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has reduced restaurant demand.

The Sampuru makers hope to bring more tourists into the country to boost the restaurant industry, but they’re applying their unique skills elsewhere, too.

For example, artisans in Iwasaki have made replica bananas of varying degrees of ripeness to allow factories to train new workers.

Orders have also been poured in from IT retailers who wish to use mock 5G wireless routers in their presentations.

In the exhibition, on the other hand, the more original offerings delight children and adults alike.

“I think the number of restaurants using plastic food displays is going down,” said Yutaka Nishio, 52.

“It’s interesting to preserve this as art. It’s really great.”

Social Tags:
#Japans #plastic #artists #creative

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