This is one of those things that never makes it into any travelogue but any time you talk to someone who's been to Japan you eventually end up in an "I know, right??" moment about this. It's both strangely horrifying and a little amazing how detailed and realistic these plastic replicas are.
Well, now you can make them yourself!
In what I think is a complete stroke of genius, there's a store in the Tokyo Skytree Town that now sells kits that allows you to replicate the oddly specific Japanese practice of creating inedible representations of restaurant food. This is apparently a tradition that dates to the Taisho era - who knew?
TOKYO SKYTREE TOWN, 4th Floor
Hours: 10:00 - 21:00
Whereas restaurants no doubt simply go to a restaurant supply store and buy pre-made dishes (perhaps created to order by skilled artisans), you can now spend $20 and up on a kit that allows you to express your own inner creativity in the medium of plastic food!
I kid, but in actual fact this is one of those ideas that I'm surprised took so long to hit someone. It really is an idea that was just "out there" for the taking.
Of course, I had to buy a kit. That spaghetti bowl on the top left - that had to be mine. I needed the craziest thing they had that was not completely beyond my skill level and did not cost more than $20. (And some of these things do reach up to $100 or so!).
You'll notice that this is "middle level". Eh, I used to build plastic models of ships when I was a kid - how hard could a bowl of spaghetti be?
This is what you get in the kit. I was surprised that it's actually wax-based, not plastic - though that does make sense. Everything is made of wax! Here you've got the raw spaghetti on the bottom left, the paper bowl, a bag full of sauce, a few bags full of toppings (green pepper, bacon, mushrooms and onion), the base, stand and fork, and both Japanese and English instructions.
The box itself only comes with Japanese instructions, but the cashier at the store noticed I was western and was helpful enough to throw English instructions in the bag.
First step. If you're wondering how they get the spaghetti to stand up like in that photo above, well, here's how the magic happens. The secret's out!
I think I did a pretty good job with this. It already looks like a real bowl of spaghetti - maybe even moreso than when I was finally finished!
To get it this way is almost like actually cooking a real bowl of spaghetti. You put the pasta in a bowl of hot water to make it soft, then wrap it around the fork and stand. For the toppings, you do the same thing so they're soft enough to cut. Then you glue them to the spaghetti.
btw, I used this for the finish:
The instructions just recommend "gloss spray", so anything similar would work.
I don't really think it's quite this realistic, but just in case, there are many warnings like this given in the box. I will say that at the end, there is kind of an odd disconnect between the way it looks and the way it smells. Especially when applying the lacquer.
The cover of the Japanese instructions and the store card.
Try this out! It's definitely a uniquely Japanese thing and kind of funny. I wonder if there are people with display cases full of fake food in their houses.