​Get a Taste for Sampuru: the Art of Making Plastic Food​​

The Art of Making Plastic Food​​
The Art of Making Plastic Food​​ | © Marco Argüello
Photo of John Still
Commissioning Editor20 April 2020
View

The food you’re about to see certainly looks edible. Delicious even. But don’t be fooled – these delicacies are all made of plastic. Photographer Marco Argüello takes us on a journey to rural Japan to discover just why they’re so popular across the country.

Back in the 1920s, menus weren’t commonplace in Japan. To make it easier for the customers to decide what they’d like, pictures of plastic food were displayed. The art of crafting these lifelike replicas became known as sampuru, and the practice is still going strong today. Eighty percent of the plastic food in the country is made in the small, riverside town of Gujo Hachiman, and photographer Marco Argüello paid the town a visit and documented the process.

© Marco Arguello
A lot of work goes into every sampuru before it reaches the restaurant. It’s a painstaking process; to this day each sampuru item is crafted and painted by hand | © Marco Argüello
​​A sampuru mold is made my dipping the real food into silicone. Liquid plastic is then poured into the mold and left to set for up to 30 minutes before | © Marco Argüello
A small sampuru item can take a whole day to handcraft, with whole meals taking up to a week | © Marco Argüello
Sampuru is a $90m industry in Japan alone, with stores dedicated to these realistic replicas | © Marco Argüello
Et voila! The final sampuru meal – looks good enough to eat | © Marco Argüello

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel – and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Epic Trips, Mini Trips and Sailing Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travellers and friends who want to explore the world together.

Epic Trips are deeply immersive 8 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and enough down time to really relax and soak it all in. Our Mini Trips are small and mighty - they squeeze all the excitement and authenticity of our longer Epic Trips into a manageable 3-5 day window. Our Sailing Trips invite you to spend a week experiencing the best of the sea and land in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm – and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"