Learning the Art of Creating Food Replicas in Gujo Hachiman, Japan

Even though food replicas are a common sighting upon entering most Japanese restaurants, I often give zero care at its creation process nor its origin. Totally lost on me are the amount of craftsmanship and skills required to mold each food replica items from drippings of wax. Joining the Cebu Pacific Nagoya Familiarization trip changed all my indifference towards this form of art. I got the opportunity to learn more about this inventiveness when we made a pit stop at Gujo, Hachiman to visit the Iwasaki Mokei or otherwise known as the “Sample Village Iwasaki”.

Stratworks' charming Kezia holding her lettuce creation
History of Sample Village Iwasaki

The first set of fake foods was created at Iwasaki Mokei in 1932 when Gujo Hachiman native Takizo Iwasaki kick-started the industry. A short time later, the business grew and eventually became known all over Japan until he expanded to found the Gifu Mill in 1955, before evolving to Iwasaki Sample Products Ltd in 1963. Today, this small artisan village provides food replicas to more than half of Japanese restaurants in Japan and to many parts of the world as well.

Kezia craving for one of the more complicated fake food display
Meeting Tomoko-San and Arrival at Sample Village Iwasaki

Despite the overflowing kindness of Japanese hospitality we have experienced the previous day, I was still madly impressed by the joyful and free-spirited character of Tomoko-San, the tour guide assigned to us by the tourism office of Gifu Prefecture. I first met her after we stepped out of our bus. Beaming with a charmed presence and unending smile she excitedly welcomed us and quickly told us about the many interesting things that lay ahead of us in Gifu. After a short introduction, she instantly ushered us inside to meet the few workers at one of the four food replica workshops at Iwasaki Mokei. 

Our Gifu Prefecture tour guide; Tomoko-Sun
Inside, I see a cadre of food replicas on display. Ranging from ramen, to all types of Maki rolls, sashimi, vegetable salads, hamburgers, pastas and even ice creams. Suddenly, my apathy towards the manufacturing process of these food replicas gravitated towards sheer curiosity - especially after one of the female workers told us “one by one you will try to create a simple fake tempura and vegetable” while pointing to a sink full of water and a few pots filled with colorful wax.

Creating Fake Plastic Lettuce and Tempura

One after another, I found myself dipping my hands into the sink and following instructions, I carefully poured the hot drippings of green wax into the water. Slowly, I circled the hardening wax until it formed a round figure in my hand. Afterward, I was told to cut it in half and viola – as simple as that I have already created a fake lettuce vegetable. 

Making my own lettuce
I followed an almost similar process – this time using a yellow-colored wax to create the breading cover for the tempura. It simply involves methodical mixing of the wax and careful folding to produce a neat looking Tempura. 

Kezia on a roll, this time making a fake tempura
As much as I found the ‘sample’ process easy, looking at the other food samples dictates to me that the whole shindig of creating these fake foods is never 'a walk in the park'. As I surveyed around me and appreciated the various plastic food displays, I compare the artistry of these fake food makers to the skills of sculptors.

Yup, even that is the product of Sample Village Iwasaki

Our short trip to the Sample Village Iwasaki definitely served as an eye-opener at the tedious procedures at how these fake foods are created. Next time I enter a Japanese restaurant and see these food replicas, I will absolutely look at it with more appreciation and remember the skilled workers of Gujo Hachiman's Sample Village Iwasaki.

Address: 250 Hachimancho-Jonancho,
Gujo 501-4224, Gifu Prefecture Japan
Telephone Number: 0575-65-3378
Email: iwvillage@chic.ocn.ne.jp
Open from 10AM-4PM (Experience Course at 3PM)
Experience Course Rate: 800yen~/1 person (reservation needed)

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