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Japan: creators of fake plastic food go wild

A "leaning tower of pizzas" dripping with melted cheese, a Tetris game made of chicken or even a fried shrimp on all fours enthroned on shredded cabbage are among the some sixty creations on display since this week in a shopping center in Tokyo.

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Japan: creators of fake plastic food go wild

A "leaning tower of pizzas" dripping with melted cheese, a Tetris game made of chicken or even a fried shrimp on all fours enthroned on shredded cabbage are among the some sixty creations on display since this week in a shopping center in Tokyo.

Other less eccentric works emphasize the skill and meticulousness of their authors, such as delicate motifs adorning rolls of dried seaweed surrounding white rice (maki).

"Normally, we have to follow the instructions of our customers", explains to AFP Shinichiro Hasata, 57, one of the creators represented at the exhibition.

But this time, "we can use our imagination. We are completely free to decide what the final product will look like," he savors.

All the exhibits were designed by employees of Iwasaki, Japan's leading plastic food company celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.

In a factory of this company located in Yokohama, near Tokyo, artisans first take molds of ingredients from real dishes prepared by restaurant customers.

They then undertake the meticulous work of decorating the samples to look as realistic as possible, whether they are drops of moisture on frozen glass or subtle bruises on the surface of a fruit.

"Fresh things are more difficult to make. Fresh vegetables, fresh fish. Cooked products are easier" because the colors are less complicated, factory manager Hiroaki Miyazawa, 44, told AFP.

Apart from whetting the appetite, plastic reproductions of dishes can also make it easier for foreigners to order from restaurants if restaurants only have menus in Japanese.

However, the Japanese fake food industry is in decline, suffering in particular for more than two years from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which undermined the activity of bars and restaurants and closed the country to foreign tourists.

"I think the number of restaurants displaying plastic food is decreasing," said Yutaka Nishio, a 52-year-old visitor to the expo. "It's interesting to preserve that as an art. It's really great," he rejoices.

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