Photo By: Alexander Schimmeck
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Gifu
Population
2,107,687

Plastic Food Replica Shops in Gujo Hachiman

The birthplace of Japanese plastic food.

Ramen bowls evoke piping hot comfort. Pancake stacks promise fluffy and sugary pleasure. All over Japan, plastic food replicas on display outside restaurants captivate diners. A small mountain town in the Chubu Region, Gujo Hachiman, produces most of these drool-worthy marvels that are such a huge part of Japanese food culture.

Gujo Hachiman food replica in Japan

How is this not real sushi??

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Maizuru and Ganso Shokuhin are impressive shops for your fake food fetish. Both are in Tokyo Skytree and Asakusa’s famous culinary zone, Kappabashi.

Gujo Hachiman’s ode to food replicas

That said, the ultimate pilgrimage is about three hours by train from Tokyo. Gujo Hachiman is a picturesque former castle town with canal-lined streets and traditional buildings. Takizo Iwasaki, inventor of the sampuru (a Japanese word from the English “sample”) was born there in 1885.

Sample Kobo Food Replica Shop in Gujo Hachiman Japan

Photo by: Randiah Camille Green Try your hand at making your own food replica at Sample Kobo.

Iwasaki pioneered Japan’s first sampuru business in Osaka in 1932 but later returned to Gujo. Today, Gujo has 10 factories handcrafting around 70 percent of the market. Shop, watch the artisans, or try making your own!

Sample Village Iwasaki is a five-minute walk from Gujo Hachiman Station and is still run by the Iwasaki family. Takizo Iwasaki’s original 1917 prototype—an omurice (rice omelet) with ketchup—is still proudly displayed.

Sample Kobo is closer to Gujo’s town center, near the Tourist Office. Both venues offer free entry and classes for a fee. Craft your own tempura vegetables and shrimp, lettuce, or ice-cream cup. See one of these crafty workshops in action, below!

Sampuru were originally made with wax, but more durable plastics were used from the 1970s. Restaurants order them ready or custom-made. Pieces are cast in molds using real food or by following photographs, baked in an oven, then painted and finished.

What prefecture is this in?

Traditional street in Takayama, Gifu prefecture
This highly-skilled and time-consuming art doesn’t come cheap. One item could cost anywhere from ¥3,000 to ¥100,000, but it’s much cheaper for a souvenir keychain or magnet. Many restaurants rent out sampuru, which suits changing menus.

Today, digital menus and photos threaten the sampuru, but they’re still a quirky, cool slice of mainstream culture. Like the luscious fake soft serve that never melts, here’s to hoping this unique Japanese craft never disappears. Plus, they always help tourists choose a meal.

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Trivia

Traditional street in Takayama, Gifu prefecture

What prefecture is this in?

Scenic Gifu prefecture is a rewarding stopping point on the way from Kanto to Kansai.

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Things To Know

Workshops Available

Make your own food replicas. Workshops cost from ¥800 to ¥1,200 and reservations may be required.

Sample Kobo

Hours: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thursdays. (Map) They also have a shop in Nagoya.

Sample Village Iwasaki

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, except Tuesdays. (Map)

How To Get There

Address

501-4227, Japan

By train

From JR Gifu Station take the JR Takayama main line 35 minutes to Mina-Ota Station. Change to the Nagaragawa Railway and ride an hour and 26 minutes to Gujo Hachiman Station.

By bus

From Meitetsu Gifu Station take the Gifu Bus Hachiman Express for about one hour to Gujo Hachiman Jokamachi Plaza.

Where To Stay

Yanaka no Taisuke
  • Hachimancho Shimadani 841 Gujo-Shi, Gifu 501-4222
  • 9.1/10
  • 0.1 km
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Jogakebo
  • Hachimancho Sakanamachi 961 Gujo-Shi, Gifu 501-4215
  • 8.2/10
  • 0.1 km
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Miharaya Ryokan
  • Hachiman-cho Yanagimachi 266 Gujo-Shi, Gifu 501-4214
  • 8.5/10
  • 0.2 km
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Machiyado - Female Only
  • Hachimancho Shimadani 674-1 Gujo-Shi, Gifu 501-4222
  • 9.2/10
  • 0.2 km
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