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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 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.

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

Start the pilgrimage

That said, the ultimate pilgrimage is about three hours by train from Tokyo. Gujo 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.

What prefecture is this in?

Traditional street in Takayama, Gifu prefecture
Iwasaki pioneered Japan’s first sampuru business in Osaka in 1932 but returned to Gujo. Today, Gujo has 10 factories handcrafting around 70 percent of the market. Shop, watch the artisans or make your own in workshops.

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 is proudly displayed: an omurice omelette with ketchup.

Sample Kobo is closer to Gujo’s town centre, near the Tourist Office. Both venues offer free entry and classes for a fee. Craft your own tempura vegetables or prawns, lettuce, ice-cream cup or dessert tart.

An enduring appeal

Sampuru were originally made with wax, then more durable plastics from the 1970s.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

This highly skilled, time-consuming art doesn’t come cheap. One item could cost anywhere fromm ¥3,000 to ¥100,000; but it’s much less 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

Gifu

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. Reservations required.

Sample Kobo

Hours: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thursdays. Address: 〒501-4227 Gifu-ken, Gujō-shi, 八幡町橋本町956番地 (Note: Not the one of the same name in Aichi.)

Sample Village Iwasaki

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, except Tuesdays. Address: 岐阜県郡上市八幡町城南町250, 501-4224.

How To Get There

Address

501-4227, Japan

By train

From JR Gifu station take JR Takayama Main line 35 minutes to Mina-Ota station. Change to Nagaragawa Railway one hour 26 minutes to Gujo Hachiman station.

By bus

From Meitetsu Gifu station take the Gifu Bus Hachiman Express one hour 10 minutes to Gujo Hachiman Jokamachi Plaza.

Where To Stay

Yanaka no Taisuke
  • Hachimancho Shimadani 841 Gujo-Shi, Gifu 501-4222
  • 8.8/10
  • 0.1 km
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Jogakebo
  • Hachimancho Sakanamachi 961 Gujo-Shi, Gifu 501-4215
  • 7.3/10
  • 0.1 km
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Miharaya Ryokan
  • Hachiman-cho Yanagimachi 266 Gujo-Shi, Gifu 501-4214
  • 8.4/10
  • 0.2 km
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Asano Ryokan
  • Hachiman-cho Otemachi 817 Gujo-Shi, Gifu 501-4219
  • 5.8/10
  • 0.3 km
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