SINCE MOVING TO JAPAN, a lot of things have struck me as weird (I mean different) but one of the things I was intrigued with was the plastic food samples in front of restaurants. Sometimes in a display case, sometimes on a little table by the door, but always life-like replicas of whatever food the restaurant serves. In our orientation to Japan, given by the Navy, one speaker said samples can make it easier for a non-Japanese speaker to order at a restaurant when they can’t read the menu. I assumed that meant these samples are only found in places where non-Japanese speakers eat.
How wrong I was.
In six months in Japan I have seen these samples, called sampuru, everywhere. I have seen plastic pizza, beer, salads, soup, sushi, curry, everything. I have touched every example that I have the opportunity to do so and I have watched people use the samples as a menu before entering a restaurant.
It is an art. And I love it.