Making Japanese Sample Food at Sample Village Iwasaki

Japanese Sample Food making at Sample Village Iwasaki

One of the few things that made me excited after securing my Japan Visa was actually not just eating Japanese food where it all came from but a trip to Sample Village Iwasaki – a place where Japanese Sample Food are produced. Read more to find out why…

Makes me want to eat it but I cant!
Makes me want to eat it but I cant!

One of the things I like most about Japanese restaurants is their beautiful presentation of food. I grew up in a province where there are no Japanese restaurants, and I only got to try Japanese food when I transferred to Metro Manila for my college schooling.

Japanese Sample Food Sample Village Iwasaki
Japanese Sample Food at Sample Village Iwasaki

My first Japanese food experience was during World Youth Day (WYD) 1995, in Malate District. One of our Japanese counterparts invited our group for dinner. We all happily walked from Quirino Grand Stand and we did not stop until UN Avenue, where we found a humble Japanese restaurant. That night, I clearly remember looking at the bowls and plates of Japanese cuisine behind the glass shelf at the counter. At first, I thought they were pre-cooked, but my Japanese friend told me that they were just wax samples, and that she lives in a province where such plastic replicas of food were made.

Sample Village Iwasaki Museum
Sample Village Iwasaki Museum

Before I left for Japan, I looked for my WYD 1995 souvenirs to find the name of that Japanese friend I met 20 years ago. I wanted to tell her that I am finally having the chance to visit her province and see the sample food they produced. Unfortunately, I lost my WYD 1995 souvenirs and notes. I wasn’t able to tell her.

Sample food for sale
Sample food for sale

Nevertheless, I together with fellow bloggers and travel writers proceeded to Japan, still hoping that we might meet again some other time, someday.

Also Read: Affordable Accommodation Options in Japan via Agoda

A bowl of Tonkatsu Sample Food
A bowl of Tonkatsu Sample Food

It was my third day in Japan when I finally got the chance to visit Gujo Hachiman, my friend’s hometown. It is where one can find Sample Village Iwasaki, one of the food replica studios in town. Food studios like Sample Village Iwasaki produce wax food replicas like the ones I saw in that Japanese restaurant we ate in last 1995. In fact, most of the food samples in Japanese restaurants are produced here, in Gujo Hachiman.

Ramen Anyone
Ramen Anyone?

If you are like me, who is amazed at the food replicas displayed in Japanese restaurant and cafeterias, then you should definitely include this place in your itinerary on your next trip to Japan. But for now, I’ll tell you more about my experience.

About Iwasaki Sample Village

Gujo Hachiman has been known in Japan as the center for food replica production. It has four food studios. One of those four, and the oldest as well, is Sample Village Iwasaki. It opened in 1932, and has been producing food samples since then. The name “sample village” came from the Japanese word sampuru, which means “food sample”, or those wax replicas being put on display in Japanese food joints.

various sample food for sale
various sample food for sale

There are claims that Iwasaki Sample Village produces half of the food samples being displayed in Japanese restaurants across Japan, so when I learned that I will be able to travel to Japan this year, and that I will be able to visit Gujo Hachiman, I wanted to jump up and down like a little kid in joy. My fascination for the food samples I saw in that Japanese restaurant 20 years ago has not faded one bit. Being able to go to the place that makes those amazing, realistic, wax replica of food is a dream come true.

Real or Fake?
Real or Fake?

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It is also said that putting food replicas in display at the counter made huge increases in revenue. Aside from that, having wax food samples in display helps costumers see the details of the food, and get what they really want without feeling bad or unsatisfied after the meal. Having wax food replicas on display helps both the business owners and the costumers, so it’s a win-win situation. Plus, the Japanese love to make their dishes very, very presentable (one thing I like most about the Japanese culture). The display of food replicas has, in turn, was engraved into the Japanese tradition.

Sample Food Materials
Sample Food Materials

The importance of the Japanese food sample tradition is evident within Sample Village Iwasaki. When me and my travel buddies roamed around and outside the food studio, we were able to see a small museum that is dedicated to the father of modern sampuru making, Mr. Iwasaki. The museum has pictures of Mr. Iwasaki’s sampuru creations from before, and how his descendants continued the legacy of the artistic and cultural wax sample making up until this day.

Activities in Sample Village Iwasaki

What I enjoyed most in Sample Village Iwasaki was my hands-on experience in making the food samples myself. Looking at the food samples from behind the glass shelf was amazing, but making them myself was even more amazing!

A Japanese Lady demonstrating how to make a fake lettuce
A Japanese Lady demonstrating how to make a fake lettuce

Me and my travel buddies were given the choice to choose between Set A and Set B for our hands-on experience. In Set A, we would be taught how to make tempura pumpkin squash, tempura prawn, tempura eggplant, and cabbage. In Set B, we would be taught similar things, but without the eggplant and pumpkin squash tempura.

Cutting the fake lettuce in half
Cutting the fake lettuce in half

After cutting the fake lettuce in half
After cutting the fake lettuce in half

We all went for Set A and we enjoyed every step of the process. At first, I was intimidated by the skills of the food sample teachers, but in the end, I was able to make my own sampuru like a pro, with the guidance of the staff. I held my own food sample in my hands like a trophy!

Tempura made from wax
Tempura made from wax

As a foodie with a 2-decade long (and counting) love for Japanese food replicas, and with a love for cooking actual food, baking, and making new recipes, this experience is something that changed my life. If you’re a foodie like me too, you should definitely add Sample Village Iwasaki to your itinerary. You should try making your own food sample too!

Tempura made of wax
Tempura made of wax

Also Read: Thrifty Japan: Simple Ways to Save Money When in Japan

After finishing my sample shrimp and vegetable tempura
After finishing my sample shrimp and vegetable tempura

I will definitely come back here the next time I go to Japan. And next time, I would like to be able to see my Japanese friend from WYD 1995. It would be nice to see her again, and perhaps make some sampuru with her, too.

Flights from Manila to Nagoya, Japan

Cebu Pacific Air, the leading airline in the Philippines, flies between Manila and Nagoya (Chubu Centrair International Airport) every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Book your flights through the CebuPacificAir.com. For updates and seat sale announcements, check out www.facebook.com/cebupacificair.

Sample Village Iwasaki
Address: 250 Jonan-cho, Hachiman-cho, Gujo City, Gifu | Map
Telephone Number: 0575-67-1808
Business Hours: 10:00am – 4:00pm (Replica-making until 3:00pm)
Entrance fee: Adults: 300 yen, Children: 200 yen
Hands-on replica making experience: 1,000 yen — tempura (3 pieces), lettuce head (1, cut in half), and candles (2)

Our Nagoya Familiarization Tour last October 6-10, 2015 was sponsored by Cebu Pacific Air and Centair. Many thanks for this wonderful opportunity 🙂

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  1. […] making my very own wax food replica in Sample Village Iwasaki, we headed straight to the villages of Shirakawa-go. The bus ride from Sample Village Iwasaki in […]

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