Locations, Photo Gear, Photojournalism, Tokyo

Maizuru Plastic Food Company – Tokyo

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (13)

Hello all! I’m back with another blog post detailing some my (paid and unpaid) photographic adventures in Japan.

As a professional photographer in Tokyo I often get to visit some of the more wacky and interesting places on this side of Asia and this time was no exception. Today we have a bit of documentary and editorial photography of one of Tokyo’s most famous plastic food sample makers, Maizuru Plastic Food Company. Earlier this year Australian-based magazine Smith Journal contacted me to go photograph them for one of their features and I was all to happy to go.

A bit of introduction to what the folks at Maizuru do – they hand make all of the plastic food samples that you’ll often see in the windows of Tokyo restaurants or cafes. That’s right – everything is hand made, right down to the molds and as such at the end of the day not a single food sample is identical, kind of just like actual food. Walking through the factory is a little surreal at times because there are scenes that look as if they could be from a chef’s kitchen – with artisans carefully arranging ingredients on a plate or delicately brushing sauce onto a burger patty, but actually everything’s made out of plastic and if you try to eat anything you’ll die.

Still, watching the sheer artistry that goes into preparing the tens of thousands of different little things that they have to make is quite awe-inspiring and I’m super glad to have had a peek into this weird and quintessentially Japanese industry.

Another reason to be excited about these shots is that I was using my new (at the time) Carl Zeiss Loxia 21mm and 35mm lenses, which turned about to be amazing for documenting and reportage style photography like this. I’ll be writing more about these lenses coming up so you can get an better idea of whether they’d be for you or not.

Anyway, here are the photos, enjoy!

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (41)

Molds for different parts of a certain type of fish

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (40)

A lady is testing out a mold by painting the inside with silicone.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (37)

Sample boxes stuffed with all sorts of fun stuff like…lemons

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (36)

More boxes filled with random food bits!

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (35)

A look into one of the production rooms, with the awesome Zeiss Loxia 21mm.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (34)

An icecream is removed from a mold here, kind of trippy seeing it come out.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (33)

Lining up bits of fish for baking! Yes they bake the samples to harden them.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (32)

 This man’s job was to sort every single piece of plastic rice according to some criteria. 

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (31)

More rice sorting. Makes your head spin.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (30)

Ladling some demiglace sauce onto a succulent looking beef patty – don’t be fooled it’s all plastic!

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (29)

A wider look at another workspace

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (28)

Making some magical levitating pasta require a lot of work piecing it together from single strands of spaghetti

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (27)

Rice sorting – side view. Look at the amount of individually sorted grains!

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (26)

Magical levitating pasta!

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (25)

Ready for baking. A surreal looking tableau if I ever saw one.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (24)

Just a bunch of scoops of icecream hanging out like heads on pikes. 

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (23)

The vast amount of paints and colors required to bring out the natural colors of food is staggering.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (22)

Crabs, fish, icecream cones, hanging out together like they belong together.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (21)

Some sushi coming off the production line, individually wrapped in plastic seaweed

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (20)

Airbrushing a frankfurter, you know, the usual. 

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (19)

Top view: airbrushing a frankfurter

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (18)

This could be actual slurpee…but no it’s plastic like everything else.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (17)

Some nice looking lemonades and sodas, ready to be baked.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (16)

Painting some fat onto the sushi, because that’s normal.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (15)

 Detail of the sushi, which looks delicious I must say

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (14)

More sushi because Japan

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (12)

Detailing the cupcakes. The amount of different things they need to make is mind-boggling

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (10)

Many areas look like a cross between a kitchen and a mad-scientist’s lab.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (9)

The amount of visual interest in these places make it really rewarding to photograph wide with the Loxia 21mm

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (8)

Tiny banana slices and other things for less than 1:1 samples.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (7)

A bunch of finished crepes just chilling out on the counter.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (6)

Salads are made piece by piece, so I’ll never complain about making a salad again.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (3)

Product shots: hard boiled eggs.

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (2)

Product shots: shrimp

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (1)

And finally there’s got to be a portrait, and this one is of the factory foreman Mr. Ebizawa