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While living in Sapporo, Japan, Ross was lucky enough to digest a huge amount of Japan’s food & drink culture. Japan is renowned for its cuisine, so much so that in 2013 UNESCO added washoku (the name given to Japanese dishes and cooking styles) to it’s Intangible Heritage List, meaning that preserving and celebrating this cuisine and eating style is considered key to the survival of Japanese culture.

Read on to discover three things that fascinated Ross about this food & drink lifestyle in Japan.

Restaurant Menus

Firstly, food menus. They’re done differently in Japan, and I think it’s incredible. Whilst in other parts of the world you might peruse text menus in restaurant windows, reading dish descriptions, trying to decide if you like the sound of anything (which often leads to disappointment when the presented platter of food barely resembles the mental picture you had painted in your mind’s eye).

In Japan, however, it’s all about the visuals.

Walk past any restaurant – be it an upmarket Italian pizzeria in a grand Tokyo shopping mall, or a cosy, traditional ramen restaurant with only three tables – and in the window alongside each price tag, you will see an assortment of plastic food items: mountains of chilled soba complete with miniature tsuyu dipping sauce, glistening tuna sushi rolls, and perilously stacked parfaits all have miniature versions on display. These elaborate, incredibly lifelike models are custom made for each restaurant and serve the purposes of both enticing customers in (it always worked on me) and allowing them to see what exactly they can eat inside.

Plastic crepes in Harajuku

The fake food industry in Japan is worth a huge $90 million, and each sample dish can cost up to ten times as much as the edible version due to the amount of skilled craftmanship required to create them.

Vending Machines

In Japan, there is one vending machine for e