Mouthwatering Paper Craft Started as a Hobby

Lifestyle Culture Art

Photos of imitation food posted on Twitter created a buzz recently. The creations are the work of a 74-year-old who has fashioned imitations of 200 different types of food, from festive holiday dishes to cakes, almost entirely from paper. The artist’s son says that he wants his father to carry on doing what he enjoys.

Food Photos Create a Buzz

When it’s cold outside, nothing hits the spot like a hot meal. These food photos created quite a buzz on Twitter recently:

There’s more to these photos of food than meets the eye.
There’s more to these photos of food than meets the eye.

While the crab hotpot, scrambled eggs, and prawns in the pictures all look very appetizing, photos of food are nothing unusual on social media. So why did these particular images garner over 22,000 likes (as of February 12)?

Let’s take a closer look at the account that posted the photos, Megane no Ojīchan (grandpa with glasses), or @meganenooo.

“This all started as a hobby for a man in his seventies,” says this tweet by @meganenooo.

“It all Started as a Hobby”

The shocking thing is that none of this food is real. Everything pictured is made almost entirely of paper.

Other tweeters had high praise for his creations, remarking on the realism of the pieces, the age of the creator, and the fact that this began as a hobby. “Amazing quality!” says one user. “I couldn’t tell it wasn’t real until I clicked on the image,” says another.

It’s hard to realize that the skillet containing the scrambled egg was also made from paper until you read the replies. So just how are these works of art made? Megane no Ojīchan’s profile reads “artwork made by my father,” which suggests that the artist’s son is posting photos on Twitter to showcase his father’s work. We asked the owner of the account about his father’s creative activities.

When asked why his father makes imitation food out of paper, Megane no Ojīchan explains that his father was born in 1945 and is 74 years old. He started making fake food around four years ago, at the age of 70.

So what is the reason for this artist’s focus on this subject matter? “Most of the pieces are food,” agrees Megane no Ojīchan. His father says food is a familiar subject, he explains.

The osechi New Year’s delicacies are one of the artist’s most common subjects. Surprisingly, everything here is made of paper except for the containers.
The osechi New Year’s delicacies are one of the artist’s most common subjects. Surprisingly, everything here is made of paper except for the containers.

Megane no Ojīchan tells us that his father had created around 200 works as of February 2020.

Many have commented on the level of craftsmanship in these works. Megane no Ojīchan notes that his father does have something of an art or craft background, having used to do pastel drawings, again as a hobby. He said that his father taught himself how to create imitation food from scratch, as no existing artworks on which he could model his work were available.

One of the artist’s pastel drawings.
One of the artist’s pastel drawings.

The owner of the Megane no Ojīchan account is himself an accomplished artist and has had works exhibited at Nitten, Japan’s largest comprehensive art exhibition. Perhaps he inherited part of his aesthetic sense from his father.

Realistic—But Not Too Real

We asked Megane no Ojīchan how his father creates the pieces, and what materials and processes are employed. He said his father initially pasted Japanese paper over cardboard bases, but found the resulting works to be too fragile. Nowadays, the artist pastes Japanese paper over papier-mâché, sometimes also incorporating tissue paper and origami. Some pieces are made entirely from washi paper.

The process used depends on the subject. Once the artist has decided on a subject, he procures a real-life version to observe carefully while choosing the Japanese paper to be used. He never uses paints or dyes, instead using only paper to create color. He needs to maintain a stock of various textures and colors, he says.

The artist keeps paper on hand in a range of colors.
The artist keeps paper on hand in a range of colors.

How long does it takes to create a piece? Megane no Ojīchan says that it depends on the work in question, and can range anywhere from one hour to three days.

Is his father was particular about anything when creating artworks? He tells us that his father aims to create pieces that look real at first glance but can be seen to be paper on closer inspection. According to the artist, the pursuit of realism above all else is futile, because it is not possible to match the realism of the imitation food used in restaurant displays. For this reason, he tries to keep some of the character of paper while reproducing the texture of the food.

For inspiration, the artist looks at pieces of Japanese paper and tries to think of what they could be made into, or looks at actual food to get an idea of the kind of Japanese paper that could be used to replicate it.

Look closely and appreciate the skill, says this tweet. A reply to this post includes a video that shows the sumashi-jiru soup, with its tofu and the mitsuba garnish that seems to float atop the broth, from different angles.

Does his father have a favorite piece? Megane no Ojīchan that his father likes the sumashi-jiru work linked above. In his mochi creation, another favorite, the artist was able to convey the warmth of glutinous rice cakes that have just been toasted, using translucent paper to simulate the appearance of rising rice cakes and thin washi sheets to simulate browning. In his sumashi-jiru, the artist has attempted to simulate the appearance of liquid, which is no mean feat. By standing a pin in the tofu, attaching a leaf to the top of the pin to make it look like the leaf is floating, and pasting thin strips of paper inside the bowl at the same height as the leaf, the artist has given the impression that there is soup in the bowl. Both works show real creativity.

Mochi, one of the artist’s favorite pieces.
Mochi, one of the artist’s favorite pieces.

Doing What You Enjoy

What prompted Megane no Ojīchan to post pictures of his father’s work on Twitter? While these days his father keeps all his works, the account owner explains, he used to dismantle completed works to reuse the paper, or simply throw them out, he said. “This seemed like a waste, so I started posting photographs on Twitter,” explains the son.

The artist’s debut work, a magnificent crab.
The artist’s debut work, a magnificent crab.

Creating paper craftworks has changed his father, he explains. “My father has started using a tablet and has also debuted on Instagram. He now uses social media to see how his works are being received. He even posts photos on Instagram with my help,” says Megane no Ojīchan.

The son is pleased by the popularity of his father’s works, he says. He wanted to share his father’s craft with as many people as possible, and social media is letting him do just that. “I hope that he carries on doing what he enjoys,” he says.

The artist often invokes seasonal themes. These Christmas cakes are also made of paper.
The artist often invokes seasonal themes. These Christmas cakes are also made of paper.

These fake food creations began as a hobby for a man in his seventies but have become a sensation. It just goes to show, you’re never too old to start new things! Be sure to follow the account to view many more warm and realistic artworks in the future.

(Originally published in Japanese on FNN’s Prime Online on February 12, 2020. All images courtesy of Megane no Ojīchan. Translated and edited by Nippon.com.)

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