Anyone who´s been to Japan have seen them, knows about them. Most restaurants in Japan, especially those for the common dishes (like curry, sushi etc), have them and show them, to lure customers in.
They look real. Some of them look so real, that at least the first time you encounter this, you ask yourself, if it´s some sort of buffet and if you should just grab a plate and sit to eat.
The purpose is clear and somewhat dual. First it gives a clear signal what kind of food is to expect. And secondly it should lure the hungry food desiring patron inside. And surprisingly enough, it works. At least on me… and not only once.
And yes, it is really plastic food… there are restaurants which instead of the plastic stuff place the real deal (the freshly cooked dishes of the day) in front of there entrance door. But honestly, you realize that only if the plate is somewhat improvised presented and most of the times covered with plastic wrap. I guess you would have a hard time to see the difference other while.
In the shop, where the stuff is sold, it is clear to the eye. You recognize the plastic nature.