Japan’s (not so) Mini-Craze

Live your inner Alice in Wonderland with Japan's mini-food craze!

21 May · Alexandra Ziminski ·

Japan’s (not so) Mini-Craze

Photo by ©crayonmonkey

Growing up, I loved playing with the dollhouse that my grandfather made for me. It was the ideal size for my toys, and so I bought teeny-weeny amenities for embellishing: fake fruit, cooking pots, furniture and a dining set. I often wished I could shrink down like Alice in Wonderland and set my own chair at the table. I got lost in this world of make-believe as many other children did.

My overwhelming delight when I see miniatures now most likely stems from this childhood experience. And once you add my love of cooking to the pot, it creates an irresistible combination. What exactly am I talking about? Food, of course, but not as you know it.

You may have noticed several highly viewed videos on YouTube about an unusual obsession: tiny cooking. These channels have amassed a considerable following with like-minded individuals. If you can believe it, over 10 million people have viewed a little hamster digging into an even littler burrito. But why are these videos so popular? Is it just a relaxing pastime or does it create ‘tingles’ like ASMR? Everyone has their own reasons, but it is undeniable that tiny = cute.

Japan dominates this field as shown by the many YouTube channels dedicated to the subject. Miniature Space is one of them, creating small-scale versions of Japanese food favorites such as Okonomiyaki or Omurice. You might wonder how they get all these materials, but luckily, Japan accommodates. Many minuscule kitchen utensils can easily be found at local Japanese department stores. Tiny food is encouraged from a young age with DIY gummy food kits where you can create gumdrop-sized hamburgers and hotdogs.

In fact, this craze may have started hundreds of years ago. If we look at popular Japanese fairy-tales, a “Chiisa-ko” (small child) is often featured as the main protagonist. Prominent examples include Momotaro, a boy born from a peach, and Kaguya-hime no Monogatari, a princess found inside a bamboo plant.

In modern days, Kawaii culture has also amplified this obsession, as small and dainty things become idolized and sought after.

As we look closer at these tiny cooking videos, you can notice the delicacy and precision it takes to cook these delectable looking dishes. It is by no means a small feat. Cracking quail eggs makes an omelette. A Brussels sprout masquerading as a cabbage is chopped finely with a suitably sized knife. An oven has to be created using only tea lights. A creative mind is needed to come up with unique solutions to overcome a miniature kitchen’s shortcomings.

All this effort produces a mouth-watering result that can transport you back to when you were a child. Our minds know that this small bite wouldn’t satiate our desire, but our imagination tricks us into tasting with our eyes. No matter what, we can whole-heartedly agree that it takes talent to create these meals fit for mice. Switch off, settle in and enjoy one of these videos without thinking too much about the why.

Want to taste real size food during your trip to Japan? Book a food tour with a local guide!  Can’t travel yet? Why not check out an online experience with us? 

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Alexandra Ziminski

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Alex hails from not-so-sunny England. She moved to Tokyo in 2016 with the burning desire to travel around Japan. While having already been to a fair few places up and down the country, her explorations are not even close to finishing. -- Instagram: @tokiobox Youtube: TOKIOBOX

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