From edible ink printers to chicken stick conveyor belts, Japan's food firms put it all on the menu at an industry show this week with one bold exhibitor claiming it could turn anyone into a top sushi chef. Newmind's colour printers can graft almost any image -- a country flag, Hello Kitty face or message to a loved one -- onto cookies and other food just like a conventional printer. Best of all, you can eat the ink.
Over at Kojima Giken's booth, a machine plunged wooden skewers into diced chicken and leek bits as they passed along a conveyor belt. The result is a wildly popular grilled snack called yakitori, usually accompanied by copious amounts of beer. The company says its machines can churn out anywhere from 300 to 20,000 yakitori sticks an hour depending on the size of the machine. "And we can skewer pretty much anything," said founder Minoru Kojima, adding, "Just last year, we designed a big machine to make fruit and vegetables on sticks -- the kind of things you eat at parties. We sold them in France."
There were nearly 800 exhibitors at the International Food Machinery and Technology Exhibition in Tokyo, which wraps up Friday. Suzumo Machinery has a device that combines rice, spicy green wasabi paste and fresh fish before wrapping the sushi in a clear plastic wrap stamped with an expiration date - at a rate as quick as 2,000 pieces an hour. "Making sushi is a difficult thing and require skills that take about from three to five years to acquire," said Suzumo's Ryosuke Murai, "With this machine, you can become a sushi chef in a day."