Asakusa's Kappabashi is a haven for homecooks and professional chefs. If you’re in the market for kitchen utensils, you will want to set aside at least half a day to explore the roughly 800m-long street as there are hundreds of shops catering to every conceivable cooking, baking, dining, drinking and serving need – and that’s not counting the side streets, which have dozens more speciality shops.
While the selection may be overwhelming, the prices are reasonable. You can easily spend less than ¥100 on a cheap pair of chopsticks and around ¥10,000 for a proper Japanese kitchen knife that you can personalise on the spot and which will last you a lifetime. You will find items you never thought you needed – think mini frying pans for single eggs, spoons in all shapes and sizes, kawaii branding irons for toasts and pancakes, and all the fake food you can imagine.
As most stores in Kappabashi tend to cater to restaurateurs or wholesale buyers, we’ve narrowed down a list of our favourite shops for casual shoppers, whether you’re a dab hand in the kitchen, keen to learn or just looking for that perfect souvenir.
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Everything and the kitchen sink
If Japanese pottery and ceramics are on your shopping list, Dengama is definitely worth a visit. Located across the street from Kappabashi’s famous chef’s bust, with items spilling out the entrance, Dengama offers two floors of gorgeous earthen- and tableware at reasonable prices.
Get your hands on the made-in-Japan mugs and crockery, as well as matcha bowls and dainty hashioki (chopstick rests) which come in all sorts of fun shapes and sizes. The selections in-store are sourced from the country’s premier pottery regions, including Bizen, Shigaraki, Arita and Echizen – so you know you’re taking an authentic piece of Japan home with you.
A legit caffeine dealer, and a barista’s dream come true, Union Coffee is spread across two separate shops: one selling tea and coffee beans, and another selling such a comprehensive range of coffee and brewing equipment you’ll have all you need to set up your own café. Pick from a range of gorgeous glass siphon coffee makers, or go for the more convenient hand drippers and filters, which are a lot hardier for packing into luggage. Across the road, you can stock up on a range of beans (including speciality coffee such as Kona from Hawaii) that are roasted in-house at reasonable prices, as well as a select range of loose tea leaves which you can purchase by weight.
Few things are more Japanese than an entire store of plastic food models, and Maiduru is an authentic stop for food fakes. After joining the throng of people standing outside snapping photos of the store’s ‘great wave of fried rice’ (obviously inspired by the famous Hokusai work), step inside and find yourself surrounded by a colourful assortment of faux food in every shape and form, from fridge magnets and jewellery to phone cases and tablet stands. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel peckish – the mock meals are uncannily realistic.
To marvel at the fine craftsmanship of Japanese knives, head to Kama-Asa, which has been specialising in blades and kitchen tools from graters and slicers to woks and pans since 1908.
Choosing the right knife can be a daunting task, especially with the wide variety on display. That’s where the English- and French- speaking staff at Kama-Asa come in, as they can help you find the exact blade suited to your needs. When you do find one that makes the cut, the shop can engrave it for you at no extra cost, as well as offer aftercare services including knife sharpening and repair (extra charges apply).
Japan has a knack for woodwork and you’ll see some of the traditional craft’s finest examples at Utuwazoshi. Offering everything from wooden bowls and trays to spoons and chopsticks, the store can outfit your kitchen with beautiful and useful wooden ools. FOr a classic Tokyo momento, we recommend the wooden bento boxes. These lunch containers usually come at a premium price (Utuwazoshi stocks these pricer versions too), but here you'll find more wallet-friendly boxes for between ¥2,000 and ¥4,000.
If you’re in the market for chopsticks, head here. It’s not as if you would come here for anything else: Mikura stocks only these traditional eating utensils, and a dizzying, exhaustive variety at that, all displayed in a showroom-like setting. The handcrafted hashi (chopsticks) come in different lengths, colours, shapes and designs. Mikura believes there's a perfect chopstick for everyone and the staff can find you a pair that fits perfectly in your hands. You can also have them engraved and gift-wrapped. How cool is that?
Who knew there existed so many brushes for so many different purposes? Whether you’re painting, cleaning, grooming or polishing, at Kanaya Brush you’ll find a vast selection of artisanal brushes – from toothbrushes and soft makeup brushes to kitchen scrubbers and even bristles for your pets – mostly made from a diverse range of animal hair including mountain goat and squirrel.
You can also find specific brushes for different clothing and fabrics, including leather, as well as an endless selection of paintbrushes if you’re more artistically inclined. It’s hard to get a handle on such a broad-brush approach to bristly implements, but you can start with one of the face or body brushes for some self-pampering exfoliation. Otherwise, pick up a traditional Japanese tawashi kitchen scrubber, which makes for a practical souvenir.
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