Tokyo is a shopper’s paradise, but not everyone wants to spend days shopping for the latest fashion or tech items. Well don't fret, Tokyo is the world’s shopping capital for a reason, and today Japlanning are taking you to Kappabashi-dori, or, as it is more commonly known, Kitchen Street. It's one of the largest areas in the world to buy all things for your personal or big industrial kitchen, from the best knife you will ever get for your kitchen, to the plastic food models you see in countless restaurants windows in Japan, you’re guaranteed to get a great souvenir here that will revolutionize your home kitchen, and, it’s cheap too!
Nestled between Asakusa and Ueno, not too far from Sensoji Temple, Kappabashi-dori is a cooks dreamland. The entire area is mainly populated with kitchen supply stores ranging from dish ware and utensils, to large industrial machinery for commercial kitchens, and everything in between. You can get lost in these shops for hours, looking at the items for sale.
The name of the street has been said to come from a couple of different origins, however the shopkeepers have embraced one in particular.
Kappa is a part of Shinto folk lore, translated to "river child". They are a sort-of reptilian humanoid figure, who are known to be mischievous creatures who pull innocent pranks. The shopkeepers of Kitchen Street have taken this to be the streets mascot and heritage so much, that he is featured all along the street, as well as on the street’s tourism website, he even has a monument along the street.
This long street has some unique artwork and architecture. Starting with the southern end of the street (and the best place to start your journey down Kappabashi-dori), with the entrance-like pieces of a giant Chef's head on top of the left building and the right hand side with tea cup balconies down the building. Throughout the street you will find giant dung beetles on a building, another building with an amazing optical illusion covering it all, as well as these angel lamp posts throughout.
Now for the Shopping
Down Kitchen Street you are going to find everything you could imagine to have the best of in your kitchen.
From stores selling every dish, pot, pan, and utensil you will ever need in your house, to others selling popcorn machines, wood fire pizza ovens, and so much more. Just walking down the streets you will see these open stores spilling onto the sidewalks, trying to lure you in with knick knacks and traditional Japanese kitchen wares.
This is the place to come for quality made, cheap, chop sticks, chop stick holders, stone bowls, sake sets, wooden bowls, the list goes on. For your Japanese souvenir kitchen and table ware, Kappabashi-dori is your one stop. However you will find many more souvenirs here: traditional lanterns are sold everywhere, lucky cats, buddhas, even those plastic models of ramen, sushi and more that you have seen in restaurant windows, these are all purchased along kitchen street. This is just a one stop shopping strip for Japanese souvenirs.
However some of the best items to bring back are some Japanese knives. Now we're not talking about a switch blade or anything like that, no, Japan have some of the greatest kitchen knife makers in the world. Sure you can buy these at home, however they will be mass produced, and cost about 5 times as much as buying a hand made one in Japan.
Now there are plenty of knife shops on Kappabashi, however Japlanning have the inside scoop on getting you the best! Head to Kama-Asa, right up Kappabashi, on the left side of the street. Kama-Asa have been around since 1908, and are masters at their craft. They have beautiful knives which just can't be matched for quality and sharpness.
You can buy a good multipurpose kitchen knife at Kama-Asa and throw out that Knife block back home, it will do everything and have you slicing and dicing like a pro (and not like Dexter).
Kama-Asa also do sharpening, so if you’re returning, make sure you bring your knife with you for an expert sharpening. Another thing that they offer is complimentary engraving of their knives with your name (or any name in English or Japanese), to give that souvenir a personal touch.
Kama-Asa is located on Kappabashi-dori at 2-24-1 Matsugaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo. Daily from 9:30am - 5:30pm, closed New Years Day. You can access their english website here
It's easy to get to Kappabashi-dori from all over Tokyo, here are the best ways to get there:
From Shinjuku Station
Take the JR Chuo Line Rapid to Akihabara and change to the Tsukuba Line, and disembark at Asakusa station. Kappabashi is just a couple of blocks from the exit (follow the signs).
From Tokyo Station
Take the JR Yamanote Line to Akihabara and change to the Tsukuba Line and disembark at Asakusa station. Kappabashi is just a couple of blocks from the exit (follow the signs).
Kappabashi-dori is a great place to wander along for amazing shopping to deck your kitchen out back home, and to get a glimpse of what the restaurant industry is using in Japan, even if shopping isn't your thing, the street’s unique art and architecture is great to see, and close by some of Tokyo's biggest tourist sights, with Sensoji Temple and Tokyo Sky Tree just a stones throw away.
Have you been shopping down Kappabashi-dori? What were some of you best buys, or favourite shops?
Tell us in the comments below!