Kappabashi: Becoming a Famous Tourist Spot; Japan’s Best Wholesale Area for Cooking Tools

Kappabashi (also known as Kitchen Town) is a short walk from the widely known Asakusa Kaminarimon. Aimed more towards the professional market, the wholesalers lining this shopping strip offer crockery, cooking goods, plastic display food and packaging materials, etc. Formerly a minor area, once the uniquely Japanese plastic display food became known and popular overseas, this area has become an increase in visits by foreign tourists. These days it’s a tourist spot in the limelight – with the number of souvenir shops also increasing.



Taking a photo with the symbolic “Kawataro Kappa”

One theory explaining the origin of Kappabashi is that it was established almost 200 years old by the legendary Kihachi Kappaya. Using his own funds, he worked on protecting the area from floods of the nearby Sumida River, and was helped out by kappa (mythical water dwelling creatures). Previously problematic works were completed, and soon the area became flood resistant. Kappabashi is said to have taken Kihachi’s surname. People who saw Kappa creatures were said to have increased fortunes and more business success. The Kawatarou Kappa statue is a symbol of the area, and reminder of this legend. The glittering gold statue is definitely worth a look. It aims to further the prosperity of businesses, and as a perfect spot for a commemorative photo, there is usually a short line.


Easily purchase cooking goods that are hard to get overseas

Useful cooking tools such as oval shaped cutters, tamago-yaki fry pans and knives for cutting noodles are special order items overseas. What are extremely difficult to find and expensively priced items, can be easily bought over the front counter of Kappabashi shops, and at a fair price. What’s more, leading chefs from France, Italy, etc. visit to check out the gems created by Japanese craftsmen. Some will fill a trunk full of fry pans to take home with them.


Exquisite plastic display food has made Kappabashi well-known overseas

This area features the likes of Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya, Tokyo Biken, Sato Sample, etc., who sell fake food products made of wax, PVC and other materials. Originally used to create life like display models of restaurant’s dishes, some creations have come to look even more delicious than the real thing! Since becoming well known overseas, souvenir versions have become easy to come by, such as items you can use like pen stands and straps. Locally and abroad, they are proving popular. A number of shops offer the opportunity for guests to create their own. If you have the time, try it out.



Check out the shops displaying the skillfully made traditional Japanese knives

Visiting cooking tool shops around Kappabashi is an imperative. Especially, the knife stores are the main draw. “Tsubaya”, established in 1956, is a specialty knife store that has for a long time served chefs around the Asakusa area, and professionals from around the world. Despite this, the staff are extremely friendly and also kind to foreigners as well. With over 1000 knives in store, you’re sure to find the one that suits your needs.



If you’re looking for cookware, this is the place!

At Kama-Asa Shoten, in operation since 1908, you can find cooking goods like knives, sukiyaki pots, Nanbu ironware, hand-made pots, etc. Japanese sourced cypress wood made “ohitsu” (wooden container for cooked rice), all types of steaming baskets, planers for making bonito flakes (katsuobushi), they have an abundance of Japanese cooking tools. Just having a look around is guaranteed to get you excited.



A knife you actually see and feel before choosing; a life partner.

Knives, as a staple of the kitchen, are on display by most stores. We are able to check how they feel in hand, and find a compatible knife. To avoid unfortunate accidents, it’s advisable to speak to staff before handling the knives.


A bustling spot catering to a range of interests, even die-hard enthusiasts

Kappabashi also features specialty stores such as tea shops, confectionaries and soba noodle shops. It’s a place where cooking enthusiasts can thoroughly enjoy their hobby.


Exotic antique stores to get excited about

Hidden, but popular; “Boys Festival dolls”. Traditionally displayed in Spring to pray for the healthy upbringing of boys, “Boys Festival dolls” are known outside Japan as miniature armor displays. Antique stores are seemingly sustained by selling “Kokeshi” (limbless wooden dolls) and vases, as well as fake metal swords to foreign visitors. These typically Japanese souvenir swords are available for around the 10,000 yen mark. Compared to those sold in other areas, these swords designed to look closer to the real thing and their heavy weight also sets them apart.


A serving of the classic Edo Dojo (type of fish) on the way home

On the way to Asakusa station, there’s a shop that’s had a billboard up since the Meiji Period; Dozeu Iidaya. “Dozeu” is loach (fish) that lives at the bottom of the river. A rare find these days, loach dishes are expertly prepared in hot pots with salty-sweet broths. Slightly fishy tasting, it’s an authentic Edo dish. With courteous service, this is a great restaurant to enjoy the “old” Tokyo.


Kappabashi has more than 170 specialty shops. This is a famous locale for cooking goods, displaying Japan’s craftsmanship culture, and has even attracted the likes of Henkels, a famous German knife maker who has set up a store here. Just 1km of this street is enough for a great day, why not stretch your legs and check out this area on your next Asakusa sightseeing daytrip?


<Kappabashi Kitchen Town>



Edit & Text:K. Sachio


Editor and writer. Works in fashion magazines and many other genres such as culture, gourmet, etc. A person who loves animals, family, and has a hardcore sweet tooth.

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