Tokyo – Kitchen Knives in Kappabashi

Kappabashi is a district near Asakusa that specialises in kitchen and restaurant equipment. It’s a fun neighbourhood to visit if you’re a foodie or a chef.

My Google map is here.

On the main street every shop specialises in a different kind of culinary equipment, such as pots and pans…

…Americana…

…Chinese lanterns.

For my 50th birthday my friends had clubbed together and given me some money to spend on what I liked and I decided to get something I’d always wanted; a Japanese fish knife.

I’d been advised by Kazuki Watanabe the friendly chef at Higashiyama in Meguro that the best knives generally used in the catering industry were made either by Aritsugu, an Osaka based company, or Masamoto in Tokyo but they were a bit out of my league at upwards of £300 ($400 or Y44,000) for a good carbon steel knife.

Further research on the internet identified two shops in Kappabashi as being the best place to buy knives, Kamata and Kama-asa.

Kamata was the first shop we came to and the helpful English-speaking assistant gave me lots of info about the impressive selection on display.

Fish knives came in three lengths and in three grades; blue and white tungsten and stainless steel. Blue tungsten is the best, and most expensive, as it’s harder wearing and so stays sharper for longer, with stainless at the other end of the price scale as it needs sharpening more often.

I compromised with a white tungsten medium-sized blade which cost Y31,000 (£220), about Y10,000 less than a blue tungsten of the same length.

Some of them are decorated very beautifully.

I also bought two Western-style stainless steel knives. I did worry about getting the knives at home but I didn’t declare them (the declaration form I had to fill out only mentioned Samurai swords) and put them in my hold baggage and they got home without incedent.

Another shop we stopped in on was Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya, famed for making the plastic replicas that are used in restaurant window displays in Japan.

There’s a plastic version of just about any kind of food you can think of.

They had a few extreme examples on show.

On the second floor they have a workshop where you can learn to make your own replicas. A popular choice is making your own lettuce. The process has been filmed and put on Youtube and Facebook many times. Unfortunately many people actually believe that this lettuce is then sold for human consumption and don’t realise they are having their legs pulled! Videos here.

If you want to have a go yourself you need to book a demonstration and take someone to translate for you.

Tokyo Skytree next!

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