Sunday, June 22, 2008
Japan 2007: Kappabashi Kitchen Town
According to its article on Wikipedia, Kappabashi Kitchen Town is an "offbeat" tourist destination. Bollocks! It's one of the coolest places in all of Tokyo. Kappabashi is a stretch of road that is dedicated to kitchen supply and wholesale shops. They sell everything that your kitchen could desire - deep fryers, takoyaki grillers, knives, muffin papers, bentoh boxes, take-away food containers, crockery, pots and pans, trays, silpats, flexipans, giant whisks, industrial piping bags, electronic cookware and those funky plastic food models that you see in Japanese restaurants. (A custom-made one starts from around sixty dollars). If you want to open a restaurant or cafe in Tokyo, start practising your "irasshaimase", and get yourself down to Kappabashi!
I can't believe it's not mentioned in the Lonely Planet, when Osaka's much smaller, less exciting Doguya-Suji Arcade rates a mention. Hmf. Kappabashi is near Tawaramachi station, on the Ginza line. It happened to be a 5 minute walk from my hostel, and near a Mister Donut, a post office, and the Asakusa temple district. Perfect tourist destination, in my opinion. I spent the majority of my second last day in Japan walking up and down the street here, visiting the various stores, spending too much money, and adding to my already bulging and dangerously overweight suitcase.
At the entrance to Kappabashi, you are greeted by a giant model of a chef and these massive cups at the Niimi building.
Plastic food!!!!! How cool is that??
As awesome as I thought a plastic plate of fried eggs would look in my home, I resisted temptation and just bought a keychain for a friend. It was shaped like a pink macaron!
Some other goodies I purchased...
"Silicon Rubber Pan" for madeleines. As yet unused, but I will get around to it soon.
My pride and joy - a santoku knife. It was individually forged by hand, with 37 layers of Damascus steel, titanium pins, and a micarta handle. It only cost me $154, and it is the sharpest knife I have ever, ever used.
Here is my knife after obliterating a pile of onions. Check out the funky-looking waves on the blade.
At the same knife store, I picked up this Wüsthof Grand Prix I 16cm cook's knife.
It was the last in the store, and being thrown away at the bargainous price of $60. SIXTY!!! That's incredible value! A fully-forged Wüsthof Grand Prix knife! I would have expected to pay three times that amount in Australia. (Interested in purchasing one yourself? Click here.) It was the bargain of the century. According to the wonderfully eccentric salesman, it was on sale because the Grand Prix I range had been discontinued to make way for the Grand Prix II range. Which is exactly the same blade, with a slightly improved handle.
The salesman was awesome - a well-travelled Japanese man with an American-ish accent, a tweed jacket, and a salt and pepper scruffy haircut.
Salesman: Oh young lady, you're going to Germany tomorrow? Do you like to gamble? You have to go to Baden-Baden.. there's a wonderful casino, and many beautiful hot springs.
Me: Er... well, I don't really gamble...
Him: Oh it's great! You will love it! Here, let me write it down for you. B-A-D-E-N-B-A-D-E-N
I never made it out to Baden Baden, but I do love the knives I bought from him. The Wüsthof isn't quite as sharp as the santoku, but it's still much sharper than any of the old knives rattling about in my kitchen drawers. And I find the handle incredibly comfortable.
Kappabashi rocks! I enjoyed the shopping there more than I did in the far trendier Harajuku, Shibuya 109 or Omote-sando. I feel better getting that off my chest.