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Top kitchenware, plastic sushi lure cooks, tourists alike to Kappabashi

by Satoko Kawasaki

Staff Photographer

If you want to open a restaurant, the Kappabashi district in Tokyo’s Taito Ward is the place to go because it has everything you need, and more.

Situated between the popular Ueno and Asakusa districts, Kappabashi boasts more than 180 shops selling tableware and kitchen equipment for business use and store fixtures.

The shops stretch for almost 1 km along the shopping arcade linking Kototoidori Street in the north with Asakusadori Street in the south, showcasing not only kitchenware but also lifelike plastic models of food.

Although the arcade is dedicated to the food industry, Kappabashi has in recent years become popular with amateur cooks and tourists, who throw in a visit because of its close proximity to Asakusa.

One of the main draws is the skillfully crafted plastic samples of ramen, sushi, tempura, cakes and other food displayed at restaurant entrances throughout Japan.

But many also come to purchase top-notch “hocho” (kitchen knives). Some are chefs at Japanese restaurants overseas, but others are merely housewives and husbands with a strong preference for quality cooking utensils and an interest in maintaining them, shop owners said.

The origins of Kappabashi date back to the Taisho Era about 100 years ago, when a small group of shops began selling kitchenware. As other shops followed suit, the merchant community gradually grew.

Despite the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the devastating Tokyo air raids of World War II, Kappabashi never died out.

As Japan rebuilt from the war, its food culture diversified, increasing the need for different kinds of kitchenware and handing the industry a big chance. Kappabashi’s merchants thrived.

Unlike decades ago, many shops here now cater to general consumers. Each autumn, Kappabashi organizes a bargain event that draws as many as 300,000 people from across the nation.

As long as Japan’s food culture grows, Kappabashi will continue to thrive.

This section, appearing on the first Monday of each month, offers a snapshot view of areas that may interest tourists.