Kappabashi is a shopping paradise for chefs of all skill levels -- or tourists simply looking to pick up some plastic or wax food that is commonly displayed at restaurants in Japan.
From basic cooking tools like spatulas and whiskers to industrial-size refrigerators and display cases, kitchen supplies are plentiful in this district located between the popular tourist sites of Asakusa and Ueno.
On a recent Saturday, shoppers packed the more than 170 stores on the half-mile-long street of Kappabashi, checking out the latest in Japanese and Western-style dishes, lacquer ware, food containers, baking supplies, and restaurant equipment and furniture. A $1,200 popcorn machine might not be what the average tourist is looking for, but it's for the taking at Kappabashi. But don't fear, there are plenty of $5 rice bowls and $4 chopsticks available as well.
Kappabashi got its start as a kitchenware town around 1912 when a handful of equipment and secondhand stores opened. It is now the place to go for the latest in cooking supplies.
One of the biggest attractions, especially for foreign visitors, is the plastic food displays. Although they were originally made to show what a food dish looked like, throughout the years they have become a popular souvenir. While some displays cost more than $50, little ones sold as magnets and cell phone charms can be found for $10.
There are also several stores specializing in cooking knives, something the Japanese are known for. And they're not cheap, especially if you want a good one.
So if you're into cooking, or just want to pick up some plastic food, Kappabashi is the place for you. But don't go on Sundays, because a majority of the stores are closed.
KNOW & GO
Kappabashi is about a five-minute walk from Tawara station on Tokyo Metro's Ginza line, or about a six-minute walk from Iriya station on Tokyo Metro's Hibiya line. Most stores are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. About 10 percent of the stores are closed on Saturdays, and about 70 percent are closed on Sundays.
Note: This story was originally published in Stars and Stripes Pacific, Oct. 28, 2010.