Kappabashi: Your One-Stop Shop for Kitchen Essentials

Kappabashi might not be a glamorous tourist spot, but it is popular. There is a good reason for it. One set of people go there to buy its kitchenware. The others go there to look at it. It is an interesting place, especially if you have a camera.

I bet everything known to the cooking world is on this 170-plus store-lined street. You name it, Kappabashi has it. There are knives, coffee grinders, stacks of low-priced plates, and fake food. The list goes on and on. But first, do you want to know how it got its name?

Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya sushi board
Replica sushi at Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya.

How did Kappabashi get its name?

Kappabashi’s kappa is a type of yōkai. Yōkai are supernatural. You find them in Japanese folktales. They take many forms and are magical.

Kappa are curious creatures. They are associated with water and love cucumbers. Some say they look like turtles but stand on two legs. They have duckish beaks, webbed hands, and have a dish on their head.

What is their connection with Kappabashi? One theory concerns a local 17th-century merchant, Kappa Kawataro. He lived in the area and sold raincoats.

During the Bunkyo era (1804–1818), Kappabashi often had floods. Even the smallest amount of rain caused havoc in the rice fields. To solve the problem, Kawataro decided to fund the construction of a new waterway.

The kappa that lived in the nearby rivers saw Kawataro’s generous act. They decided to help build the new river under the cover of darkness. The local people who saw the kappa became prosperous.

There is another origin to the name. During the Edo period, some samurai and foot soldiers used to make raincoats to make extra money. As a part of the process, they would hang them over one of the bridges there.

Union Coffee shop
The Union Cofffee shop.

What is at Kappabashi?

It’s about everything culinary. Do you run a restaurant? Yes? You need to go there then! This place is for you. If you have an interest in food and cooking, you’ll love it. The kappa are a bonus.

Around 1912, second-hand goods sellers opened shops in the area. In the years following WW2, the main street became a shōtengai (shopping street). It had a large selection of kitchenware retailers. Now, most stores sell something cooking-related.

I go to Kappabashi from Tawaramachi Station, so I start at Nimi Tableware. It’s so easy to find. An oversized head of a chef is on top of the building. He’s like the god of Kitchen Town (the area’s nickname). The shop opened its doors in 1907. Inside is an array of food-adjacent items from Japan and abroad.

Kappabashi’s stores are all about specialty. Many of them have been selling their products for decades. Akusaya sells the noren (curtains) that you’ll find at the entrance to many Japanese shops. They have beautiful products. Actually, they’d even look great in a house.

Knife shops are many. One of my favorites is Seisukue Knife. They have some great products and display them beautifully. Their staff speak English too. But whatever shop you enter for one of these cooking tools, they can get expensive!

Seisuki Japanese culinary knives display
Seisuki Knife.

If you are a coffee lover, Union Coffee is a must-visit. It goes back to 1962. The store has an antique feel to it. Anything you need to make the best cup of your favorite brew will be there. Beans abound!

Japanese restaurants are famous for their display cases. They are filled with models of what diners can eat. Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya is one of the companies that makes them. It has been selling beautiful food replicas since 1932. Their products are so lifelike and look edible!

Kappabashi Kappa Kawataro gold statue
This is a Kappa.

By the way, halfway along the shōtengai is a tiny park. Inside is a golden statue of Kappa Kawataro himself. It was put there in 2003 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the street. Take a selfie with him. It might also bring good luck to your business too.

Of course, the area has many other images and statues of kappa. They are all over the place, and a few are semi-hidden. But most of all, people go to see things associated with kitchens and cooking.

Asakusaya curtain shop
The Asakusaya noren (curtain) shop.

Is Kappabashi photographer-friendly?

Many shops in Tokyo don’t allow photos. But Kappabashi is different. Most shops seem camera-friendly. But do the polite thing and ask before you start. That way, you’ll avoid any trouble.

Wrapping up

Kappabashi has much to offer photographers. There are the knives, cutlery, colors, and shapes. Some novelty stuff is there too, like the huge chef’s head! It’s a good place for camera fun. I think you also understand why it is nicknamed Kitchen Town.

By the way, this article only covers very little of the area. I will go back again for more photos one day. Did you know you can even get photos of Tokyo Skytree from there?

Kappabashi Tokyo Skytree view
Tokyo Skytree needs no introduction.

Anyway, have you been to Kappabashi? If you have, let us know. We’d love to hear about your experiences there. And one last thing. Asakusa and Sensoji are within walking distance! You could spend a full day in the area.

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