Kappabashi is located between Ueno and Asakusa and has various shops selling cookware, tableware, packaging and plastic food samples. It is a place where people who work in the food industry shop and therefore is very specialized. There are approximately 170 shops and the area has the most shops in Japan that specialize in cookware. It is fun to just visit but if you are into cooking and baking, this is the place to go. All the shops are open during the week (usually 9am-5pm). 90% are open on Saturday and 30% or so are open on Sunday. There are several train and metro stops around Kappabashi but if you take the Ginza metro line to Tawaramachi station and take Exit 3, you will not have to walk too much to get to the shops.
1. Replica Foods_YoYoH_/Flickr
Many people must have seen photos of realistic food samples made of plastic and were amazed by how realistic they are. If you would like to own one for yourself, you can buy them at Kappabashi. Unfortunately they are quite expensive since each one is hand painted. However, not to worry. You can make one for yourself! Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya offers a class on making plastic food samples everyday three times a day. The class is only 60-75 minutes and costs 2,160 yen per person. Just make sure that you check their website for vacancies and make a reservation. Please note that it does not have this information on the English site so the course might not be offered in English. www.ganso-sample.com (in Japanese)
2. Chopstick restsI/Ong/FlickrJaggyBoss/Flickr
Even if you do not use chopsticks and therefore do not have the need to own chopstick rests, you might change your mind once you see how cute they are. There are various kinds from an eggplant shaped one to a French Baguette. It is not too expensive and small so you can buy them as souvenirs.
If you like cooking, you know that having a good knife makes a big difference. There are several shops specialized in selling various knives: both Western (double-edged) and Japanese (single-edged) ones. These are not mass produced knives but knives made by artisans. At Kamaasa-shouten, which was founded in 1908, you can have your name or words engraved onto the blade making the knife one of a kind.
5. Japanese tablewareMarufish/Flickr
Japanese tableware is very seasonal and many people have different ones for each season. In spring time, you can buy tableware in a motif of sakura (cherry blossoms). Even if you do not cook Japanese food, you can use them as dessert dishes or just as a container to put your keys!
6. Equipments to cook Japanese foodanjuli_ayer/Flickr
Although the cutters above look like cookie cutters, they are actually used to cut vegetables, such as carrots and pumpkins. The reason for such variety is because specific shapes are used to represent each season. For example, in fall, ginkgo, chestnut, maple leaf and chrysanthemum are used. Of course, you can use it to make cookies but they are smaller than usual cookie cutters.
7. Nambu ironware
Rice is a big part of Japanese people’s lives and we constantly explore how to make the most delicious rice and the best way to cook it. You might think rice does not have much taste and therefore will not make that much difference but it actually does. If you have eaten rice cooked in the correct way, you will know what I am talking about. Many people believe cooking rice in an ironware makes rice taste delicious. Maybe you can try it by purchasing an ironware pot! Of course, these ironware pots can be used to cook Western food as well.
8. Specialized equipments
If you want to buy some very specialized cooking equipments, Kappabashi is a very good bet. For example, if you want to buy a Taiyakiki (shown in the picture above), you will be able to buy it. Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped sweet, and the machine used to make it is a Taiyakiki. Taiyaki is made of pancake batter with filling, usually red bean paste or custard.