Kappabashi Street


I can’t let you leave Tokyo without going to Kappabashi Street. Even if you’re not a big foodie, the kitchenware district is filled with all kinds of entertaining things, including stores that sell those amazingly realistic food models you see outside Japanese restaurants.

You can tell you’re at the gateway to kitchen goodness by the giant chef’s head on the left and the stack of teacups on the right

The stores lining Kappabashi Street sell everything from super-realistic food models (including the best refrigerator magnets and sushi clocks of all time) to  rice molds that look like bullet trains.

First, the food model shops! You’ve probably seen these good-enough-to-eat works of art in display windows outside Tokyo restaurants. They have to be luscious-looking, because they’re the main way restaurants recruit new customers. Each dish is custom-made to exactly replicate the dish as it’s made at the restaurant. They have to deliver the real thing to the food model artist, so the ingredients, cutting style, and amounts can be faithfully rendered in plastic!

Prepare to be totally fooled by how realistic the foods here are
My favorite place to buy the highest quality (but also most expensive) souvenirs is the Maizaru shop (their address is Nishi-Asakusa 1-5-17) but they all sell excellent souvenirs at a range of prices
They’re masters of every kind of sushi…
…and their beer artistry makes you want to lift that glass and take a swig
They’re all for sale (at rather eye-watering prices) but because most people don’t really need a souvenir plate of plastic ramen, they also sell killer fridge magnets and keychains. See those rows of mini-food below the ice cream cones? Those are magnets. On the other side of this display are the sushi, potsticker, and ramen versions
The even make phone cases that look good enough to eat!

With a little advance planning (and a Japanese-speaking guide) you can go to a workshop and make some plastic food.

Making lettuce at the plastic food workshop
The kits are sold at the Ganso Shop, and they sell kits to make everything from beer to bowls of ramen
There are kits for ice cream sundaes, bowls of ramen, sushi, beer & soft drinks, and more

But Kappabashi Street offers more than just plastic food. You can find things sold only in Japan at nearly every store.

Knife stores sell those ultra-sharp Japanese knives made by former swordsmiths. You can also buy sharpening stones and get tips for sharpening your new knife from most of the shopkeepers
There are several shops specializing in handmade ceramic dishes, serving plates, teapots and more
Soup bowls, chopsticks, trays and serving dishes of every shape and color are sold at stores specializing in lacquerware
These are festival-size rice steamers. Stacks of them sit on kerosene stoves at festivals and serve up Costco-size portions of steamed rice.
Wooden food molds are handcarved in the old-fashioned way.
Noren stores sell dyed cloth door curtains and advertising banners, perfect for dorm room walls (especially the ones touting draft beer JUST SAYIN)
There’s a store that sells handmade brushes & brooms, as well as inventive animal-shaped mud scrapers
If you’re in burning need of two kilos of curry powder or liters of salad dressing, the restaurant supply grocery stores have you covered
Paper lanterns of all shapes, colors and sizes are sold at stores like this
There’s even a store that sells everything you need to make your own buckwheat noodles (soba)
You can find iron teapots of all sizes, including these nyantasic models.
You can find iron teapots of all sizes, including these nyantasic models.

Most stores open from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Some stores are closed on the weekends


One last thing: as we walk back toward Tawara-machi Station, let’s stop and see the Rakugo Shrine. Rakugo is traditional Japanese comic storytelling, with a long history of wandering actors entertaining the townsfolk of yore. But during WWI, fifty-three of the most famous rakugo stories were entombed at this shrine forever.

The names carved in red on the wall outside the rakugo shrine are the stage names of famous rakugo performers from yesteryear. Let’s go in and read about why the 53 stories have never been performed since.


And if you’re up for a little more walking, let’s keep going from Tawaramachi Station along the main street toward Ueno Station. We’ll find ourselves in another fascinating, specialized district: Inari-cho, the funeral goods and Shinto shrine shopping area. I know – who would want to see THAT? But take a peek:

This area is where they sell Buddhist home altars and the intricately-pieced wooden Shinto shrines you see at many traditional businesses. As you can see, it’s worth a look!

And while you’re in the neighborhood, these two are within walking distance:

Click here to explore more

Jonelle Patrick is the author of five novels set in Japan

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Know someone who’s planning a trip to Japan? Or maybe you’d just like to find more fun stuff spicing up your email from time to time?

Subscribe to The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had, and I’ll send you all the hidden treasures, travel hacks and best of the best, the minute I post them!

It’s easy: Scroll down to the subscribe button, enter your email, and push the button. You can unsubscribe at any time, of course, and I promise: no ads and no sharing of your information EVER.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s