Located only a short 15 minute walk from the busy Kaminari-mon gate, one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist destinations, is the sleepy Kappabashi, a concentrated area of wholesale restaurant suppliers. If you are planning to start a restaurant in Tokyo, this is the place to go. Everything you need to start, furnish and operate a restaurant is here in this area. Even if you’re just a frustrated, amateur cook looking to add Japanese cooking utensils to your arsenal, if you are just looking for a different souvenir for someone at home or if you are just looking for inexpensive ceramics and porcelain, then this is the place for you.
There are stores here selling sinks, ovens, dinnerware, signs and signboards, knives, pots, pans and much, much more. But perhaps Kappabashi is best known for its stores selling the plastic food models you see all over Japan. There are a number of stores here selling these almost-good-enough-looking-to-eat items that are such a major part of the restaurant scene in Japan. You never know when a plastic sushi may come in handy. You can try putting one onto the conveyor belt at a Sushi-go-round and watch the fun! If you are primarily interested in the food model stores, most of them are located at the southern end of Kappabashi near Asakusa-dori. They are on the east, or right-hand side of the street as you face north.
In addition to everything else, you can enjoy the “Kitsch” as only the Japanese can do it. Looming above the southern entrance of Kappabashi is the giant chef’s head with his menacing smile keeping watch over the activity below. Nearby is the apartment building with the patio covers designed to look like cups and saucers, and the giant Stag Beetle walking up the side of another apartment building. And tucked into a small courtyard off the main street, is the statue of the “Kappa”, which the street is named after. A Kappa is a Japanese mythological creature that looks something like a turtle without a shell, with webbed hands and feet and seaweed for hair. They are said to live on the bottom of rivers where they wait to snatch the legs of unsuspecting swimmers.
To Get to Kappabashi
From Kaminarimon, walk down the street straight in front the gate (South). At the first major street (Asakusa-dori), turn right and keep walking straight until you come to the giant chef’s head on top of the building at the corner. The total walking time is about 15 minutes.