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Kappabashi-dori is a street in northeast Tokyo — between the Asakusa and Ueno neighborhoods — that supplies the needs of Tokyo’s restaurant owners, chefs and home cooks. Nicknamed “kitchen town”, Kappabashi is also a popular (if quirky) tourist attraction because it has a fair number of shops selling plastic food models. Visitors are fascinated by these tacky, hyper-realistic models of popular Japanese food items, which restaurants use to lure customers. They make kitschy, fun and inexpensive souvenirs.

Chefs and restaurant owners typically come here to find anything. ANYTHING. From expertly honed knives to uniforms to tableware to tables — each shop specializes in one little nitch. Need a state-of-the-art convection oven? No problem. How about a tiny iron brand to decorate wagashi, or an old-fashioned lacquer bowl for soba-making? A selection of bamboo chopsticks and steamers? Wood or plastic bento boxes? It’s all here, conveniently located within a few short blocks.

Kozara, Kappabashi Lacquer bowls, Kappabashi
Bowk for making soba, Kappabashi Iron brands for wagashi, Kappabashi
Metalware, Kappabashi Plastic food for sale, Kappabashi
Above: An array of shops to meet all your cooking needs. Clockwise from top right: lacquer soup bowls; iron brands for wagashi(Japanese sweets); plastic food models; a shop just for bamboo ware; in front of a tableware shop; aluminum teapots and cookware; a special bowl for making soba noodles; a colorful array of kozara (small dishes)
Kappabashi restaurant supply street
Above: You know you're in the right place when you see the giant chef on top of the Niimi building.
Teapots at Kappabashi
Above: Teacups on sale. Below, chic restaurant uniforms at Seven Uniforms.
Uniforms at Kappabashi

Getting there: The closest subway stop is Tawaramachi Station on the Ginza Line. This will take you to the corner of Asakusa-dori and Kokusai-dori. Walk west along Asakusa-dori (away from Asakusa towards Ueno). You'll soon see a giant statue of a chef on top of the Niimi building on the far right corner. Turn right onto the main street of Kappabashi. There is a nice tableware shop across from the Niimi building.
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Understandably, chefs from other countries enjoy coming to Kappabashi, and if I were to start a restaurant, I would certainly shop here myself. But it’s also fun for browsing, and provides a unique peek at a world normally hidden to tourists. Prices are very reasonable, and who couldn’t use a nice set of colorful kozara or a few sturdy lacquer soup bowls? Most people would be satisfied with an hour here, but food enthusiasts could easily spend an entire afternoon. Conveniently located within walking distance of Asakusa temple, it’s worth a quick look for almost anyone.