the evolution of a knife from formless steel to a fine blade, at Tsubaya knife shop in Kappabashi
After Tsukiji, we headed to Kappabashi. Kappabashi is the restaurant supply district in Tokyo; you’ll find it midway between Ueno and Asakusa. T wanted to check out some knife shops that had been recommended to him and I wanted to pick up a suribachi that I’d been eyeing and get a new donabe since my old one (a plain but trusty nabe that we picked up at the mom and pop housewares shop in Maebashi) had suffered an unfortunate end, tumbling off the dish rack onto the floor a few weeks earlier. Kappabashi has a great array of shops selling everything you might need for your kitchen, including kitchen tools, knives, ceramics, cast iron, enamel ware, and plastic food models. It was raining off and on and we were feeling pretty tired, so we didn’t take very many pictures, but I’ll try to get back and put together a really good post about Kappabashi sometime in the next few months.
Niimi kitchenware store has cup and saucer-shaped balconies – the golden kappa of Kappabashi – another Niimi store across the street, topped with a giant chef’s head
T needed a saya for his old knife and a pair of moribashi, so our first stops would be the knife shops. We stopped on the into a few of the enamel shops that sell fancy bento boxes and bowls for miso soup, rice, and side dishes. We went to the shop (whose name I forget) that sells cast iron and knives. They had a good selection of moribashi too. Dad bought a teapot. He didn’t know it at the time, but it was the same one that we have here at our house. I asked where we could find Tsubaya, which T was looking for. The shopkeeper said, “It’s down the street, but you’ll pay 50% more there for the same knife you can buy here.” He took out a knife and showed me. Apparently, many of the shops buy from the same suppliers and have the knives stamped with their shop name so it’s “original.
We headed down the street and back up the other side, stopping at Tsubaya. The first shopkeeper had been right, the knife he showed me was 50% more there, but the Kyocera ceramic knife was less. So I guess you just have to shop around at all the stores if you want to be sure to get the best price. In any case, T was looking for a saya here, not a knife. Next, we headed across the street to Union, where T admired the deba bocho display and I admired the soba knives (not that I actually know how to make soba, so there is really no need for me to own that kind of a knife).
We left and continued walking down the street, but a few stores down T stopped and counted his money, then headed back to Union. While he bought the deba, I headed across the street to buy the donabe that I had seen earlier. After that, we headed back to the cast iron and knife shop and he bought a pair of moribashi. Finally, we stopped into a big shop with a wide selection of western cookware and also a Japanese style section on the second floor in the back. Here I picked up the suribachi that I’d been thinking of since my last trip to Kappabashi. Now I just need to get back to Kusatsu to buy one of those sansho wood surikogi that I saw last time I was there (and they were cheap!). While we were here, T bought a small suribachi that was pretty enough that you could make and serve a small batch of dressing or sauce in it. Dad bought a lovely but expensive copper cup too. Finally we had everything we needed.
T and I stopped back into a couple of the enamel ware shops to consider buying a jubako, but decided against it. Maybe next time. I also looked into a ceramics shop that I’d never noticed on my previous trips to Kappabashi. Perhaps they’re always closed on Sunday, which is when I usually go there. It was unfortunate that I’d already bought a donabe, because they had a lovely maple-patterned one on sale. I just can’t get it out of my mind. Perhaps next time…
Shopping with T in the restaurant supply district was a ton of fun. I definitely don’t feel like a kitchen-obsessed weirdo when we’re together, because he loves knives as much as I love kitchen tools.
My new suribachi – kimchi nabe in the new donabe
For dinner the next night, we took the new donabe for a test drive, making kimchi nabe. It’s plenty large enough, but it did get some kimchi stains. I guess the only way around that problem is to have a dark, reddish-orange donabe…