Sunday, July 8, 2012

Field Trip! - Kappabashi 'Kitchen Town' Tokyo

series of posts from visiting interesting little (and large) cafes, food-related establishments and other places of inspiration.

Yesterday I spent an all too brief hour or so visiting Kappabashi dougu gai 合羽橋道具街 or 'Kitchen Town' not far from Asakusa, with the express intention of looking at what kind of baking equipment they have. The official site in English is here.

This is the famous street lined with shops for restaurant equipment supplies (the 'dougu' 道具 in the name means 'equipment'), and it does indeed have all the packaging, tins and trays, uniforms, display cases, machinery and pots and pans a restaurant might need. It is of course also a popular destination for tourists looking for the fake food samples / サンプル食品 / sanpuru shokuhinn as interesting souvenirs. 

In case you're planning to make a souvenir hunting trip yourself, it's worth knowing that a few of the shops in Kappabashi are closed on Saturdays, and most are closed on Sundays and national holidays - probably because they primarily cater for food business owners.

The closest station is Tawaramachi 田原町 on the Ginza line (Google maps). Come out of exit 3, turn around at the top of the stairs and walk around the corner that's now in front of you, in the opposite direction to the stairs you just came up, and keep going straight. If that sounds confusing have a look at that Google maps link - Kappabashi is the main road about 3 blocks along from the station.

The back of Exit 3, Tawaramachi

It's a short walk to the south end of Kappabashi-dori. First you pass a large temple on your right, set back from the road you're on (first picture below). Walk a bit further and you'll be able to spot the landmark huge chef's head (but of course), in front of you atop the Niimi building - that's the entrance where you turn right onto Kappabashi street and where the main row of shops begins.

Many of the stores will be able to give you a copy of the free Kappabashi "Handy Shop Guide" - they now also have an English one! (The Japanese map is available online.)

It looks like lots of the baking-related shops are on the south end of the street, and there are a couple in particular that stood out.

Arai Shouten 新井商店 Google maps

A small shop crammed full with at least one of every size tin, tray, knife and mould imaginable. They had antique Japanese wooden moulds and a staggering array of piping nozzles:

Here I also found the banneton proofing basket that had so eluded me in France, AND they have dough slashing lame blades, including a Japanese version with a removable blade. They were about 700 - 1000 yen.

The lame / grignette was referred to as a generic 'cook knife' クックナイフ

Banneton proofing basket! / 発酵かご / hakkou kago

I should have known I'd be able to get them in Japan if I kept looking! Japan has a bit of a love affair with 'dougu' - there is proper equipment to kit yourself out with for anything you do for work or leisure. If you've been hiking in Japan you'll have seen fantastically prepared grannies zipping up the slopes with their high-tech walking poles and middle aged men in their North Face Gore-Tex gear with their serious digital cameras, posh camera bags and impressive lenses.

Majimaya 馬嶋屋 Google maps

This is another baking specialist shop, with lots of machinery including ovens and kneading machines. They had a small display of counter-top mixers including some extra beater attachments for KitchenAid mixers.

Yoshida Kashi Douguten 吉田菓子道具店 Google maps

The staff at this shop were very knowledgeable and helpful with questions. They can advise on the comparative merits of big purchases such as ovens and mixers. They had Cuisinart food processors, counter-top KitchenAid and Kenmix mixers, and a couple of larger free-standing Japanese-made Frei mixers. I was told that Yoshida Kashi Douguten is the main sales representative for KitchenAid in Japan and that they are fast helping with repairs when needed, even lending you a machine in to use while yours is being fixed. They also said they can order parts in, such as the blender attachment for the top of the Kenmix.

Those 3 shops are definitely ones to include if you're specifically looking for baking equipment and are short of time, but there is so much to see up and down kappabashi you could easily spend half a day (more!) there.

Here are some of the other delights I spotted in my quick trip:

Cutters for seasonally-appropriate shaped slices of carrot in your soup

'Yaki-in' cast iron brands used to stamp the top of manju buns and wafers etc

Try as I might, I could not find "close" Where DO shops get their grammatically incorrect signs?

Bento packaging, disposable soup bowls.

Kakigori / shaved ice / かき氷 machines and glasses

Basket shop, smelled great, but no banneton here

Almost every size of every item you could need - wooden rice containers

'Flavorland' hundreds of essences and flavourings for drinks and cooking

Giant chocolate bunny moulds! Easily a meter high.


  1. I visited Kappabashi with a certain Mr. Zoch! I shall have to go back next time I'm over there for yaki-in and carrot cutters for kaiseki!

  2. Some 100 yen shops have nice leaf and flower shaped veggie cutters too. I use them for carrots in nabe when I can be bothered going to the effort :) I suppose kaiseki preparation is the proper use for them though!

  3. How much the price of Yaki-in? thanks

  4. I'm afraid I didn't look at the price but imagine that they would start around a couple of thousand yen.

  5. Have you ever been to the Osaka equivalent of Kappabashi named Doguyasuji located in Namba?

    1. I haven't actually, I'll have to have a look next time I'm in town, thank you.

      Nice site you have there by the way! Amazing-looking custom orders, I've always wondered how they were made and how much they were :)

  6. Hi - I have stumbled over your blog searching for a "proper" oven to put into a house we are building in Japan. In your travels have you found an stand along oven/stove combos? It's looking like we might have to go commercial to get this in Japan which I am ok with, but thought you may be able to point us in the right direction. Am enormously helpful for any suggestions! Thanks, Donna

    1. Hi Donna, exciting stuff that you are building a house here! I haven't personally come across stand-alone ovens here, usually they are system kitchens, with the oven fitted into the cabinet space and a hob fitted above it as part of the worktop. There are some lovely ones, perhaps even have a look at IKEA whose Japanese site is also in English to get you started? Sorry for the delay in replying, and best of luck!