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Shopping in Kappabashi
A wholesale-restaurant-supply district might not sound like a promising shopping destination, but Kappabashi, about a 10-minute walk west of the temples and pagodas of Asakusa, is worth a look. Ceramics, cutlery, cookware, folding lanterns, and even kimono can all be found here, along with the kitschy plastic food models that appear in restaurant windows throughout Japan. The best strategy is to stroll up and down the 1-km (½-mi) length of Kappabashi-dogu-machi-dori and visit any shop that looks interesting. Most stores here emphasize function over charm, but some manage to stand out for their stylish spaces as well. Most Kappabashi shops are open until 5:30; some close Sunday. To get here, take the Ginza subway line to Tawara-machi Station.
Kappabashi Soshoku. Come here for aka-chochin (folding red-paper lanterns) like the ones that hang in front of inexpensive bars and restaurants. 3-1-1 Matsugaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0036. 03/3844-1973. Mon.-Sat. 9:30-5:30.
Kawahara Shoten. The brightly colored bulk packages of rice crackers, shrimp-flavored chips, and other Japanese snacks sold here make offbeat gifts. 3-9-2 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0035. 03/3842-0841. Mon.-Sat. 9-5:30.
Maizuru. This perennial tourist favorite manufactures the plastic food that's displayed outside almost every Tokyo restaurant. Ersatz sushi, noodles, and even beer cost just a few thousand yen. You can buy tiny plastic key holders and earrings, or splurge on a whole Pacific lobster, perfect in coloration and detail down to the tiniest spines on its legs. 1-5-14 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0035. 03/3843-1686. Daily 9-6.
Noren-no-Nishimura. This Kappabashi shop specializes in noren—the curtains that shops and restaurants hang to announce they're open. The curtains are typically cotton, linen, or silk, most often dyed-to-order for individual shops. Nishimura also sells premade noren of an entertaining variety—from white-on-blue landscapes to geisha and sumo wrestlers in polychromatic splendor—for home decorating. They make wonderful wall hangings and dividers. 1-10-10 Matsugaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0036. 03/3841-6220. Mon.-Sat. 10-5.
Soi Furniture. The selection of lacquerware, ceramics, and antiques sold at this Kappabashi shop is modest, but Soi displays the items in a primitivist setting of stone walls and wooden floor planks, with up-tempo jazz in the background. 3-17-3 Matsugaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0036. 03/3843-9555. Daily 10-6.
Tsubaya Hochoten. Tsubaya sells high-quality cutlery for professionals. Its remarkable selection is designed for every imaginable use, as the art of food presentation in Japan requires a great variety of cutting implements. The best of these carry the Traditional Craft Association seal: hand-forged tools of tempered blue steel, set in handles banded with deer horn to keep the wood from splitting. Be prepared to pay the premium for these items: a cleaver just for slicing soba can cost as much as ¥50,000. 3-7-2 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0035. 03/3845-2005. Mon.-Sat. 9-5:45, Sun. 9-5. Subway: Ginza subway line, Tawara-machi Station (Exit 3).
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