Knives at Kappabashi

We had already spent  three weeks in Japan and had learnt our way of getting around Tokyo. And so with this confidence we  brandished our SUICA  card and  set out to Tawaramachi station on the Ginza line. From there it was a short walk to Kappabashi, the kitchen town of Tokyo. Another way to access  this street is to club it with your visit to the Sensoji Temple, barely a few  hundred yards away.  We  however suggest you leave the visit to the last so that the inevitable kitchen souvenirs and knickknacks  can be carried home easily instead of  carting  them along for the rest of your journey in Japan.

Malati always like to visit the farmer’s markets and kitchen streets in every city  that we visit and ends up picking up some odds and ends; some of which to my consternation can be found back home in India as well! But this time our visit had a   purpose – picking up some Japanese Knives  , famed for the quality of steel and long life.

Kappabashi  street (more like a town) is lined with shops selling all kinds of  restaurant and kitchen needs ranging from a wide variety of crockery, cutlery,  Knife kappabashihotel furniture,  kitchen implements and knives to  restaurant accessories. We ambled  through the street admiring the wares knowing fully well that we couldn’t cart  any of the exquisite  wares  back home and headed to Tsubaya World,  one of the oldest shops selling knives. The  very small and narrow entrance shop is deceptive as the store  houses  thousands of  models of  knives. We were greeted by a very pleasant English speaking salesman who traced their  history    back to the Meiji period when they manufactured “military” sickles in the Russo Japanese war.

This was followed by a short discourse on knives which  dispelled my preconceived notion that a kitchen knife is nothing but a knife. What kind of a knife do you want he asked – Japanese or western – Japanese knives have a curved blade- Carbon steel or Stainless – Couldn’t  decide on which one. Carbon steel is more brittle but can be sharpened easily and needs more care and maintenance as it tends to rust. knife 1Stainless steel on the other hand has a higher grade of chrome alloy and lasts longer but is less sharper.   To demonstrate  the difference  he cut through a newspaper with both types  of Knives. Length he said – We said we don’t know. Wooden or plastic handles – we said wooden handles – and we were shown knives with the most exquisite handles made of cedar wood. What type of balance? Skewed front  back or equally balanced? Duh! we said in true Big Moose style.  To help our selection process he  made Malati demonstrate  her cutting style on vegetables. What is the purpose of the knife ? What type of food ? Vegetables ? Meat? Bamboo shoots ?

At which point in time we said show us some “nice” knives which we can take back home and feel good about the purchase for years. Based on Malati’s cutting style and with more advice from the salesman  we picked up three “nice” knives. All hand made with elegant cedar wood  handles – And crafted out of stainless steel packed in the most exquisite boxes. As if that was not enough we were given  instructions on how to care for your knife. And upon the suggestion of my son Jayant we got Malati’s name inscribed on the knives.  When I got back home I  observed that these seven inch knives  balanced at perfectly  the same point on the handle. The knives were our largest single purchase through our stay in Japan. And along with the knives we also bought    two  mandolins – not the musical instrument as I believed but the vegetable slicer that Malati always wanted. Simple technology and very finely crafted blades cuts the most amazingly   thin  potato wafer slices  which I have ever seen.

And so with knives and mandolins in hand we made our way to our next stop -Akihibara; the electronics town  of Tokyo  in search of a robot toy for my grandson Uday.  We scoured the streets of Akihabara and stopped by at a few gaming parlors  before landing up at a BIC Camera store which had all the toys that we looking for. And with a late lunch we ended our day and headed back to the hotel at Shinjuku. This was our last day  in Japan before we set back home to Hyderabad in India.


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