Friday, May 4, 2012

Kappabashi-Dori - A Shopper's Paradise

Lately, my friends and I have been obsessed with flatware (tea sets in particular), so my friend Marissa suggested we take a Sunday shopping trip to Kappabashi-Dori to see if we could find anything we liked.  Kappabashi-Dori is definitely a shopper's paradise - if you happen to be shopping for flatware, serveware or kitchenware, that is.  Kappabashi-Dori (also called Kitchen Town) is a street located between Ueno and Asakusa in Tokyo and is famous for having tons of shops that sell flatware, kitchen items/tools/gadgets, and basically anything needed in the restaurant industry...including fake food! Although many restaurants have their fake food specially made for them, that can be pricey so apparently a less expensive option is to buy premade fake food from Kappabashi.  Word to the wise (and I'm speaking from experience here) it's not a good idea to go in any of these shops when you're hungry.

We arrived at Kappabashi around 10:30 a.m. and as usual, we were starving. Finding a place to eat in Japan on Sunday before 11:30 a.m. is, as we discovered, incredibly difficult. Since we couldn't really focus on our shopping until we ate, we decided to have coffee at Doutor while waiting for restaurants to open.  Doutor is the "Starbucks" of Japan and although their coffee is actually really good, there is a haze of cigarette smoke throughout the entire place which makes it quite unpleasant for non-smokers (there is a designated smoking section but it's useless since it's right next to the smoking section).

An hour later and stuffed from the delicious dim sum we had at the restaurant across the street from Doutor, we were ready to take on Kappabashi. I will admit, this shopping experience was slightly overwhelming because there was just so much stuff to choose from.  Seriously, you walk in a shop and there are just rows and rows of stuff.  One thing you can count on, if it's related to cooking, serving food or the restaurant industry, you'll find it here. If you ever wondered where you could buy a taiyaki maker (the fish shaped pancake that comes with different fillings like azuki beans or custard), now you know.

There's also a wide range in terms of price - from teapots for 500 Yen to a single cup/saucer set for 15,000 Yen (um, not really in my budget).  I think we were all a little cautious with our purchases because we didn't know what the next store might have and perhaps the next store might have something we'd like better.  A few good things to note about many of these stores:  (1) many of them take U.S. credit cards; and (2) many of them will ship your purchases worldwide. 

At the end of the day, none of us really went too crazy.  I had my eye on this teapot that matched the pink teacups and plates that I got from the 100 Yen store a few weeks ago, but for whatever reason I didn't get it.  Well actually I do KNOW the reason - the reason is that I thought I might see something better at another shop and I didn't want to be stuck with it if that were that case, but it turned out that I didn't find a better one, so I ended up with none. In fact all that I left Kappabashi-Dori with was a bundt pan (which I've been wanting), a plain white teapot for a single cup of tea, and a mortar/pestle (which I've been needing).  However, a day or 2 later, I got a text message from one of my friends expressing regret over not having bought everything she was considering buying....oh well, guess it looks like another trip to Kappabashi-Dori is in our future.

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