Knife Shopping in Kappabashi

By Cheryl White
May 13, 2015
Lifestyle

One of the most satisfying shopping trips in Tokyo would have to be to the area called Kappabashi, or Kitchen Town. Here the main street is lined with stores selling the most wonderful array of items to stock any kitchen or restaurant. It is along this street that two rival knife shops, only a block apart, offer their wares. Unlike many of the smaller establishments that sell knives in Kappabashi, the Kamaasa and Kamata stores sell top-of-the-range, artisan-made Japanese steel knives.

Knives

The Kamaasa shop has been operating since 1908 and has knives for every application available. Some of the staff speak not only English and Japanese, but other languages as well. This comes in very handy when purchasing a knife, as a cursory look around the store and its shelves, lined with a vast array of cutting implements including scissors and other small tools, may leave you feeling a little perplexed.

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The staff are skilled in helping you decide just which knife is right for you. First, however, they will quiz you about the following things:

  1. What purpose is the knife for? Do you want to dice, pare, carve or slice?
  2. Do you want a thin blade or a thick blade?
  3. Is it for Japanese or Western style cutting?
  4. What sort of handle do you prefer? Chunky or slimline?

Last but not least you will be asked to hold the knife to see just how it feels in your hand. This is often the deciding factor for chefs and novice cooks alike.

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All Kamaasa knives are works of art, and some are patterned with waves or notches, the first are for decoration only, the second to stop food from sticking to the blade. They also offer an engraving service whereby your name will be rendered into katakana and engraved onto the blade.

Just a block away is an equally reputable and historic family business called Kamata. The patriarch of this family is the head of the venerable knife sharpening guild in Tokyo, and the staff here are passionate about the care and longevity of your knives.

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After going through a similarly rigorous selection process, they will guide you in the dos and don’ts of sharpening your knife. Often the recommendation is to return to the store, where an industrial-sized rotating sharpener takes pride of place. Here the trained staff will sharpen your knife for free to maintain its perfect edge.

Kappabashi has many other knife shops that deal in European knives and factory produced Japanese brands, but for a genuine Japanese artisan-quality blade, with a bit of culture and theater thrown in, the family businesses of Kamaasa and Kamata are the places to go. They are also great places to take your overseas visitors or to indulge in a little domestic retail therapy for yourself. Kappabashi can be reached from Tawaramachi station on the Ginza line or Asakusa station on the Ginza line, Toei Asakusa line, or Tobu Skytree line.

The Deets

Kamaasa

Address: 2-24-1 Matsugaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Tel: 03-3841-9355

Kamata Hakensha Knife Shop

Address: 2-12-6 Matsugaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Tel: 03-3841-4205