19 October 2007

Buying Plastic Food in Tokyo: Kappabashi-dori

Before I left for Japan, I asked Barry if there was anything he's always wanted from Japan. One of his requests was, "plastic food." As a tourist in Japan, you live and die by plastic food. When the restaurant menu is all in Japanese, sometimes you have to (politely) ask the waitness to follow you outside so you can point at the display food.Tokyo has hundreds of thousands of restaurants and all of them buy display food from one place: kappabashi-dori.

Located at Asakusa (at the end of the Ginza subway line) kappabashi-dori is not a big tourist attraction and therefore harder to find. I lucked out, there was a nice Japanese man standing next to the neighborhood map inside Asakusa station. I said, Kappabashi-dori doko desuka? He looked at me kind of funny and said, kitchen? He made hand motions like dicing vegetables, it was very cute.It's important to note that Kappabashi-dori is not the plastic food district, it's the kitchen supplies district. There are entire stores devoted to just knives, or just bowls, or just aprons. It's pretty cool.

To get there from the Ginza subway station, you want exit #1. When you arrive at street level, take a right. You'll pass a very large red lantern in front of the Buddhist temple Sensō-ji. Incidentally, this is the attraction that brings most people to Asakusa. I read that there are inexpensive places to stay up here as well, but, it's pretty far out of the way. I think it's better to stay off the Hibiya subway line or Yamanote train line. Anyway, I digress.

Continue down the main street until you come to a five-way intersection. Imagine yourself walking straight ahead and then take the road that veers slightly to the right. It will take you directly past a (tiny) police station. Keep an eye out for these funky lampposts that look like baskets. I thought to myself, "It looks like the lightbulbs are ready to get dunked into tempura batter!" Guess I had food on the brain. Just keep walking and you'll end up right in the middle of Kappabashi-dori (can't miss it).

Another blog I read said all the plastic food shops are on one side of the street. I came across half a dozen plastic food shops in just a few blocks and then none for several blocks, so I think they may group together. Come with an idea of what you want so you a) don't get overwhelmed and b) so you can price compare. I was looking for a bowl of udon and a sliced tonkatsu. At one place, the tonkatsu was 7200 Yen. I found another tonkatsu at the shop next door for only 5500 Yen. Yes, this stuff is expensive. Also, they do not sell you the dishware, only the food. Presumably if you bought a frosty beer you get the mug, but I'm not sure. With the udon, all I got was a very gelatinous chunk of udon and no bowl. It's probably for the best though because who wants to haul a big soup bowl home? Similarly, the tonkatsu came ala carte - even though it was displayed on a plate with garnish.

I picked up a website for one of the stores: http://maiduru.co.jp/. To view it, you may want to get babelfish to translate it first. Click the button that says, "it enters into the store." Next, click "Real Shop Guide." This (Japanese) link might also work.


Unknown said...

I love that there is a whole kitchen district. I think that may be heaven...

Anyway, I got your postale...LOVE it! Shawn collects postcards, so it was fun to finally have one of my own on our refrigerator! Thanks!

Sandi said...

Thanks for this post! I was looking for a place to get a red "ramen" lantern, and it looks like this may be the place.

Justin said...

If you are looking for an online shop that sells [Made in Japan] fake food related items in English and ships all over the world, you may want to check out Fake Food Japan: http://fakefoodjapan.com/

All the best,