I grew up with Globi books. I travelled with Globi to far away places and experienced many adventures with him. Only much later I learned that Globi was actually created in 1932 as a marketing tool for Globus department stores…
And now look who I found here?!
This little guy who looks like a Globi baby glimpsing out of a miso bowl is Kappa the mascot of Kappabashi street. Kappas are little river demons. They like to cause mischief and can sometimes act violently. There’s many depictions of Kappas, even one from Hokusai who I also wrote about recently.
The kappa in the soup bowl however is a friendly one. And you cannot only see him painted on the wall, but also on street signs, on official information, in shop displays. Kappa kappa kappa… Seeing him you know that you are in Kappabashi, the restaurant, cooking and baking heaven.
Kappabashi is a shopping street located between Ueno and Asakusa. Coming from Asakusa-dori (Asakusa Avenue) you can’t miss it thanks to the two Niimi tableware buildings to both sides of the street. A massive chef’s head to the left and huge colourful cups to the right mark the entrance to Kappabashi street. The tiny building in front of the cups is the local police station. These neighbourhood police boxes are called Koban and there are more than 800 of them across Tokyo. Some of them are quite eye-catching.
Going to Kappabashi street means having the opportunity to visit more than 170 shops selling restaurant, kitchen, cooking and baking equipment. You can browse through large multi-storey stores as well as tiny little shops. Some shops look crammed and trashy, others very stylish and high-class. Some are extremely specialised, for example knive shops, others sell a large variety of items.
Usually, there are many tourists strolling up and down Kappabashi street. There’s even a tax free counter for the street where you can go to claim back the VAT. Now however, it’s rather calm and quite a few shops are closed. I hope only temporary.