Kamata-san's knives are so beautiful, they might just inspire you to cook!
Kappabashi, Tokyo's kitchenware wholesaler's district, is a treasure trove of gorgeous ceramics, unusual spices, pots and pans of all sizes and, of course, Japan's world-class knives.
No place glitters more than Kamata Hakensha, a bustling shop where every surface is covered with perfect, sharp pieces of art. From useful stainless steel choppers to more eclectic choices such as heavy cleavers and fugu knives, this is heaven for chefs of all levels.
As I wandered around, customers flowed in steadily. A sushi chef was picking up his freshly sharpened tools of the trade, and debated buying a new sashimi knife. A visitor from Europe breezed in and bought 5 Western-style blades, which the staff carefully packed up while explaining how to maintain the edges in English.
Passed down from father to son for 3 generations, knife-sharpening is in Kamata-san's blood. He took a short break to speak to me, a great kindness considering his incredibly busy schedule. Besides roaming Japan in search of the best blades for his discerning customers and caring for the tools of Tokyo's picky chefs, he also checks every single knife he sells. Decades of experience mean that his fingertips can detect the slightest imperfection, which he then carefully fixes using the huge (and slightly scary) grinder by the front of the shop.
I was particularly taken by a set of knives with swirling patterns of cherry blossoms and 'clouds' reminiscent of those found on katana swords, which Kamata-san's assistant let me know are completely handmade. They would make a perfect present, both useful and beautiful.
Check out Kamata Hakensha if you happen to be near Asakusa, or are looking for help finding the perfect knife to complete your kitchen!
They have an English website, and the staff seemed quite at home assisting international visitors: http://www.kap-kam.com/index_english.html