my friends are pretty strange people, which is probably why i get along with them so well. for christmas last year, they planned a 5k run on christmas day wearing santa hats. on new years, they climbed a local mountain at the wee hours of the morning to see the first sunrise of the year.
but because i end up going home for christmas most years, i normally miss out on their end of the year shenanigans. so this year, a few of my friends decided that we should try to do something early. the plan we came up with was what we lovingly referred to as “kitchen town christmas.”
imagine a bog. like a smelly, crappy, dark, dank, dirty bog. then imagine wearing galoshes and a big pair of waders, only they are full of holes. the bog is slowly seeping in the whole time you are trudging through it. you are mentally exhausted, you smell just awful. and then, just as you are ready to give up, you come upon a gold plated hot tub filled with sexy naked people and an open bar. at first, you think it must be a mirage, because there is no way something so wonderful could exist in such a sad, draining landscape. but when you finally get off your mucky clothes and slip into that water with a freshly mixed mohito, you come to grips with the fact that it is oh so real.
the bog is tokyo. and the sexy naked people open bar hot tub is kappabashi street.
this is a street that has literally any kind of cooking ingredient, tool, chachki, or device known to man. it has no restaurants, no gimicky crappy peddlers of subpar wares, and no shameless tourist attractions. it is basically an outlet mall for people who want to open a restaurant at a reasonable price. knives, pots, pans, little statues to set your chopsticks on, model food that looks better than the real thing, bowls big enough you could sit and bathe in them, bowls small enough you could fit a thimbleful of soup in them. granite bowls, drying racks, slotted spoons, enourmous rice paddles, cast iron chopsticks, yakiniku grills, restaurant uniforms, and silver gelato spoons. kappabashi street has it all.
we took a bus to tokyo in the morning, drank some booze, and then went to kappabashi street. we decided to buy each person a gift for less than 2000 yen. once everybody was done shopping, we dropped off our stuff at a capsule hotel, got some dinner, and hit the hay. the next day, we exchanged our gifts in the middle of ueno park whilst sipping some beers. then, we went home.
it was, without a doubt, the best christmas a self-proclaimed foodie could imagine. i got some really awesome stuff, and i bought my friends some amazing gifts. all in all, it was a great success.
here’s what i got (in no particular order):
- two beautiful wooden plates
- two beautiful wooden bowls
- two hand-painted round grey plates
- one giant square hand-painted grey plate
- an amazing sashimi knife
my girlfriend received:
- a cookie cutter in the shape of an octopus
- a cookie cutter in the shape of a bear’s face
- a cookie cutter in the shape of an owl
- his and hers matching coffee spoons
- a miniature cast iron skillet complete with tiny fried egg
- a mug replete with pictures of sushi and their corresponding kanji
- a mug with a tiny little dude climbing the side
when the whole experience was all over and done, it made me consider the nature of christmas. christmas, like most holidays for people as secular as myself, isn’t a particular day. it is an excuse to get together with people you care about, remember what it is that brought you together to begin with, and remind them that they are special to you. some people show that sentiment with a drumset. some people show it with a home-cooked meal. and still others show it with a sashimi knife, an ornate set of plates, and a cellphone decoration in the shape of an okra.