What would you buy in Japan?
We will be traveling to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka for two weeks soon. I want to buy a Japanese knife as a souvenir to bring back home (I like things I can use, not just hang on a wall...). I have a 8 inch santuko that is my everyday go to knife, so I am thinking a nice slicer / sushi style. I am willing to spend up to 200.00 us, what brand would you suggest? Are there any other kitchen things that are unique to Japan that I should look for? And yeah, I am so going to get some of that plastic display food - that's going on the wall!
I had the impression that everything is available in the US. If not, what about a suribachi (bowl type) grinder and surikogi (pestel), a traditional Japanese pan with drop-in lid and wooden handle, a tamago-yaki-nabe (omelette pan), a wooden o'hitsu (cooked rice container), a handai or hangiri (wooden sushi rice mixing tub), a traditional cast iron sukiyaki pan, a mongolian style shabu shabu pot, jubako (lacquered food boxes), bento boxes, sake jugs and cups, tea pots and cups, ...
A lot of the cookware is available in the United States - if you know where to look.
But I look for the hard-to-find things, like a Doraemon Rice Cooker (a "friend" wanted one), or stuff that would have a unique experience attached to it - like the Aritsugu 27cm Yanagi that I picked up from the owner himself at Tsukiji Market. Or maybe a really nice bonito slicer. Or some wildly expensive artifact that I saw in Ginza. Or perhaps some odd and unique coffee-making apparatus.
Unfortunately, the stuff I really wanted to bring with me either wouldn't survive the trip or would likely be confiscated at US Customs (I'm talking about meats and foodstuffs).
But I did buy a bunch of plastic nigiri sushi that I gave to friends as gifts.
Knives for sure. Sushi knives like a yanagi are single edged and can limit who uses it if you have both left and right handed people that will use the knife. A sujihiki will be a good all around slicer and you can cut sushi and sashimi with it. If you haven't already done some research here is a good place to start.
I picked up a Bonito Shaver (Katsuo-bushi Kezuri) when there and i'm really happy I did, as i had been looking for one for years and have never seen one in the states. I bought mine at a small store in Ameyoko-cho. Also I suggest you try to find the Japanese charcoal (i've never seen that in the states) and check out Kappabashi-dori in Tokyo...it's the rest. equiptment street where you can pick up most anything used in Japanese cooking.