Traditional Japanese Knife Store in Tokyo’s Ningyocho District Dates to Edo Period

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The hiragana letters on Ubukeya’s nameboard are based on the writing of four calligraphy artists.

Ubukeya, a long-established cutting tools shop, is in the Nihonbashi Ningyocho district in Chuo Ward, Tokyo. During the Edo period (1603-1867), the district prospered as a home to kabuki and puppet drama shows, and as a place for nighttime entertainment with geisha.

Although modern buildings line the district now, there is one small building still in the traditional townhouse style. Across the building’s signboard, in hiragana characters, is written the store’s name, “Ubukeya.” The characters are written horizontally from right to left, the reverse of the modern style. A case beside the entrance displays scissors and knives.

The cutting tools shop opened in Osaka in 1783 during the Edo period. The name of the shop stems from the reputation of the bladed tools made by the founder, Kinosuke, which were said to have been able to shave even “ubuke,” or peach fuzz.

Later, the shop moved to Edo, the old name for Tokyo, and was relocated to the Ningyocho district just before the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The current shop was built during the early Showa era (1926-1989), and the beautiful karakasa-style ceiling and display cabinets, which are diagonal to make items more easily viewable, have remained in place since then.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The impressive karakasa-style ceiling inside the Ubukeya shop. The current shop was built during the early Showa era (1926-1989).

Cutting tools that were used from the Meiji to Showa eras are on display in the shop. They escaped damage from the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, air raids during World War II and other disastrous events.

The items are designated by the ward office as tangible folk assets and include precious items such as products made by a swordsmith who made the first pair of sewing scissors in Japan. An item called a “hinoshi” that is shaped like a tiny frying pan is especially impressive. It is thought that the hinoshi was used like a smoothing iron by placing charcoal inside it.

In the past, there were many kimono wholesalers around the shop, and sewing scissors and traditional Japanese scissors sold well for cutting clothes. Now, workers at high-end ryotei restaurants place orders for kitchen knives as they want top-quality cooking tools.

Foreign tourists are also attracted to the traditional appearance of the shop exterior, and once inside they buy traditional Japanese scissors.

In both cases, the products bear Ubukeya’s traditional logo. Kitchen knives neatly lined up in the showcases have a dullish luster through the glass and make visitors feel that their edges must be sharp.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Traditional Japanese scissors on display in Ubukeya
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Traditional Japanese scissors bear the Ubukeya’s name.

The shop also receives many orders for repairing and sharpening blades. The time necessary for the work differs by case, and sometimes it takes about a month.

The shop runs on people’s desire to use excellent products for as long as possible, as well as the commitment of the shop’s owners and craftsmen.

Current owner Taiki Yazaki, 34, said, “We repair and maintain various kinds of steel and cutting tools. By taking our work seriously, we keep the tradition alive.”



The Yomiuri Shimbun

Address: 3-9-2 Nihonbashi-Ningyocho, Chuo Ward, Tokyo

Access: One minute walk from Ningyocho Station on Hibiya Line or Toei Asakusa Line.

Hours: Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Closed on Sundays and national holidays.