What is Ubukeya?
A company that began in 1783, an Edo period shop nestled among large buildings in Ningyocho in Tokyo and the most beautiful handcrafted small objects that you will ever see. Yes, it was worth being lost for 5 hours on a Sunday morning for just trying to find this little piece of heaven – and yes, this shop as I should have known was in the end closed on Sundays.
Note to self: always check the details……
This was my last day in Japan and I was in Tokyo, flying out the next morning. I really wanted to find this shop and buy some clippers, you know the ones you use for everything but mainly undoing seams etc. Up until this point I had researched every travel detail well but decided I was all good to go this day as I wasn’t in a hurry and had time to make a few u-turns if I had to. I left early, around 7.30am. After walking many blocks that morning (even got to Ginza), yep really lost, many coffees and visits to convenience stores for directions, I decided to just jump in a taxi as he’ll know. So I gave him the address and after 5 minutes he took me back to where I started and said it’s here. I must have been missing something so decided to ask another driver.
As you all probably know there are street numbers on the sides of each building, and I had the area incorrect. Not Nihonbashi but Nihonbashi Ningyocho. You’d think it would stop there, but no. That driver dropped me off and said the shop is here somewhere.
Ubukeya I had thought up to this point was the name of the area in Nihonbashi but it was the name of the actual shop which I walked by several times. Regardless that the shop was closed, there was a warmth and spirit to this area and the people on this Sunday. It’s a business district, but care has been taken to keep and maintain many heritage shops, streets and shrines. I was having the best morning and again met lots of helpful people, had a laugh and will always hear the taxi driver calling to me as I got out of the 2nd taxi, Ningyocho not Nihonbashi, Ningyocho not NIhonbashi…. (And who knew, 3 doors down from Ubukeya is a train station, which took me exactly 2 stops to get back to my hotel later that day. Total of 10 minutes so I had enough time that following morning to quickly head back before the airport.)
Seeing the shop and its shutters open early the next morning to reveal the inside of this small wooden building was magic. Maybe it was something to do with the time of the day but I think it also had something to do with the light reflecting inside the store and off the beams.There were already people looking in the windows and a few inside already buying. There was something about just standing outside the shop and looking in.
The shop’s sign was simple and intriguing and I was to find out later was written “by the four greatest students of the famous calligrapher Meikaku Kusakabe. Each student wrote each of the four letters, “u”, “bu”, “ke”, ‘ya”
A must to visit
Ubukeya sells hand forged objects of scissors, tweezers and knives and is well worth a detour to this area. I had such limited time this day as I was on the way to the airport, but I know this will be one of the areas I come back to first next time. I bought a pair of clippers and a small pair of scissors, all marked with the Ubukeya name.
However the range is vast and includes many larger size items all perfectly presented behind glass for you to ask about. Of course, they were wrapped beautifully, a gift itself and into my suitcase they went. I would love to return with an interpreter next time to Ubukeya and to Nihonbashi Ningyocho as it is full of craftsmen, culture and an array of sweet and savour yummy bits.
Thank goodness I didn’t worry too much on exact details that Sunday morning as look at what I would have missed out on seeing.