9 Genius Kitchen Tools to Steal From Kyoto, Japan

Bring Japan’s awesome crafts home without buying a plane ticket

Geishas, temples with ski slope roofs, Nintendo headquarters—many of Japan's most recognizable icons and monuments can all be found on the streets of Kyoto. Once Japan's capital city for over 1,000 years, it's D.C. to Tokyo's New York. In its kitchens, you'll find some of Japan's oldest culinary traditions—matcha, kaiseki, wagashi—made to perfection, which is why after a recent visit, we lifted a few of the most brilliant tools of its kitchens to make cooking better back at home.

Persimmon Apron, $63

Tezomeya Apron
Right now, as you read this, there's a man up a flight of stairs on a residential street in Kyoto at the shop Tezomeya, slowing stirring handspun cotton and leathers in barrels of indigo and vegetable dyes. These aprons, dyed with naturally water-resistant persimmon dye, are especially durable and wear beautifully over time. Persimmon Apron from TezomeyaTezomeya

Tenugui, $28

Tenugui tea towels
Tenugui, thin, Japanese tea towels, are used throughout Japan for everything from dishcloths to headbands, but our favorite way to use them is for wrapping a wine bottle for a host gift. Tenugui, Japanese tea towels from Best Made Co.Best Made Co.

Aritsugu Chef Knife, $270

Aritusugu chef knife
If a teleporter dropped you into the center of Kyoto for one hour, the place to head would be Nishiki Market. Locals call it "Kyoto's Kitchen," and inside the 400-year-old market inside a covered arcade, you'll find everything from wasabi root (where the wasabi paste served with your sushi comes from) to Japanese honey, as well as the pinnacle of Japanese chef knives at the vendor Aritsugu, which has been crafting knives since 1560 like this lightweight one perfect for precision fish and vegetable work. Fine carbon steel gyuto from Saito KnivesSaito Knives

Triangular Spatula, $21

Minotake Bamboo Triangular Spatula
Made from eco-friendly bamboo, this spatula's ingenious shape will get the last bits of your favorite jam or mustard from the jar. Triangular spatula with smooth edged bamboo from Nalata NalataNalata Nalata

Kaikado Tea Canister, $140

Kakaido tea canisters
The same family in Kyoto has been making these moisture-proof storage containers since 1875. A cult favorite for chefs and serious tea fans, they can be used to store anything, from precious spices to weed. Tea canisters from Tortoise General StoreTortoise General Store

Sakura Cherry Blossom Shoyu and Whiskey Barrel Aged Shoyu, $24

Haku whiskey barrel shoyu soy sauce and sakura cherry blossom shoyu
What's the difference between your regular soy sauce and this sakura and whiskey barrel aged juice? Layers and layers of flavor. The floral cherry blossom sauce is great with veggies and fish, and the whisky-barrel shoyu is just right for meat marinades, like this one used in our Soy Sauce Marinated Ribs Whiskey barrel aged shoyu and Sakura Cherry Blossom Shoyu from Umami ArtMatt Taylor-Gross

Matcha Starter Kit, $44.82

Ippodo matcha starter kit
Matcha's gaining popularity in the states, but it's been a part of Kyoto food and drink culture for centuries. Kyoto's Ippodo tea shop makes a matcha starter set that's user friendly enough for anyone who wants to pick up the ritual in minutes. Matcha starter kit by IppodoIppodo Tea Co.

Kanaami-Tsuji Copper Serving Tray and Server, $106 for Tray, $66 for Server

Kanaami-Tsuji Copper Server and Tray
Kyoto is Japan's tofu capital (don't let any bland version you may have tried stateside color your opinion of it), and this striking handwoven tray and server was especially made for presenting it, but they can be used to present anything to stunning effect, such as fish and fried foods. Kanaami-Tsuji Copper Server and TrayShed

Suribachi-Style Mortar & Pestle, $22

Japanese Mortar and Pestle
Unlike the heavy molcajete you have your tableside guac served in, this Japanese-style mortar and pestle is lightweight, with a fine-toothed wave pattern inside that makes grinding nuts and seed pastes, like a black sesame paste for mochi, extra simple. It takes a little more time to pick clean than your run of the mill mortar and pestle set, but we'd say it's worth it—you won't get a better, more flavorful grind with anything else. Kitchen Suribachi from MTCMatt Taylor-Gross