About Tsubame-Sanjo (燕三条)
While most of us only know about Sanjo (Kanji: 三条) being a major handmade kitchen knife center in Japan (along with Sakai and Echizen). There are many big names in terms of knife making: from the uber hot man-of-the-month Mazaki, to the established names like Yoshikane, Shigefusa and Hinoura.
However, Tsubame (Kanji: 燕), the city next to Sanjo is in fact a much bigger industrial town. It is famous for its stainless kitchenware. Brands like Tamahagane (K&S is carrying), Global, Tojiro are all based in here. Tsubame also produces a lot of stainless kitchenware, like Yamazaki tableware, Yoshikawa pots & pans; essentially the entire line up of kitchenware, for both households and professionals.
Each city has about 100,000 residents and they share the same Shinkansen station named Tsubame-Sanjo Station.
So while the locals tend to clearly separate the cities like: “I am from Tsubame”; “He works in Sanjo”, other Japanese would just call the whole place Tsubame-Sanjo as per their Shinkansen station. Even on a government level, there are a lot of collaborations between the two cities, and one of it is the TsubameSanjo Regional Industries Promotion Centre, I will just call it TSRIPC from here.
(Tsubame and Sanjo as two small industrial cities in Niigata prefecture, they share the same Shinkansen Station named: Tsubame-Sanjo)
What is TSRIPC
The place that I would visit 120% when I am in Sanjo is the TSRIPC.
In a nutshell, the TSRIPC is a big showroom run by the government body, which displays some of the best products made in the Tsubame-Sanjo region. There are two locations: a smaller one inside the Tsubame-Sanjo Station which you will not be able to miss it, and a larger one about 5 minutes’ walk from the station. Given it is run by the government, and the makers do actively support it. Since it is a product display center, the prices there are surprising good (They probably don't care much about profit).
(View of the TSRIPC Station Wing, it is large, stylish and lots of things for sale already)
While the shop in the station is smaller (not that small by any means), the main shop is located in the a much bigger complex. It is like a mini museum with a very big shop and a restaurant. I would say it is probably the size of Saks Fifth Ave. The shop has English speaking attendants and lots of local specialties.
The restaurant is uber cool as well: an Italian restaurant with all the utensils and cutleries made in Tsubame-Sanjo. I have to admit I never actually went inside due to lack of spare time (look I spend most of my time in the shop behind), but glazing from outside you can see their settings with all the locally made items, some of them are really expensive as well.
The name of the restaurant is: “燕三条 イタリアンBit”, literally translates into: Tsubame Sanjo Italian Bit. Check it out :)
(From this promotional shot, you can see the Tojiro knife and fork set and Marunao chopsticks, and the food looks great)
So what do they sell there?
Kitcheware, household items, tools, and some special hand crafts, all very high quality.
(This metal cup has a void between the inner and outer layer, acting as a insulation, hence your hand won't warm the chilled sake)
(Coffee drip kettle)
(I picked up a set of special edition tools with the Neon Genesis Evangelion theme, YAY!)
I also just picked up a bottle of Whisky at the Yamaya outside of the station, so I am very happy for today's thropy.
Now the fun part: Knives knives knves
(Knife stand of the TSRPIC)
(Tamahagane brand knives)
(Shigefusa knives, Kitaeji and some fishing looking kiridashis, go figure the price)
bottom line: damn, this place has many famous the Sanjo knife makers’ knives for sale, including Yoshikane, Hinoura, and Shigefusa sold at true retail price! I don't buy knives these days but if you happen to be around, it is definitely worth a visit! It is like a LVMH flagship store on discounts.
Disclaimer: I am not paid by anyone to write about this, and am merely sharing what I know (and would visit) about Sanjo. I don't know the stock availability here so if you plan to make a trip, be warned they may be out of stock as well.
TSRIPC Main Venue:
1-1-17 Sugoro, Sanjo-city, Niigata, 955-0092, Japan