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Once the imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto is both ancient and modern. You can pass kimono-clad geishas on the street as you head toward your capsule hotel, or spend the day touring 1,000-year-old temples, then go clubbing at night.

When it comes to shopping, you'll want to make sure Aritsugu, a 16th-century family business that has evolved from sword creation into culinary knife production, makes the cut.

With its carbon-steel blade, wood handle and bone bolster, my Aritsugu is my go-to tool for slicing vegetables into paper-thin sheets, and creating precise morsels of fish or cubes of steak. Since the store engraved my name onto the blade in Japanese, nobody else in the house is allowed to use it.

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Starting at about $220. Aritsugu (in the Nishiki Market): Nishiki-Koji Dori, Gokomachi Nishi-iru, Nakagyo-ku; 81-75-221-1091. Order online at

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