Niimi Jumbo Cook – Tokyo, Japan - Atlas Obscura

Niimi Jumbo Cook

Rumored to be a giant robot in disguise, this colossal chef has been the beloved symbol of Tokyo’s kitchenware district for decades. 

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The Kappabashi Kitchen Town is a popular destination just off the historic district of Asakusa, another popular neighborhood in Tokyo.

For over a century, it has been home to many shops specializing in kitchen supplies, growing bigger in the post-war era. Today, there are over 170 such shops in the area, dealing in every kind of kitchenware from traditional dishes to chef uniforms, and vending machines to the world-famous food samples of Japan.

Established in 1907, Niimi is one of the oldest companies based in Kappabashi, and its five-story building is considered an icon of the entire Kitchen Town, topped with a gigantic statue of a mustached chef officially named the “Jumbo Cook.”

The Jumbo Cook was installed in March 1982 when Niimi renovated its building, and stands  36 feet tall (11 meters). The company’s unforgettable face has since spawned numerous urban legends, and according to the most popular (and ridiculous) rumor, it is actually a giant robot in disguise, the rest of its body hidden in the building, and will be activated when Tokyo faces a Godzilla-class danger.

Some also believe that the colossal chef keeps a pigeon in each of his eyes. Zoom in to his face and you can see why: the irises are concave, and, inside them, white objects represent the light reflected in his eyes—and their shapes do resemble pigeons when seen from afar.

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September 26, 2023

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