You don’t really want to buy string. You just want to luxuriate in some shadows in this minimally stocked store. Away from the humid clutter of Edo Dori. The front part was originally a barracks, temporary housing, erected after the 1945 US bombing raids. Katsuo Uchida’s father began business in 1948. The district was only for professionals; wholesale and distribution of packaging materials, fabrics, leather etcetera. Now it’s nothing but restaurants, says Uchida.

Those balls of twine are for ramen, he says. For tying the roast pork. On another shelf are vivid sheaves of five-coloured string that Uchida sends annually to a shrine in Nagano for its new year decorations. In return the Shibukawa Hachiman shrine sends him white daruma good-luck dolls. He covers them in plastic and lines them up at the back. There are bundles of raw looking rope, like jute. I do a lot of rope from India and Pakistan, he says.

He sits under the skylight on the raised platform where the well-worn timber counter ends. A tea cup rests beside his cushion. A small radio plays. You comment on his daruma dolls and he says, Do you want one, which one do you want? Of course not, you say. But he springs up and brings a footstool from the back room. He’s pretty nimble. How about this one, he says stretching up. He pulls down a medium sized one. You ought to take it; you feel lucky.