Shopping in Japan

I’m still in a whirl of excitement about my trip to Japan earlier this month. So, so good. I knew it was going to be good, but it was even better. I only had 10 days, and half of that was work-related, but we managed to squeeze quite a lot into the remainder.

Including fabric, of course.

I’d read the Cashmerette guide, but didn’t manage to cover nearly as much ground as she did (see work-related factors, above). In Tokyo I did get to the Shinjuku Takashimaya department store, and can confirm that if you’re looking for Hello Kitty Liberty prints, that’s your place.

The other fabric shopping I did in Tokyo was (of course) Nippori Fabric Town. It’s only a 15 minute train ride north of the city, on the very convenient Yamanote Line. Take the north exit from the train station, and there are the signs.

nippori fabric town sign

This is the street you’re looking for.

nippori street

Think it looks unremarkable? Wrong, it’s fabric mecca. Keep walking past the little statue….

nippori statue

Closer…

nippori street 2

There you are.

tomato outside.JPG

Tomato is five shops, the largest (on the left of the street) with five storeys. I was there on a Saturday, and the bottom floor was basically a mosh pit of people trying to get to the 100-yen shelves.

tomato Y100.JPG

tomato rush hour.JPG

Afterwards I found out that there’s another 100-yen shelf in the smaller Tomato next door, which was much less crowded. Each of the five floors has a particular theme, and you pay separately on each floor. These were the coated fabrics for wet weather gear. I didn’t buy any, but just look at them.

tomato raincoat fabric.JPG

And of course the weird and wonderful. For instance, banana print sweatshirting.

tomato banana fabric

To avoid total anarchy, in the mosh pit there are separate queues to have the fabrics cut, and to pay for them.

I looked around lots of other shops on the street, but only bought from two others. At this one (which I think is called Pakira, it’s one of the closer shops to the station) I bought two gorgeous textured cottons, to make little dresses for the nieces. There’s lots of Liberty here as well, including pre-cuts.

shop 1.JPG

And at this one, Mihama, the Fashion Critic bought some awesome printed cotton for a shirt. The man at this shop was a delight. The fabric here is pre-cut and already bagged, which is a bit of an unusual way to buy it (no fondling). But the range is wonderful.

shop 2.JPG

We also visited Kyoto. (Side note: Kyoto is amazing). The only fabric shopping I did there was at Nomura Tailor. I love the way they have their fabric set out, with neatly displayed samples along the walls. When you find what you want, a helpful young guy pulls out the bolts for you and takes them to the counter to be cut. No lugging bolts of fabric round the shop, and no fear of missing out, since everything they have is on display.

nomura tailor

nomura tailor 2

I would highly recommend arriving in Kyoto late in the day, because the main shopping streets around the Kawaramachi area are illuminated and it looks gorgeous. In one of the arcades there’s a little shop that sells Japanese-made knives and scissors, and I bought some very special thread snips.

thread snips

thread snips 2

They were packaged beautifully, like everything in Japan.

sushi

This is my haul.
From Tokyo:

tomato purchases

From Kyoto:

nomura tailor purchases

And these are my plans:

  • Mustard cotton blazer with grey trim
  • Grey checked jacket with three-quarter sleeves
  • Raspberry linen blouse
  • Blue linen scarf
  • Two shirts for the Fashion Critic
  • Grey work blouses for my sisters
  • Trousers and t-shirts for the nieces

In non-sewing-related news, we were smack in the middle of cherry blossom season. They really are beautiful.

cherry blossoms at night

garden

cherry blossom temple

cherry blossom canal

And the locals truly lose the plot over them. This was a park with picnickers on every free inch of ground.

cherry blossom picnics

I’m really glad we were there in April.

We also visited the snow monkeys near Nagano. It was great to get away from the city.

monkey

There wasn’t any snow left, but one little guy had a dip.

monkey swimming

And the hot springs were capital-A Amazing.

Oh Japan. I love you. I don’t know what took me so long.

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7 thoughts on “Shopping in Japan

  1. I’m.making a sleeveless blouse with a cute cotton with little foxes that I found in Tomato. Nomura in Kyoto has pretty chirimen ^^

      • chirimen is a type of weaving invented inthe 16th century where the string is tirn in a certain way. It’s also the name of the cloth but it can be made of polyesther or other synthetic material.

  2. Great post. I’m so jealous. Japan is amazing, and I visited once for two weeks — mainly Tokyo and Kyoto (and a lot of Buddhist temples) — but it was years ago before I got back into sewing, so my haul was pottery (the pottery!) and ready to wear. I wish I’d been sewing at the time; your fabrics are gorgeous, and they have great scissors in Japan, as you know. I’d love to visit again.

    • Oh the pottery was incredible! Luckily it’s not too tricky to get to Japan from NZ. I’m really keen to go to some of the smaller places next time, preferably armed with a bit more vocabulary.

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