Fabric shopping in Japan

I just got back from Japan, where I spent 11 days exploring Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo. It was the best trip I’ve ever taken and I am already planning what I’ll do next time!

Anyone who reads this blog will know about my obsession with Japanese craft, from Nani Iro fabric to Japanese knitting patterns. (You can check out some of my Japan makes using the hashtags japanese fabric or japanese knitting.)

So although I was travelling with three boys I still made time for some crafty shopping!

In Kyoto, I went to Nomura Tailor. This was the best fabric shop of the whole trip, in terms of range and value for money. I got a whole lot of double gauze and Nani Iro (linen!). They also proactively offer tax free shopping, and all the staff wear great home-made blouses in wild prints.

In Kyoto I also visited Sou-Sou, which designs its own textiles as well as producing various things with them. There’s a cluster of their shops, each specialising in different things (eg kids, adult footwear, home/textiles, adult sized garments) just north of Nishiki Market. I didn’t get any fabric but I got some awesome Kyoto-made gifts.

Finally, I checked out Walnut Kyoto (I also went to Walnut Tokyo). This is more of a yarny place, and was lovely – but mostly sold European yarns that I can get easily at home, so I didn’t buy anything.

In Nara there was a lovely shop called Yu Nakagawa which sold handkerchiefs and other products in its custom designed textiles. Again, didn’t get anything but I regret that!

In Tokyo, I had great expectations of Nippori textile district. Maybe I was just exhausted (it was 28°C, super sunny and humid), but I didn’t leave inspired. I went to a few shops, including the gigantic Tomato store, where I combed through all five floors, but left with less than I expected. It was also more expensive than Nomura Tailor for the same stuff (and I know that because I got a further three metres of the same Nani Iro linen here!) and didn’t offer tax-free shopping. I did get some good tools and an excellent book from one of the smaller Tomato shops nearby, as well as some nice double gauze (pictured with some jersey from Okadaya, below).

I really liked Okadaya at Shinjuku although Shinjuku itself was a bit overwhelming (if you go, make sure to spend some time at Shinjuku Gyoen, which was a wonderful oasis in the midst of the chaos). Okadaya has two shops – one labyrinthine shop facing the street selling wigs, cosplay cosmetics and all the habby in the world (plus yarn), the other across an alley, with a fantastic selection of garment and tailoring fabrics. I got some yarn and some thick cotton jersey.

There are a few branches of Check & Stripe in Tokyo. I went to the one near Kichijoji (on my way to the Ghibli Museum!). The staff were lovely and were telling me about a workshop they’re running in London shortly, at the Chelsea Physic Garden. They also helped me pick out a book. In terms of their stock, it was mostly Liberty and plain linen – lovely, but not what I wanted.

I also popped into nearby Avril, but didn’t get anything.

Yuzawaya was also good – I went to the one at Kichijoji very briefly, and had a proper visit to the Ginza shop, just south of Tokyo Station. I read online that they sometimes have special Japan-only Liberty prints, but there were none in evidence when I visited. Sadface. But I did get some delicious triple gauze and the Nani Iro sewing book.

The nearby Muji (so big!) had some great craft books in its extensive book selection. Sewing, mending, embroidery, knitting, basket weaving…

Finally, I popped into Ginza Hands (a branch of the ubiquitous Tokyu Hands) while in Ginza. I spent a long time drooling over random stationery, but there wasn’t much in the way of fabric/yarn.

It was a brilliant trip and I strongly recommend visiting Japan! I really want to go back (or ideally, be reincarnated asap as a Japanese girl). For fabric and yarn people, there are lots of good resources online to help plan where to go. I used these posts from Cashmerette, Tilly and the Buttons, Seamwork, Triple Rin and Bobbin and Baste. A lot of blogs reference the Tokyo Craft Guide, but it no longer appears to exist.

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