27 January 2016

Fabric Shopping in Japan


I just got back from Japan! It's been my dream trip for as long as I can remember and, after a rough ride towards the end of last year, I needed something to look forward to, so blew the budget and booked it. And I'm so glad I did! From soothing bowls of steaming soba to the excitement of watching a sumo tournament, from the bright lights of Tokyo to the peace of the ryokans, it was just the trip I needed.

Oh yes, and the fabric shopping is pretty good too. I've been a fan of Japanese prints and textiles ever since I started sewing, and I'd read a few things online about how great the fabric shops are over there, so I was excited to check it out. And yes - I fulfilled the cliché of having to buy an extra suitcase to bring it back in :)

If you're thinking of visiting some day, today I'm sharing the places I visited. This isn't a comprehensive guide - primarily this was a holiday with my lovely guy, so I didn't visit absolutely every fabric shop. I found blog posts by Cashmerette, Thewallina and the Tokyo Craft Guide really helpful, so check those out too...

Fabric shopping in Tokyo 



My favourite fabric shop in Japan that I visited was Tomato in the Nippori Fabric District, near Nippori station - a veritable textile wonderland. If you only get a couple of hours to fulfil your fabric buying needs while over there, this would be where I'd advise you to go for a sure-fire fix.

Tomato has various buildings all close together, the largest of which has five floors (I think? I lost count). Five MASSIVE floors of goodness. A couple of tips to avoid the faux pas I made - you need to pay for fabric on the floor that you found it on (I got told off). And if you see a beautiful Nani Iro double gauze bolt lying lonely in a trolley, don't feel it up lest you bring evil looks upon yourself from other customers - the trolleys are for customers to carry the fabric they plan to purchase ;)

There are looooads of other fabric shops in the same area as Tomato which are worth a look if you have any energy left - here's a map.

The other place I went in Tokyo was Okadaya in Shinjuku (here's a map). There are two shops - the more visible one has cosmetics on the ground floor, with notions and other crafty bits on higher levels. The other shop is down the alley next to it - between the other Okadaya and AttaGirl - with five floors of fabric. There's loads of gems in here - the most magical thing I spotted was these Liberty prints with blink-and-you-miss-them Hello Kitties!


Fabric shopping in Kyoto



In Kyoto, the first place I visited was Nomura Tailor. There are two branches - a smaller one in a covered shopping arcade on Teramachi St, and a larger one on Shijo street around the corner. While the smaller one was a calmer shopping experience (ie. I was the only frenzied customer in there), as far as I could tell (but I could be wrong) the larger one stocks the same stuff and then some. Lots of double gauze, cotton prints, amazing quality knit, printed fleece and Japanese drapey fabrics on the ground floor, fake furs, silks, wools upstairs, and notions, accessories, knitting bits and sewing patterns on the top floor. Basically, a wealth of sewing eye candy!




Another shop I was keen to check out in Kyoto was Misuyabari needle shop, which isn't far from Nomura Tailor. The address system in Japan can be tricky to navigate - particularly if your Japanese is limited to "Delicious", "Thank you for the lovely meal" and "Where is the toilet?" (ahem) - but I found this post really helpful in finding the shop. Their speciality is needles and pins - the friendly owner gave me a booklet all about the history of the shop, alas it's all in Japanese so I can't tell you too much about it! But what I can tell you is that if you go, you will be in awe of the teeny tiny hand-crafted pinheads. Look at the little doggie and kitty pins I got - eep!



So what else did I get? These three fabrics above are all snuggly soft double gauzes which I plan to make into pyjamas, and possibly a baby dress for a friend in the polar bear print. Double gauze was what I was most excited about as it's usually very expensive in the UK - these were all around £5 per metre.



As you can see, there's a bit of a theme evident in my purchases! I did my best to avoid buying too much of the "kawaii" (cute) stuff that is everywhere. As much as it makes me happy, I know I'd rather wear geometric prints when it comes down to it. But how could I resist these kitties?? They're on a lovely lightweight cotton lawn - the B&W one will definitely be a shirt, and I might make a Fifi camisole and shorts set with the yellow one. The geometric print on the left is a linen mix with a nice drape (and not creasy - YES) - I'm planning to make a plain shift dress with it to wear with a brightly coloured necklace. The third fabric along is a drapey viscose which I'm thinking of making into a boxy blouse or tee for the Summer - I left so inspired by the loose-fitting clothes in Japan, everyone looked sooo stylish.



The pencils print is a lovely canvas from a designer/shop called Sou Sou - it's destined to become cushions for my sofa. I'm not sure if the navy fabric in the middle counts as "kasuri" but it's certainly a Japanese aesthetic. Another shift dress with this one, I reckon. The one on the right is a textured mystery fabric, which I'm planning to make into a Megan dress.



When you find a gorgeous quality stripe double knit, hold onto it for dear life. Even if that means buying another suitcase! The fabric on the left feels so lovely I'm almost melting into my keyboard right now (it will become a Coco dress, bien sûr). The pale blue stripe is a beautiful sweatshirt knit that I couldn't resist either. The other two fabrics in the pic above look like denim (win) but are actually double gauze (double win). Bettine dresses for those, I think.



I also picked up a few other bits and bobs - some handbag handles, marking pencils and pen, turquoise fabric scissors, flat-head pins and little embroidered motifs (kitty and nautical, natch). Can't wait to start using them!

If you go fabric shopping in Japan, I hope you have a wonderful time. Remember to pack extremely lightly, otherwise budget for an extra suitcase :)

31 comments:

  1. I OWN THOSE TURQUOISE SCISSORS! They've held up well over the, um... 6 years I've had them? (I used to live in Japan, and oooooh how I miss the fabric shopping!) Glad you enjoyed your trip!

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    1. Lucky you! I freaked out with joy when I saw them :)

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  2. What a fantastic haul! Just ordered my first double gauze from miss matabi and am feeling rather excited after seeing your items. So glad to hear you had a good trip and hopefully it's given you a new and fresh energy for the new year! Take care lovely xxxx

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  3. Japanese fabrics are so nice. They did so many lovely and cute prints.
    Also they have tuns of cute and well-designed stationaries.

    Akane
    www.humancat.co

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  4. oh wow I'm so jealous, Japan is a dream trip for me, too! A good friend just was over a few weeks ago and asked if I wanted anything. To which I said "oh maybe some kimono cotton if you see any". And he came back with SO MUCH FABRIC!! He had so much fun in Tomato, too. :D

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  5. Gah! Double gauze for £5 a metre, no wonder you you went fabric crazy! Can't wait to see what you make. x

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  6. I love those kitty prints you bought! A cat print Fifi set sounds adorable!

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  7. I went to Japan in november and I couldn't resist buying fabric at Tomato... I had to limit myself because of the weight but I bought 7 different ones for 75€ (quite cheap, in fact). (There's a picture at the end of this post: https://suasaday.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/japon-2015-kanazawa-tokyo/ )
    Thank you for the adresses, I'm sure I'll go back in a year or two !

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  8. Ooh looks like so much fun!! Love it.

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  9. wooow I'm in looove with the fabrics, especially the kittys and polar bears.
    If I were you I would use the polar bears for myself, for a nice mimi blouse ;) Would look super cute ;)

    xoxox Lien

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  10. I'm so jealous! I've always wanted to go to Japan too, and now here's another reason. The pale blue fabric with the white triangle print would make a lovely Mimi with maybe some white piping.
    Can't wait to show my son this article. He's obsessed with Japan and applied for a job with Nintendo a couple of years ago. He'll love the photos xx

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  11. I bet you had so much fun, what a way to beat the January blues!!!Looks wonderful.

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  12. I lived in Korea in high school, and the shops were soooooo dreamy. I was quite young, and didn't consider myself someone Who Sews then, but you could have things custom-made for PENNIES, so we all did. Shoes, dresses, suits, anything you liked. I often dream of going back to Seoul as an adult and exploring all the shops--and making a stop in Tokyo along the way! This is so inspiring, will have to start earmarking some savings for a lovely fabric tour of the Far East... Can't wait to see what you make!

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  13. I love shopping in japan! I thought I packed pretty light the first time I went but I still needed to buy an extra suitcase to bring all the goodies back. I found a shop in asagaya that sells whole bolts of kimono fabric, I brought one home! I'm glad you had a good time, it is a beautiful country.

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  14. Thank you for posting this. I am going to Japan in May and look forward to checking out some of these shops. How were the prices tho'?

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    1. Very low compared to the UK! Most things I bought were £4-£6 per metre. Just be aware that lots of the bolts seemed to be fairly narrow, on the 115cm width side. Have fun!

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  15. I am glad (but not really) I hadn't started sewing yet when I went to Japan in October... So dangerous! However I did go insane (and had to buy an extra suitcase!) for all the bento boxes and bento box accessories I purchased! Can't wait to go back there, will certainly hit all the fabric shops!

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    1. I bet - it really is shopping heaven!

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  16. Wow, what great fabric. And the hello kitty prints, my niece would be in heaven. Japan is on my bucket list and now I know I have to plan extra time for fabric shopping.

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  17. I am soooooo jealous!!! I dream of the day that I can go to Japan, however, I am afraid I would never want to go back home. I love all the fabric you purchased, and can't wait to see what you end up making!!

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  18. Really good fabric photos, everything looks so good, I love Japanese tools and accessories so cute!

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  19. Oh, I loved the prints from the shop in Kyoto. Considering the diverse fashion sense and rich (kawaii) culture of the Japanese people, fabric shopping there must be so exciting! So many cool and cute prints! 💕

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  20. Replies
    1. It's made of two fine layers of cotton gauze, giving it a soft, almost cushiony texture. Great for all seasons, and really snuggly to wear!

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  21. I don't suppose you have any tips for shopping in Shanghai do you?

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  22. Fab post! My hubby wants me to accompany him there at the end of next month. It's too much to ask my 80 yr old mum to mind three kids though. I know he is staying in Shinjuku. I wish it was just as easy as hopping on the plane!

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  23. This sounds amazing. It's one of my dreams to visit Japan one day, and when I do I plan to do a little fabric shopping. Thanks for sharing your experience, I love it!

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  24. Did you manage to do any of the shrine markets with vinage silk kimono bolts? You can get some lovely yuzen or shibori dyed fabric and it's still workable at 35cm width, I'm sure! ;)

    Btw that navy fabric next to the pencil pattern is pine needles, a very traditional kimono motif for winter months :)

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  25. I am so excited as I'm going to Japan at the end of this month (2 weeks). I am so going to visit this shop 'Tomato'. It looks amazing. I also convinced my husband to bring 2 large suitcases instead of 1 large and 1 small suitcase so I can buy all the fabric I want (or can buy :P) Thanks for this great article, I know where I have to go now, love it! How was your trip to Japan next to fabricheaven? :-)

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  26. Just got back from Japan (to Australia) and I'm thrilled to say I used this post as my guide for fabric shopping in Tokyo - you made it so easy for me! We stayed in Shinjuku and the train trip on the green line around to Nippori was so easy. The cherry blossoms are blooming and it was such an amazing experience fabric shopping with the local ladies. Some of the shops in the Nippori Fabric District have an English brochure with a map of the shops in that area. And Yes, I had to buy an extra travel bag to bring it all home.

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    1. I am going from Australia to Japan in December. I am hoping to do some fabric "looking" and a bit of shopping. Hopefully the husband and children will entertain themselves that day! I already have an embarassment of japanese fabrics, so I think I would like to buy things like pins, needles and notions. We are going to Kyoto too. I love this post and will be using it as my travel guide :)

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