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May 18, 2015

Guide to Fabric and Yarn Shopping in Japan

Fabric and yarn shopping in Japan is the bee’s knees! There is such a wide range of unique fabric, yarns and notions available, and the attention to detail is spectacular. Regular readers will already have followed my exploits in Tokyo (part 1, part 2) and Kyoto, but I thought that I would gather all the info on the best shops, how to get there, and some maps, all into one post. Hopefully other travelers to Japan will find it useful! So here’s the Cashmerette Guide to Fabric and Yarn Shopping in Japan.

Can’t make it to Japan? Then I totally recommend checking out Miss Matatabi – it’s an awesome English-language Japanese fabric store that ships really quickly worldwide!

Guide to Fabric and Yarn Shopping in Japan

General info

  • Japanese stores open on the late side: the earliest at about 10am, but many don’t open until 11am or 12pm. Check first before you head out to shop!
  • Some stores are cash only, so make sure you have enough on you. Many Japanese ATMs don’t accept foreign cards, but all 7-11 ATMs do.
  • Tax-free discounts are available for foreigners in some stores if you spend over Yen 10,001. You’ll need your passport to get the discount. Some stores pro-actively offer (like Nomura Tailor in Kyoto), but others you’ll need to ask.
  • Fabric is sold by the metre. There is variation as to the minimum cut length, ranging from 10 cm to one metre pieces.

Tokyo

Fabric

  • Nippori Town The largest concentration of fabric stores in Tokyo is in Nippori Town, north-east of the city center. It’s easy to get there: take the Yamanote Line train to the Nippori Town stop. When you exit the platform you’ll immediately see directions on the sidewalk and on signposts: you cross the street and bear slightly right, and you’re there. There are over 80 stores, and most are clustered on Nippori Chuo Dori and the cross-streets. There’s a great map available in English here. The stores range from dark and chaotic to very high end.
    • Tomato is a no-miss store – in fact, it’s 5 stores all next to each other! As you walk up the street, you’ll find the upscale garment fabric Tomato first on the right, and then the upholstery store; on the left you have another three stores including the main, 5 storey building which is the gem! On the ground floor there are lots of novelty cotton and linen prints, as well as their famous “100 Yen” (about $0.80) wall which is great for bargain-hunters. On the other floors there are knits (including a wide range of terry and sweater knits), silks and novelty fabrics, and Japanese designers like Nani Iro and Kokka. You need to get your fabric cut and paid for separately on each level – look out for the marking on the floor which tells you where to wait and queue for an employee to come and cut your yardage.
    • La Musee Buttons is a very cute vintage button store, modeled on a Parisian boutique. It’s a no-miss if you like unusual and cute buttons.

Tomato

  • Bunka Fashion College Bunka is Japan’s leading fashion school, and it has several stores and a museum which are open to the public. It’s located near Shinjuku station in an enormous skyscraper at 3-22-1, Yoyogi,Shibuya-ku,Tokyo ,151-8522 (map here). It’s open weekdays 9 – 5pm. There are three stores: for notions, fabric, and books. To reach them, enter the main lobby of Bunka, turn right and go down the stairs to the basement level. Continue through to the back of the building and you’ll come to the cafe – the shops are clustered around the edge. There are all kinds of fantastic things to buy, from high quality menswear wools to the famous Bunka mannequins and rulers. It’s also fun to watch the fashion students!

Bunka

Fabric and Yarn

  • Yuzawaya This is a chain of beautiful stores that have a huge selection of Liberty prints (including limited editions to Japan), many garment-weight cottons, and a massive array of notions. There are also many other craft supplies available like yarn, needle-felting, leatherwork, stained glass making and more. There are multiple locations:
    • Kamata, 20 minutes by train from Tokyo Station: Tokyu Kamata Station South Exit, 8-23-5 Nishi Kamata, Ota-ku, Tokyo 144-8660
    • Shinjuku, in the Takashimaya department store: Shinjuku JR station New South Exit, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Takashimaya Times Square 11F, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-8580
    • Kichijoji, in the OIOI department store above the station: Kichijoji Station Park Exit (South Exit) 1-7-1 Kichijoji Minamicho, Marui 7F & 8F, Musashino-shi, Tokyo 180-0003
    • Ginza, 5-7-10 Ginza, New Melsa Ginza 5-chome 5th floor, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061

yuzawaya

  • Okadaya Another wonderful multi-storey fabric and craft store, in Shinjuku. There are two buildings: one for fabric, and one for all other crafts. This store is particularly great for sweater and quilted knits, novelty fabrics and special occasion fabrics. The address is 3-23-17 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, and it’s right behind Shinjuku station, just north of the Lumine Est northern entrance (map here). The entrance to the fabric store is hidden in an alley, so be persistent!

okadaya

Buttons

  • Stripe is a super cool button store hidden on a side street near Yutenji station. It’s pretty hipster, and features thousands of really unusual buttons, some made in-house and some imported. They’re famous for their five-holed buttons which can be attached in a star formation, as an anchor, and many other ways! They also have antique-effect zips, cords and more.

Stripe

If you’re interested in crafts beyond sewing and knitting, or you’re interested in exploring other less well-known stores and neighbourhoods, check out the Tokyo Craft Guide, written by Miss Matatabi. There’s free info on Nippori Town and Shibuya, and a downloadable eBook to other areas which is well worth the investment.

Kyoto

All the stores mentioned below are within a square mile of each other, making a shopping day or afternoon very achievable in Kyoto.

Fabric 

  • Nomura Tailor There are two locations of this iconic Kyoto fabric store, just around the corner from each other in the central shopping district of Kyoto’s left bank. It’s definitely worth visiting both as the stock is different.
    • Nomura Tailor (main store) is located on the main Shijo Dori st, between Fuyacho Dori and Gokomachi Dori. It’s 3 floors of wonderful fabrics from interesting laces to knits, Nani Iro, Kokka, and the ever present novelty cottons. The top floor has a wide range of notions and other crafting products.Nomura Tailor House (smaller store) is located in the shopping arcade on Teramachi St (about halfway up on the left hand side). This store is more craftsy, with a lot of quilting cottons and bundled fat quarters, and supplies for needle felting and bag making.

NomuraTailor1

NomuraTailor2

  • Linnet Cute store specializing in linen. It has a small selection of bolts of solid linens, together with it’s own range of garment patterns and some fun notions. It’s on 562 Aneyakoji Dori, by Tominokoji Dori.

Linnet

Notions

  • Misuyabari Needle Store This is a hidden 400 year old store in a shopping mall! It makes exquisite hand-made needles, decorative pins (with tiny animals and plants on them!), needle boxes and more. It’s pretty hard to find but it isn’t impossible. It’s located in the Shinkyogoku covered mall, just off Shijo Dori. Go the end of the covered arcade and you’ll hit a T-junction. Go right, and look for the pink shop on the left – just to the right is a corridor that you go down and into a courtyard where you’ll see the store (note the Google Maps pin has it on the wrong side of the arcade).

NeedleShop

  • Idola Tucked away in a beautiful old building are two miniature stores, selling vintage buttons and beads. Beautifully curated, mostly European wares (and right next to Avril – below). It’s located on the third floor of the western-style building at the corner of Sanjo Dori andTominokoji Dori.

Idola

Yarn

  • Habu Textiles A small, curated store predominantly focused on very high end yarn (mostly merino), with a few bolts of selected linen fabrics. They also sell a small range of ready-to-wear clothes in the loose linen Japanese style. It’s located on Gokomachi Dori, between Oike Dori and Aneyakoji Dori. Look for the wooden sign and head up the stairs.

Habu

  • Avril  This is a stunning yarn store with high quality yarn from floor to ceiling! They have workshops in knitting, weaving and felting. Located next to Idola on Sanjo Dori at the junction with Tominokoji Dori, on the third floor.

Avril

There are plenty of very cool boutiques and cafes around this area, so you’ll have an amazing day!

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Do you know any other “no-miss” fabric and yarn stores in Japan that folks should add to their lists?

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Guide to Yarn, Fabric and Craft shopping in Tokyo and Kyoto by Cashmerette. Everything you need for an amazing crafty visit!

Cashmerette
May 7, 2015

Kyoto calling! (A Tale Of Many Fabric Stores)

Konichiwa! Hello, yes, can I please speak to the person in Kyoto responsible for fabric stores? Hmm. Yes, I’ll wait. Right. OK. Well that sounds bad for my wallet. Arigato!”

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Kyoto’s our last stop in Japan and thank goodness, because I already bought one new bag to carry fabric and notions in, and I can’t physically carry another. Kyoto’s the historic counterpart to busy Tokyo, but has no fewer fabric-buying opportunities, you’ll be relieved to hear. So let’s start at the beginning: the secret needle shop.

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I was tipped off to the existence of this most-unlikely shop, which sits in a courtyard behind a modern shopping arcade, by Norma, by way of Thewallinna.  It took a while to find (I’m going to write up a summary post with detailed directions to this and all the other stores soon!) but once I did: what a marvel. It’s been around for 400 years, and everything in there is lovingly made by hand. In addition to every type of needle you can imagine, he also sells the most kawaii tiny handmade pins you’ve ever seen. Dogs! Cats! Ducks! Sewing implements! Geraniums! They’re so small it’s hard to make your iPhone focus (surely a modern standard). He was also selling adorable tiny boxes which are travel sewing sets, complete with handmade snips, a pack of needles, three threads and a pincushion.  I bought one of everything (almost).

Kyoto2

Next up was Nomura Tailor which has two outlets around the corner from each other. The main one is 3 storeys of heaven. It’s mostly grown-up garment fabric, with a whole bunch of cottons, silks, laces, knits and everything in between. Of course there’s still lots of cute animal print. Of course. The notions floor at the top is also a treasure trove of really soft bias piping in a rainbow of colours, more of that amazing knit bias tape, untold handbag making accessories and every woman’s must-have: furry pom poms. 

Kyoto4

Turn the corner, and Nomura Tailor House is smaller and more cutesy – mostly quilting cottons with a few exceptions (those seersucker ginghams! be still my heart), and lots of other crafty things like needle felting kits. Of course, it was mostly comprised of cute animal prints. And cute animal sew-on patches.

Kyoto3

Kyoto5

In addition to the garment-making fabric stores, Kyoto abounds with “furoshiki” stores. These are pieces of fabric which have multiple purposes – I think the most common one is to wrap gifts (instead of wrapping paper), but they can also be transformed into slouchy bags with a ring and a few twists, or a nifty scarf, or a wide range of accessories that are available in the stores. I didn’t end up buying any this time because the prices are significantly higher than by-the-yard fabric, but I still took in the eye candy, of course.

Kyoto7

I wasn’t intending to head to Avril, the famous knitting store, but accidentally ended up in front of it, and I took that to be a sign from above. And what can I say: it’s flipping gorgeous. I don’t plan on starting knitting but if I ever change my mind I’ll be back here in a flash. More interesting to me were the two stores that flanked Avril both called idola, which sell beads and buttons. The vintage buttons are again, outstanding – they look like they’re from Paris, but who knows. The taste level here is insane. 
Kyoto6Phew! So that’s about it. I did pop into a few other places that I’ll mention in the roundup, but these were my faves. Contrary to appearances, I *did* see things other than fabric stores while I was here. We strolled the medieval streets for hours, walked the Philosopher’s Walk, meditated in front of Zen gardens (and/or took Instagram photos) and enjoyed sitting on the floor in our lovely ryokan hotel.

Kyoto1

Do you have trouble resisting fabric shopping when you’re on vacation? What’s the craziest place you’ve ever bought fabric? It makes me sad that so many things are available everywhere these days that few places are special any more, but Japan is definitely one of them! Do you know others?

And… if you can’t make it to Kyoto for regular monthly shopping adventures (sigh, if only) I recommend checking out Miss Matatabi – you can get nearly all the same fabrics delivered to the US and Europe!


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