Nippori Textile Town
While in Tokyo we had half a day unscheduled while we hoped that someone would cancel on their Toyota factory tour reservations and we could go. That didn’t work out but a little fabric therapy cheered me right up. Nippori Textile Town is about 100 stores mostly along one main road, Nippori Chuo Dori, which made it really easy to navigate. I walked up one side of the street and back down the other side, making a loop. Some stores are clothing stores but the majority were fabric stores.
We had JR passes so we took the loop line (JR Yamanote) from Tokyo station near our hotel to the Nippori station.
It’s about 15 minutes and handful of stops. The loop lines runs pretty frequently. Hyperdia is a really handy website and app on what train options you have to go from station A to station B, transit times, transfers, track number if available and the cost. It doesn’t have an offline option so I would look up our train routes at the hotel or wherever we had free wifi. Then I screen captured the different options we had.
When you get to the Nippori station there were several signs to the fabric town but signs are sparse when you need it most. There is an intersection just outside the station with several possible diagonal streets to go down with no clear directional signs and no street names that I could find.
- Option A: pick one and if you don’t see blocks and blocks of fabric stores shortly or the Fabric Town banners, you’re on the wrong street.
- Option B: take a small compass with you. This assumes you know which direction you need to go from the station. The compass came in really handy when we were underground or sometimes under-under-underground (if you’ve been to a major train station in Japan you will know exactly what I’m talking about) and the GPS on our phones couldn’t find us.
- Option C: install the Maps.me app and download the offline maps. Unfortunately Google maps doesn’t have an offline batching option anymore for Japan. Search for “tomato” and drop a pin on the map. Then walk in the direction of the pin. There are several Tomato stores on the fabric street and Tomato is written in Roman characters so it’s easy to find on map.me app.
If you find a store with the Nippori Sen-I Gai (Fabric Town) Map, I suggest you pick up both the English and Japanese version if you can’t read Japanese. Many of the shop names were written in characters. On the back of the map is a store listing with a short description of what they carry. Ex. Leather, stage costume, wool fabrics, buttons. I used the English map to figure out which stores I wanted to go to and then matched it up with the Japanese map to see how the shop names were written in Japanese. If you want the maps I picked up I have them linked below. The files are large because I wanted them to have all the details in case anyone wanted to do some pre-trip planning. If you have lots of time just wander and stop into any store that looks interesting.
I don’t know why every country I travel to I’m looking for some touristy, kitschy fabric. I was looking for fabrics that scream “Japan” or “Spain” or “insert foreign country here”. Remember my fabric from Portugal? Yes, in Spain you can find a large array of Flamenco fabrics. But I wasn’t in the market for any. In Japan you can find a large array of kimono fabrics. But again, I’m not in the market for any kimono. Though I did buy a kimono sewing pattern for dogs. The pattern has styles for girl and boy dogs.
In general what I’ve found in my travels are fabrics that everyday people wear. In Japan it was a lot of wovens in natural fabrics. The Japanese women wore lots of loose fitting tops, pants and skirts which are mainly what sewing patterns they carried. The colors for everyday wear i.e. work wear was black, navy, grey, white and khaki. In the fabric stores there are very few knits and very few cutesy fabrics which I incorrectly stereotyped as being rampant in Japan due to the totally awesome Superbuzzy. Where I found the type of fabrics I was looking for was in the children’s/baby’s section. Now I must wonder what the Japanese must think when we wear our shirts with little cat prints all over them.
I ended up getting a Gadetama laminate. I didn’t know at the time that it/he/she was a Sanrio character. I just loved the bizarre egg yolk taking a nap. Oh yes, there was a lot of purse/bag making fabrics and supplies. I suspect the laminate is for bag making also since it rains all the time here. I really wished I had water proofed the purse I had just sewed. I also picked up a knit with panda prints and another knit with whales. I believe I got all 3 fabrics at different Tomato stores. They have several floors of fabrics so they’re likely to have what you’re looking for. A tip on checking out: Make sure you’re done shopping before getting in line to cut your fabrics. There is a separate line for those cutting fabric and those purchasing non-cut fabrics. Once they cut your fabric, the fabric cutting person tells the cashier how many yards/meter at what price and they ring you up right away. It’s not like JoAnn’s where you get a slip. If you’re not done shopping, don’t get your fabric cut unless you want to wait in another line.
One really nice thing almost all the stores, restaurants and hotels all over Japan did was punch in the total on a calculator and showed it to us. Much easier then trying to remember your Japanese numbers especially since everything cost hundreds to thousands of yens. There were a lot of numbers they were saying. Whereas in Spain I listened to the euro amount (my Spanish is much better than my Japanese) and round up for the cents.
Another place where I went looking for sewing and other crafty items was Tokyu Hands. Tokyu Hands which is a large chain DIY store which has I thought was a combo of a home store and a craft store. We ended up going to the store in Hiroshima, though there were at least 2 in Tokyo. One adjacent to the Tokyo station and another near Shibuya Crossing. I was disappointed that with all those floors of DIY and there was very little sewing stuff but lots and lots of pens.
I had researched other craft stores and found Yuzawaya in the city like space that is the Osaka station. In the Hankyu part of the Osaka station in a tucked away area of the mall was Yuzawaya. If you can find a directory look for Yuzawaya in Japanese characters like the picture below. The first character reminds of of the shape of my Elna Grasshopper which is the only way I found the shop in a sea of hundreds of shops.
Even after I figured out where I was currently and where the store was I ran into problems. The floor wasn’t continuous. To get to the Yuzawaya you have to go down another floor cross over into the next building and go back up. Fortunately there were signs for Kiddyland or something similar that was in the same area as Yuzawaya. This shop is well worth the extra effort to find it. The shop was glorious!! I could have spent the whole day there. They sold machines, books, fabrics, notions and so much more.
It was near the end of our time in Japan so my luggage was filled to the brim with goodies. My sweet hubbie offered to throw away some of his clothes so I could buy more fabric. I didn’t take up his offer. Instead I bought a couple of little kits that wouldn’t take up much room. I bought a cross stitch pin cushion kit (I could have taken out the poly fill to compact it more if I needed to) a kimono key chain kit and zippered coin purse kit.
I also bought a hanging ornament book.
I’m not sure if these are decorative or if they other significance. If anyone knows more about these please let me know. I hate that I don’t speak Japanese beyond the essential travel phrases so I didn’t get the full experience. I hope you enjoyed my little shopping adventure in Japan. Can’t wait to hoard all this stuff in my stash until it has aged to perfection. 🙂