March 5, 2015

Return to Japan: The Sewing Edition

Want to hear a sad story? Back in 2009, I visited Japan… before I’d started sewing.
I know.
On the plus side I did find apposite t-shirts:

and my brother found very suitable hats (or is his head just super big?!):

But I strolled through the thrumming streets totally unaware of the fabric and notion wonderland that Japan truly is.
Luckily our sad story has a happy ending: I’m returning! My friend Anthony (yes, Anthony of shirt fame) and I are going back in late April, and this time you can bet your life that I’ll be doing All The Sewing Things. We’ll definitely be going to Tokyo and Kyoto, and are currently considering side trips to Takayama and/or Naoshima, the “art island”.
In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of planning to do – and I would love your advice. I put the sewing bat signal out to Instagram and so far I have the following suggestions:
– Nippori fabric town
– Okadaya in Shinjuku
– Nomura Tailor
– Tomato
– Zakzak
– A place that you can watch needles being made in Kyoto (!)

Do you have any other recommendations? And should I take a spare suitcase or just suck it up and ship all my goodies back to the US? I’d also love any opinions on whether to prioritize Takayama or Naoshima. I really can’t wait! Squee!

28 thoughts on “Return to Japan: The Sewing Edition

  1. cidell says:

    Ok, The Bunka Fashion College Book Store They have the BEST supplies and tons of books. The arm curve they sell is supposed to be one of the best in the world. I’m obssesed with these pattern weights: And, finally, at the school, you can probably buy their drafting text books in English which are amazing. I actually use mine quite a bit. Oh, and while there, get one copy of Mrs Stylebook. They are drafting, but they are really inspirational. Obviously, I need to take myself to Japan.

    1. Jenny says:

      Oooooh that sounds amazing! I have to admit that I’m totally intimidated by the idea of a Japanese fashion school but I can definitely shop from their store 🙂 I’ve never even tried to attempt Japanese patterns because I’m so woefully outside their size range but I’m all about the supplies and arm curves!

  2. cidell says:

    When my sewing friend Trena went she wrote up a post, My counterpart in Japan took her shopping. Ha.

  3. Unknown says:

    I am going to Japan at the end of the month and I’m so excited to do some fabric shopping. I’m also going to see if the Kyoto Costume Institute will have any exhibitions while I’m there. Not sure what else my plans will be, but I’m going to watch the comments here for recommendations.


    1. Jenny says:

      Oh interesting, I’ll have to check it out too! I hope you have an amazing time

  4. Katie says:

    I’ve never been to Japan, but it’s next on my list for international travel! As far as an extra suitcase goes, my husband and I always take a duffel bag from REI that folds down into it’s own pocket. Then you can pack your suitcase full until no more fabric will fit, and then start offloading stuff into the duffel bag – and check both bags on your way back!

    1. Jenny says:

      Aha good reco, thanks! I need to figure out my configuration.

  5. have you come across this blog – she’s living in Japan at the moment, I bet she could give you a few tips!

    1. Jenny says:

      Awesome, thank you very much!

  6. Watching needles being made? Oh, wow! My nerdiness has reached new levels now as this sounds fantastic.

  7. Michelle says:

    You will have a blast in Japan! I went there in my post-college/pre-sewing days and stayed with a friend who was doing the JET program there. I was there in April of that year, too, and got to see the cherry blossoms in Kyoto. No suggestions on fabric shopping since I wasn’t sewing yet when I went, but have a great time on your trip!

    1. Jenny says:

      Oh I didn’t know you’d lived there Michelle, that’s so cool. I’m crossing my fingers for cherry blossoms – last time I went we’d missed them by about a week.

  8. Nicole says:

    Habu! I am more familiar with their yarns, but they do textiles too!

    1. Jenny says:

      Added to the list!

  9. Gillian says:

    AWkjhekawjhekawhjh – I’m overcome with jealousy! I did sew while I lived in Japan (Bought 2 sewing machines over the 5 years there) but I didn’t sew clothes. it kills me that I can picture every nook and crany of every fabric store in Tokyo, and I didn’t ONCE buy garment fabric! What was I thinking???? I used to drop big bucks on fabric though – now I have a huge quilting cotton stash that I hoard even though I never use it. Sad.
    Sounds like you’ve got the big recommendations already! Have fun, and send me an email if you have an specific questions!

    1. Jenny says:

      Pre-sewing regret: I have it too! That’s so fun that you lived in Japan – were you doing when you were there?

  10. Maggie Mae says:

    Oh, so much fun! I loved watching the fashion in Shibuya and Harajuku! The crepes in Harijuku are amazing.
    We stopped at a silk show room and factory in Kyoto that was very fun. I just don’t know where we were. They had kimono fashion shows on a stage on the main floor.
    I was at the mercy of my son and husband who had been to Japan before and they had no idea where to find fabric. I want to hear all about your fabric shopping!
    I really liked going to Nara.

    1. Jenny says:

      Oh I’ll have to visit a silk show room – I’m less inclined towards very traditional Japanese silks in my personal wardrobe but I’d love to learn more about how they’re made.

  11. Maggie Mae says:

    This has a couple of places that look interesting.

    1. Jenny says:

      Fantastic, thanks for sharing!

  12. neurula says:

    How exciting! I had a 9-hour layover in Osaka several years ago, and hunted out mostly yarn stores while I was there. I went to a great, huge craft store which is a chain – Yuzawaya. I found this link with info about the Tokyo store, and it looks like it might have a bunch of useful info for you: Have fun!

    1. Jenny says:

      Ooooh looks fun. How come everywhere else has these giant craft stores and we have to make do with JoAnn’s in the states?!

  13. cidell says:

    Forgot to add that Daiso stores (1 yen shops) in the US have a ton of random inexpensive sewing and crafting supplies. You might want to stop by one or two and stock up on needles, seam rippers, snaps, hooks and eyes, small kits, etc.

    1. Jenny says:

      Good thinking!

  14. Alessa says:

    Oh, I’m jealous! Have fun!

  15. Alessa says:

    Oh, I’m jealous! Have fun!

  16. I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned it, but there is Nishijin Textile Center in Kyoto. It’s just a block from a bus line that sort circles the city (useful for site seeing). They have kimono fashion shows several times a day and lots of beautiful fabric. It’s been six years since I visited but it was pretty cool. They also had a shop with different kimono silk items. I bought a scarf and several small gifts for family made with kimono and obi fabrics.

    Skip any formal tour of the Imperial Palace, especially if it is hot. You get grouped into a large “foreigner” group with really boring descriptions of the different palace sections. Scholar’s Walk is totally worth it, even if the cherry blossoms have already bloomed. There are lots of little shops and artisans along the way. Many of the other temples are definitely worth visiting.

Let me know what you think!