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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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
- 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!
- 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.
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.
All the stores mentioned below are within a square mile of each other, making a shopping day or afternoon very achievable in Kyoto.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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?
Want to get the latest news on curvy sewing, fun fabric shopping trips, and exclusive offers on Cashmerette Patterns to your inbox? Then sign up for my newsletter!