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Friday, March 16, 2012

Fabric Shopping in Japan

I thought I'd put together a list of some of my favorite places to shop for fabric in Tokyo. The kinds of fabric on my shopping list in Japan are usually oilcloths, linens and cotton linen blends. There are some really beautiful soft florals (think Shabby Chic), checks, stripes and neutral cotton linen blends out there. There are also a ton of kawaii prints that are perfect for kids' rooms. And they're very affordable compared to similar fabrics by the yard in the U.S. I've seen tons of gorgeous linen/cotton canvas for about ¥1,500 a meter (about $18 with today's exchange rates). So while the yen may be strong, you can still find lots of fabric bargains in Japan.
I'll start out with Nippori because it's know as "Sen-i Gai" or Textile Town.

To get here, go to Nippori station and follow the very clear signs to "Textile Town." Nippori is a major train station that's 15 minutes from Ginza and under 30 from Shibuya. Here's a great train finder. You can also catch the Skyliner for Narita Airport from Nippori station. The express train will get you to the airport in about an hour. Just don't do what some people do and get off too soon at Narita, you have to wait for the Narita Airport stop.

There are several fabric shops all grouped together on a 4 block stretch. Tomato is probably the most popular shop in the area. People come from far and wide to check out their 4 shops on "Fabric Street." Tomato Select has a large selection of linens, cottons and more. If you're looking for traditional Japanese fabrics, like the kind used to make yukata, they've got you covered. This shop also has beautiful gauzy cotton fabric in lovely floral prints. One block down on the opposite side of the street are 3 more Tomato shops: Notions and one that carries really good deals on fabric including a large ¥100 to ¥300 per meter section. Be prepared for a big crowd of folks searching for bargains, especially on Saturday.
One of my favorite shops is Touyama Shouji (one of the last shops on the right side of the street if you're coming from Nippori Station). They have tons of cute prints and sell little sample packs.
The only thing to watch out for if you head to Nippori town is holidays. Lots of shops are closed on Sundays and Japanese holidays.
To download an English map of Nippori Textile Street, go to my previous Nippori post here and click on the link. Sorry, I can't figure out how to put the PDF download link in this post.

OK, so let's imagine that you don't have time to shop in Nippori. Try Marunan in Shibuya. If you're like most Tokyo tourists you'll find yourself in Shibuya, Shibuya crossing to be exact. Look for Hachiko, the dog statue outside Shibuya station. That movie Hachi: A Dog's Tale (with Richard Gere) was based on a Japanese doggy named Hachiko. OK, so find the statue, you'll see a two-story Starbucks across the street.  The first shot below is of Shibuya crossing from Hachiko exit. 

Marunan looks small on the outside, but has several floors that are jam packed with bolts. I have a friend who's a professional costume designer in Tokyo and she shops here, so that's a good endorsement. 
One last note: department stores like Marui sometimes have fabric stores. They're usually on the upper floors. Poke around or ask the staff at the front entrance. By the way, my English-speaking friends and I call Marui "oi oi" because of their logo on the front of the buildng: OIOI. But if you ask a Japanese person, "Where's oi oi," they will probably look really confused. It's "ma - roo - ee."

Oh yes, and have fun shopping!


photos of Nippori via Net Laputa Nippori.
Shibuya crossing photos via Google maps. 
 
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