Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tokyo's Fabric Town

In Japan there is a magical place called Fabric Town..... 

The "town" is mostly a street, a mile long that holds close to one hundred fabric stores on both sides.  With some of those store multi-level, that's a lot of fabric!

I've just begun planning my yearly buying trip / sabbatical / pilgrimage to Japan.  I'll be in Tokyo for my first three days, initially in time for the Tokyo Design Festa.  

For this stay I've managed to find a decently priced apartment right in the middle of Fabric town.  In the past I've always carried many kilos of cotton prints from Fabric Town on crowded subways across the large metropolis, so this time it will be great to just take a number of little strolls down the road with my purchases.


Tomato is the most famous of the stores, from memory, five stories high, filled to the brim with different textiles and notions.




And I've just read rumours of possibly Japan-only release liberty prints available in the street as well...

If you're a button fan, you're not left out either....


Whenever I start planning my next trip to Fabric Town I start to feel guilty about my poor neglected, nearly finished manuscript of the Tokyo Fabric Shopping Guide.  I start to consider ways to fund its completion, if I should approach a publisher... print it as a zine... do it as an ebook...if I should give Kickstarter a stab to help finance it.  It's a project I want to dive back into and I'd like to get out into the world, to help share my love for the craft shops in Japan.  I've started designing some cute artwork for the maps... thinking of extra advice to add for getting around.... I'm considering adding another chapter for travel outside of Tokyo, maybe on buying second hand kimonos... what do you think?

In the meantime, the brief details....

Tokyo's Fabric Town

Where - Nippori - Get off at Nippori Station on the Yamanote line. 

How to get there - Take the North exit and then the East exit once you go through the ticket gates.  Go down the escalator and on the footpath you'll see a blue and yellow sign saying "Nippori Textile Town" in English with a large arrow.  Follow that and a few more signs until  you come across some flags with "Fabric Town Fabric Street" telling you you're in the right area.

It's a good idea to drop the husband off at one of the coffee shops at the train station before you go, or even better, drop him in the electronics district in Akihabara.  You could be a while...  There aren't many places to sit once you get further into the fabric loveliness, but there is a convenience store there if you need to grab a drink.  

Take cash, most places don't take credit cards.  Expect that at many stores 1 metre may be the minimum purchase.  Tomato (and my guess many of the other stores) are closed on Sundays and public holidays.  They open at 10am.

16 comments:

Kel said...

You are totally the right person to be writing this fabric shopping guide book, have you seen any guide books published on other topics that you love the look/feel of? I reckon it deserves a publisher who is going to give it the whole matte finish cover treatment!

spindelmaker said...

Wow, this is such an interesting post! I´ve been wanting to go to Japan for years now, it´s right at the top of my travel-list. Your knowledge, weather it came in the shape of an e-book, a zine or a hardback would be SO valuable! It would not only be helpful to traveling, but it might help me to actually get going. Textiles & silks, art& design, Arts & crafts and fashion, vintage & fruit, and history pretty much sum up myt main interests, and it seems Japan is flowing with them. As I´ve understood many Japanese don´t speak English it would be so helpful to at least know what is out there, so I´d know what to ask for! The design-festa is a dream, but now you´re telling me of the fabric-mile! Oh, my fuses might blow! Outside Tokoy: the only place I´ve thought of going is the Costume museum of Kyoto. I have a big book filled with their treasures, and would love to see that. Do you know if there are any art-retreats in Japan? Workshops or course for foreigners to join in?
Sorry about the very long comment, I was just so excited when reading your post :-)
Have a lovely day!

Sarah said...

Fabric town! Whee!! I love fabric town... especially Tomato (although the fact that actual tomatoes do bad things toy stomach always makes me feel kinda funny in the store)

Enjoy planning your trip! A hotel near fabric town sounds rather dangerous (I'm always limited by te not being able to sit and relax and then wander some more) but makes perfect sense!

If you need a translator or fabric schlepper just let me know, I'd be happy to help out!

Hot Fudge said...

Can't wait to see the book, or I would settle for a personalised guide, if you could put up with a lot of screaming and swooning.

Someone's Nana Mary said...

I was there in October - I only made it as fas as Tomato, and by the time I was finished there and at a couple of other little stores for notions, my backpack was full and my hands couldn't carry any more. I went over with a large suitcase only half full, just so that I could buy lots of fabric there!!! Fabulous! So was the rest of the trip throughout the country!!

Re-Purpose History said...

It's funny, my Japanese/American husband and I were just discussing a future Japan trip. I too use Japanse fabrics to re-purpose (and I love to wear kimono). I would happily support a kickstarter for a shopping guide from you. As a fellow gluten free artist your insights would be invaluable to us. I am lucky, my dh likes to shop for fabric with me so I would have extra hands to carry the fabulous finds :)

I was just checking out the Rosetta Stone language programs. I think we're going to use it. My husband only speaks a tiny amount of Japanese so we'd both need to learn.

Re-Purpose History said...

I almost forgot. If you are gathering information to decide on formats. We would be most interested in an ebook version. It's easier to travel with (we always have our ipad or iphones with us. Plus we are moving to a very tiny apartment soon and storage is a huge issue. Ebooks are way easier to store ;)

achan said...

I want to go!!!!! It's sad to say that even though I have lived in Japan for 12 years I have only been to Tokyo 3 yes THREE times!! At first it didn't interest me and now that I know what there is that I'd like to do i have three small children who need to come first :( I may need to call on Sarah for a girls day out!!!

i'd buy the book too, go for it if you can!!

Amanda said...

Thanks for sharing Melanie, I love your article! I had planned to go to Tokyo last year with my mum as her 60th birthday present and the Fabric Town on our itinerary. I read everything I could about it but sadly we had to cancel due to the devastating tsunami. I hope you have a great trip and can't wait to hear all about your travel and see what you come home with!

Amanda said...

oh BTW, I forgot to say also that I reckon an ebook would be great for your Tokyo Fabric shopping guide as people can have it with them on their iPad or iPhone or whatever e-readng devices while they are out and about.

Sarah said...

(sorry to take over your comments Melanie)

Achan - as soon as the bigger three are in school and you and the little one are up for a day in the big smoke I'm all yours!

tokyobling said...

Nice! I go there too sometimes, not for the shopping but just for looking at all the lovely stuff!

Unknown said...

If you get a chance, try going to the Kamata station (on the south end of Tokyo, almost into Yokohama) and heading to Yuzawaya - a very nice craft store. Kamata is their headquarters and they have several different buildings, including one dedicated just to fabrics. You'll have to look around to find the different buildings but look for the knitting sheep - the Yuzawaya logo and you'll know you're in the right spot.

Anonymous said...

Hello there!

I am asking a year+ after your initial post, but I had to ask--where did you see that lovely indigo fabric? I'm planning on making a pit stop in Nippori my next trip to Japan, and am itching to get my hands in some Japanese indigo fabric.

Many thanks,
Kathy

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Hi Kathy

I haven't been able to email you directly, but that indigo fabric was in Tomato, the largest store in Fabric Town. Have a great time!

aihia kashieka sabello said...

Hi,

Can you help? I'm looking for a nice budget hotel nearby Fabric Town.

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