Fabric shopping in Tokyo

Nippori-map

Tokyo is absolutely brilliant for the fabric loving visitor… it even has its own fabric district!!!! how cool is that? very, that’s what.  Nippori is the most well-known place in Tokyo to shop for fabric, but this is my third visit to the city so I investigated some more and found a few other great stores well worth a visit as well.

But firstly; Nippori… because it’s awesome.  If you only have time to visit one location then this will not disappoint.  Setting aside a whole morning, or afternoon, would not be excessive for the truly dedicated fabric lover.

It conveniently has its own train station; called Nippori, on the JR Yamanote line.  When you get off the train you really want to find and exit from the East exit, where you will descend a long flight of old stairs and soon will see this sign on the street.

IMG_9574You just keep on going and you can’t possible miss it, the street is crammed with fabric stores; also, each of those fabric stores is likewise crammed with fabric too.  Most stores are situated along the one main road.  The map above has so many marked, you can get a feel for the sheer number of options available… and there are bins and bolts of fabric set up in the street all over, you’re just spoilt for where to look next.  Prices are mostly low to middling by Australian standards, quality varies, but is overall pretty great with some fabulous bargains to be had.  The most exciting thing about it of course is the CHOICE!!  You will find selvedge denim, leather, laces, linens, cottons, tartans, knits, sweater knits, mountains of haberdashery and… well probably everything, if you take the time to look.

There is one very important thing to bear in mind when shopping in Nippori, and I cannot stress this too much…

TAKE CASH!  because some stores here will not accept credit cards.  Also, it can be quite difficult for the foreigner to obtain cash, even in shopping districts.  In my experience, 7Eleven convenience stores have ATM’s that accept foreign credit cards so are a handy place to get some Japanese yen out.

In fact, and this is general advice for the foreigner travelling in Tokyo; it’s a very good idea to sear into your memory the location of a 7Eleven nearby your ryokan/hotel and remember to pop in and stock up on yen if you’re getting low… BEFORE you head out shopping/sightseeing for the day!!  Reason being, of course while there are 7Elevens dotted about all over, you can’t count on one being there for you in a pinch and the very last thing you want in Tokyo is to be a bit low on cash.  Because I can guarantee; you WILL see adorable things everywhere that you WILL want to buy, and then you WILL waste huge amounts of time first searching for that cash and then for that cute little store again.

Unfortunately there is NOT a 7Eleven conveniently close to Nippori Textile town.  So make sure you have plenty of money before you head over!

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I bought leather and denim in Nippori.

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The good news is that all the following stores DO accept credit cards.  #shamelessenabler

Mina Perhonen Arkistot

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google map location

2nd and 3rd floor; 5-13-14 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku.  

The nearest train station to this store is Meguro, on the Tokyu-Meguro line or the JR Yamanote line.  It’s an easy fifteen minute walk away, but is very unobtrusively tucked away in a side street and you really have to keep a sharp look out for the turnoff.  The store’s lower floor is the 2nd floor, and you have to climb up that white spiral staircase pictured above to enter.  The fabrics are all located on the floor above that, on the 3rd floor.

Interesting factoid; Mina Perhonen is a Scandinavian name and I’ve always mistakenly thought it was the name of the designer too.  However the designer Akira Minagawa is Japanese, and it’s just that his love for Scandinavian design informs much of his own design.  The brand’s flagship store is very nearby, on the on the 3rd floor, 5-18-17 Shirokanedai and you can go and browse beautiful and expensive homewares and clothing… however this is a sewing blog so this is all about the fabric only, alright?  OK.

Anyway, my discovery that the designer was actually Japanese zoomed a quest for Mina Perhonen textiles right up high on my must-do list.  Prices are high, which is kinda to be expected for a designer name brand of this calibre.  The small range of fabrics is really gorgeous, and there is also a small sprinkling of very cute and interesting knick-knacks to tempt you; everything beautiful, and exquisitely displayed.  The store feels a bit art museum-y, and you’re treated with quiet and charming attention by the staff.  I decided upon one metre of printed linen; which was reverentially wrapped up in tissue paper printed with abstract-y sewing pattern pieces and, along with a complementary pattern for a handbag and a small box of incense sticks; popped into a really nice little fabric carry bag then tied up with a mina perhonen ribbon.  The lady spent about five minutes tying the most perfect, beautiful little bow with the ribbon.  It’s all very very lovely.

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Even the sticky tape on my parcel has the mina perhonen butterfly!!  #attentiontodetail

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The next store I visited was Cocca

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google map location

1-31-13 Ebisunishi, Shibuya-ku.

The closest train station to this store is Daiken-Yama on the Tokyu-Toyoko line, and the store is short and easy, uphill walk from this station.    This shop supports work by local art and textile people, and also has some handmade clothing for sale too.  Overall, it had a relaxed and busy vibe almost like a studio, and I swear some of the interesting-looking people who came in and went straight up the staircase to the loft were some of the makers themselves, coming in to do something creative.  Fabric-wise, there were lots of  interesting “art” prints that were probably unique one-offs, as well as there was a nice selection of more regular fabrics too; some pretty polkadots, stripes and checks.  I was more interested in the “art” fabrics though, and it was actually very hard to choose!    The prices here were mostly middling; not particularly cheap but not top end either.  I eventually bought a length of wool printed? or painted? with a “messy”, brush-stroke-like tree print.

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Craig sneakily took this picture below; of me poking about in the store while he was waiting for me to make up my freaking mind.

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The last store I visited was Check & Stripe

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google map location

2-24-13 Midorigaoka, Meguro-ku.  

The closest station to this store is Jiyogaoka, on the Tokyu-Toyoko line, or the Tokyu-Oimachi line

If you are planning to visit with an unenthusiastic husband and/or offspring in tow, you will all be pleased to hear that just around the corner from this store is Jiyugaoka Burger, which has huge burgers that are everything your average meat-eater dreams of and more.  Also, just near the train station I noticed a store with the very promising name of Sweets Forest.  Just saying  😉

Anyway, Check & Stripe is a quietly uber-chic kind of a fabric store, with a beautiful range of checks and stripes obviously, as well as tartans, polkadots and plains.  It may sound ordinary and the prints themselves were, but what made the fabrics stand out for me was the exceptional quality.  The store also carried a decent range of Liberty fabrics, I think they could have been the Japanese printed Liberties.   My husband chose some for a shirt, although now I’m secretly coveting it myself, hehe.  Although since I’d requisitioned some of his spare suitcase space for that very heavy roll of factory selvedge denim that I’d bought in Nippori… well I figured I should let him have something.   As well as the divine fabrics that were right up my alley, the store had adorable buttons, embroidered labels, and a few eponymous pattern books, filled with simple, very loose and unfitted styles photographed in minimalist, faded-colour settings; that “look” that those of us who have more than one Japanese pattern book are all very familiar with now.

Prices were middling, and I thought excellent value for the quality of the stuff.  Hmmm, I bought quite a lot in this place!

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In closing, how nice is this little thought printed on my Mina Perhonen carry bag…  !

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31 Thoughts on “Fabric shopping in Tokyo

  1. Hélène on 12/02/2016 at 2:18 am said:

    Oh God, Tokyo sounds like a heaven for fabric shopping. Thanks for all the information. I’m bookmarking this post although going to Japan is not likely to happen in a foreseeable future…

  2. I kind of wish I was going to Tokyo now! A day in the fabric district sounds like a must. I am liking forward to seeing what you make.

  3. Rianna on 12/02/2016 at 2:55 am said:

    This post ones just in time……my son has booked his flight to Japan in May……I am sure that he can schedule a few hours in the four weeks he will be there to visit this fabric haven in Tokyo obo his mamma!

  4. Renita on 12/02/2016 at 3:00 am said:

    All Japan Post offices also have foreign ATMs. And the Yasuwaya stores [there are multiple stores] have great fabric. I went to the one in Kamata so. west of Shinagawa. It was 5 floors of creative goodness and they do take credit cards. Along with a trip to Nippori, I shipped 4 boxes of fabric home to the USA.
    Renita

  5. I went to Bali recently. Others at the conference were complaining about a 19 hour layover in Tokyo. If I had only known that was an option!! I would have booked myself on that flight in a heartbeat.

  6. Oooh, awwww!! Such beautiful fabrics!

  7. It all sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to see what you bought!

  8. I got the link to your site from the Spoolettes facebook group… what a great post! I am heading to Japan in late March and trying to figure out where I should be spending my fabric money 🙂 I will be staying in Kamata so I might even get to the Yasuwaya store mentioned by Renita in the comments above. Thanks so much for sharing this info, it’s very helpful!

  9. Funny, I was just thinking today about how wonderful it’d be to do fabric shopping in Japan. My husband and I were talking about the last time we saw a live Kabuki performance in Tokyo…and my head of course just jumped ahead to fabric shopping! Thanks for the post!

  10. We go in August (staying in Yokohama but planning a day trip into Tokyo at least once) and I have been pouring over every review I can find about the Nippori fabric district!
    Did you have any issues with the language? I can do very, very basic japanese – hello, how are you, thankyou and I don’t understand! I’m planning on writing down any questions I might need for shopping.
    I can’t wait!

    • Carolyn on 12/02/2016 at 10:04 am said:

      Occasionally a shop keeper will have a smattering of English, but often not. However I didn’t have any problems… knowing numbers in Japanese is handy and if your accent is not being understood you can always write down how much meterage you want to buy on a slip of paper to show them! Also, simply pointing to things you require and using “Arigatou gozaimasu!” very frequently is fine in most situations 🙂

  11. Fabulous selection of fabrics – I think you were exceedingly restrained in your purchases. I cannot wait to see them made up. Thank you for your comprehensive post, it will come in very handy when I next pass through Tokyo.

  12. Rachel on 12/02/2016 at 3:48 pm said:

    I really enjoyed your tour of the fabric district and what fabulous fabric. Where are the people? I was expecting it to be really busy. How long does it take to travel to Nippori, from the city centre?

    • I’m not sure how to answer your question accurately. Nippori is part of Tokyo city centre itself already. How long it takes to get there depends upon which other part of the city you are starting from, and Tokyo is HUGE! I can say that trains run very frequently and are very fast, and you never have to wait very long for the next train on lines within the city; it’s an incredibly efficient and reliable system.

  13. Lovely fabric haul! Looking forward to seeing these appear on the blog.

  14. Oh, I am excited to see your fabric choices and what you will make with. These holidays seem to have been roundabout marvellous 🙂

  15. Dreamy choices!

  16. Fabulous fabric! I am seriously jealous, but I really need to reduce my stash before I can really enjoy a good fabric shopping trip. Japan looks like a brilliant destination.
    I look forward to seeing your ideas for this lot.

  17. kalimak on 12/02/2016 at 10:55 pm said:

    Thank you for this post! Although for now I can only shop for fabrics in Tokyo in my dreams, it’s really nice to have a shopping guide from you. I really like the fabrics you bought!

    When I first saw your picture of the Minä Perhonen fabric on Instagram it made me wonder — it sounds like a Finnish name! A Finnish friend told me once that there’s a strong cultural affinity between Japan and Finland, and Japanese tourists really like visiting Finland. I find that really fascinating, and just great given how far the countries are from each other.

    Anyway, I’ve been following your blog for a while — really amazed by your talent and taste. It’s my first time commenting (I believe), so I’d like to use it as an opportunity to thank you for your writing, photos, and above all your inspiring creativity!

    • Carolyn on 16/02/2016 at 1:57 pm said:

      thank you so much Kalimak! That is very interesting about Finland and Japan; I can see the likenesses in the aesthetics of the two countries myself too 🙂

  18. Looks fantastic! Enjoyed your post very much.

  19. Ahhhhhhh! You went to all of my favorite fabric places in Tokyo!! Looks like you picked up some lovelies <3 Can't wait to see what you make with everything. Seeing this makes me want to go shopping again now….

  20. Wow! I’m so jealous of your travels. Going to Japan would be a dream. I can’t wait to see what you make.

  21. Shams on 16/02/2016 at 7:57 am said:

    OMG, how fabulous! I hope to get to Japan one day and will refer to this. That “messy tree” painted fabric is AH-MAZING.

  22. I may never have the opportunity to browse fabric shops in Japan, but feel I was ‘there’ a little with you. Beautiful fabric purchases you made and now we can anticipate and look forward to seeing what wonderfulness you’ll be making. 🙂

  23. Lauren on 18/02/2016 at 3:23 pm said:

    Thank you so much for this timely post – I am going to Japan for the first time in April. As I’m having a ‘no buying new clothing’ year I will definitely be buying fabric! I hope my lack of Japanese won’t make this too much of a challenge. Great information.

  24. Hello, I’m glad of found the lovely blog! I really love your style and fabric choice.
    I hope you had a great time in Japan. I love these stores, especially Nippori is one of the most favorite place to buy fabric. I work in Tokyo and often go to there. If you come to Japan again, I would recommend that you go to “Kamakura swany”. Very nice crafts shop:)
    I’m looking for your next project.Enjoy sewing!

  25. Oi on 23/02/2016 at 6:18 am said:

    The name Minä Perhonen Arkistot does sound quite funny for a native speaker of Finnish. It means “I butterfly files”. It’s something a toddler learning to speak might say. Cute, but makes very little sense.

  26. Thanks Carolyn, A timely post for me as I’ll be there in March.

  27. My niece just moved to Singapore. To get there, I *must* layover at nippori.
    With my auto-immune, I can handle the 9-hr flight to Tokyo, spend two days in Tokyo, then carry on to Singapore.
    Thanks for detailing some of the other fabric possibilities in Tokyo. I loved Nippori.

  28. Katherine on 27/02/2016 at 2:57 pm said:

    I plan a trip to Japan in the near future – most likely Tokyo. I’ve been 3 other times and did a lot of shopping but somehow never got to the fabric area. Great post. Can’t wait to go but I know I’ll be overwhelmed with choices !

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