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.
You 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!
I bought leather and denim in Nippori.
The good news is that all the following stores DO accept credit cards. #shamelessenabler
Mina Perhonen Arkistot
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.
Even the sticky tape on my parcel has the mina perhonen butterfly!! #attentiontodetail
The next store I visited was Cocca
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.
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.
The last store I visited was Check & Stripe
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!
In closing, how nice is this little thought printed on my Mina Perhonen carry bag… !