Tokyo Fabric Town
In case we haven’t mentioned it often enough – did you know we went to Japan recently? Our trips were for all sorts of reasons – visiting family, seeing temples, hiking mountain trails and exposing kids to the wonders of toilets that play music while you wee. But fabric shopping was also a top priority. What self-respecting sewist doesn’t dream of one day being let loose in Fabric Town? Over 80 fabric and notions shops on one street? Yes please.
So months in advance we wrangled our respective holiday itineraries to include a couple of days of crossover in Tokyo, and announced we’d be having time out from our families to spend an entire, uninterrupted, glorious day at Nippori Fabric Town. Bribes were offered. Deals were done. Dates were set.
The magical day arrived, and with Google maps loaded, coffee downed (at Kate Coffee – how could I not?) blogger recommendations noted (easy really – go to all five Tomato stores) and sensible walking shoes on, we set off for Nippori. We navigated the Tokyo train craziness with relative ease and soon found ourselves standing in front of the iconic footpath sign to Fabric Town. Eeeek!
Except on this particular day – OUR DAY – it wasn’t Fabric Town. It was Ghost Town. The whole damn strip appeared to be shut down for a rare, random string of public holidays that doesn’t normally fall in this particular week. I kid you not. It was empty. Devastatingly empty.
I’m not ashamed to say there may have been tears shed at that moment, followed by a quick run-through of the five stages of grief:
Denial: Surely these shops must be opening by midday, it’s Japan FFS! They’ll open any minute. We’re going to stand right here until they open.
Anger: How dare Japan have a random public holiday on OUR day? Don’t they know we’ve been dreaming of this moment since we bought our first Japanese pattern books 10 years ago? How absolutely dare they.
Bargaining: Pleeeeassee open your doors… I promise if you open your doors I’ll spend double what I was planning. I’ll make it worth your while….pleeeeaasseeee…..
Depression: More tears (what can I say? One of us is a crier).
Acceptance: This is the worst kind of sewing disappointment imaginable, but let’s walk the strip and see if anything’s open.
And so we did and public holiday be damned – a couple of shops were indeed open. La Musee vintage button shop was our first success. This quirky, French-inspired, tiny little shop has an eclectic range of vintage and new buttons, binding and notions, all sweetly packaged and presented, Parisian style. It was easy to spend an hour there, agonising over final button purchases.
Next stop – the only other open shop we could find – was Nagato. This relatively small store stocks none of the ‘typical’ stuff you look for in Japan: no cute animal prints, no quirky knits, no Nani Iro and no custom made-for-Japan Liberty prints. What it did have was gorgeous plaids and tweedy wools, quality chambrays, denims and linens, all sorts of interesting lacy/broderie anglaise type stuff, and shelves of other loveliness that I suspect is imported from Italy. Because we had time on our hands (hell, we had the whole day), we were able to really think about our fabric choices, and what we planned to make. As a result, the fabrics I bought at Nagato are my favourites from the whole trip – including the painted silk one pictured below. Fabric shopping day was semi-saved.
Despite our Nagato good fortune it was difficult to say sayonara to Tokyo without experiencing the multi-store, multi-storey wonder of Tomato. With some further begging, schedule shuffling and beer bribes we managed to sneak in a quick trip back to Nippori early the following morning, before our families went their separate ways. I can safely say I’ve never seen two decision-shy Librans make so many purchases so quickly: Quilted Nani Iro. Dark denim. Fruit and bunny prints. Liberty needle cord. Lightweight linen with serious drape. Textured knits. It was lucky we were on limited time, before the banks blocked our cards.
So that’s our slightly unconventional trip to Fabric Town: we shopped the small store in a day, and the mega-store in an hour. And both were totally worth it.