When I’m not travelling, you can often find me hunched over a sewing machine, so it should be no surprise that I will always try to fit in a trip to a fabric shop when away. I was really spoilt in Tokyo, because Nippori Fabric Town in HUGE.

Ben and I caught the metro to Nishi-nippori (C-16 on the Chiyoda line) and then walked for about ten minutes down to Nippori station (JR Yamanote line), where we met Paul and Jamie. I was conscious that nobody else was very interested in fabric shopping, but I was willing to take advantage of their politeness (well, they were in Japan) and make the most of my time in fabric heaven. Luckily it turned out that they were pretty interested in just looking round the fabric shops because, like everything else in Japan, they were fascinating.

While we waited for Paul and Jamie, we enjoyed a spot of people watching, including these children and their plants.

Japanese school trip
Nippori Map

The fabric shops are located on or near Nippori Chuo Dori, which runs directly east from the square outside the station. I found this map really helpful for locating the places I knew I wanted to visit from blog research, although you should note that Japanese maps put the direction you’re facing, and not north, at the top of the map. It makes sense after a while. Oh, and you should bring cash, as a lot of the shops don’t take cards.

I wanted to visit Mihama, as I’d heard a lot about their discounted and precut bags of fabric. You can’t open the bags before buying, but people seem to have a lot of luck there. Sadly, I… um… well, I couldn’t work out how to get into the shop. It may have been shut. Tokyo is really confusing, and there were so many other places to visit that I decided to move on, rather than force my way into what could easily have been somebody’s house.

I wasn’t sure whether the language barrier would be an issue when fabric shopping, but the shop assistants were polite, helpful, and very efficient, even if we were holding fingers up at each other to signify lengths. I made an early decision to buy three metres of everything, since that would cover most eventualities. I’m not sure if it’s possible to buy half metres, since I didn’t know how to express that with my hands.

After finishing up the shopping, we decided to retrace our steps towards Nishi-nippori station in search of a place for lunch. As it wasn’t such a touristy area, it was a challenge to find somewhere with pictures outside (by far the easiest way to know what you’re ordering, and sometimes to confirm that you’re in a restaurant), but we stumbled across a place with delicious and cheap katsu basically right opposite the station. In most restaurants you get a jug of water on the table, but here we were able to help ourselves to something which tasted like a cold combination of rice tea and coffee. Not my favourite beverage, but alright.

Nippori
Nippori lights

Also in the area…

Heavy rain put us off a walking tour, but Yanaka is just on the other side of the railway track, and I reckon you could make it around both areas in a day. Having survived earthquakes and WWII, Yanaka is more historic than a lot of Tokyo. With a lot of wooden structures and temples, it sounds like a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Our guidebook (Lonely Planet Pocket Tokyo) suggested a walk starting at Yanaka Ginza, before heading in a large semi circle around artists studios, coffee shops, bars and shops. This is on my list of areas to visit when we get the chance to go back to Tokyo.

Nippori cats

Cover image: Nippori Cats by Raita Futo, map source unknown, all other images by Ben Shoosmith