Do you know any nifty places to shop in Tokyo? Bonus points for places that sell fabric!
October 22, 2008 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for interesting places to shop in Tokyo. I'm specifically interested in any 'only in Japan' shopping experiences, but I'd also really love suggestions for great fabric stores. Suggestions for Nagoya, Hiroshima and Shizuoka are also welcome.

Since a similar question for New York went gangbusters, I thought I'd try the same for Tokyo.

My husband and I are going back to Japan tomorrow. I'm a bit bored with shopping at Loft, Tokyu Hands and Muji, so we're looking for suggestions for lesser known boutiques and shops that are worth an extra subway trip. I like shops like Afternoon Tea, and anything that sells nifty school supplies.

I'm also dying to shop for fabric. I'm especially interested in natural fiber knits, silks, and linen/cotton prints. Nippori textile town and Tomato are on my list, but I would love further suggestions. I'm planning on taking an afternoon for this, so there is a good chance that I'll use your suggestion.

We both speak and read Japanese and my husband is especially skilled at finding obscure addresses, so there is a chance we'll find it even if it's a cart in an alley.
posted by Alison to Shopping (11 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The Ito-ya main store in Ginza is fun to shop at.

The Ameyoko stores under the tracks just south of Ueno Station are . . . interesting, and rather unique for Tokyo at least.

There are a lot of crazy used book stores all around Kudanshita. Never know what you will find there.

I think that's where our shopping interests intersect, at least . . .
posted by troy at 9:46 AM on October 22, 2008

Best answer: Nippori is definitely a good place to spend time. In Shinjuku, check out Okadaya. It's not just textiles, but it does have a heavy emphasis on them.
posted by adamrice at 10:19 AM on October 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Design*Sponge recently posted a great Tokyo guide. Lots of suggestions, including textile shops.
posted by mshrike at 10:56 AM on October 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

I've mentioned this before, but the best shopping area for me is Kappabashi-dori between Ueno and Asakusa. While you're not likely to find much fabric there, there is some fantastic kitchen shopping to be done.

In terms of fabric-y things, try the Oriental Bazaar on Omotesando. Yes, it sells kitch souvenirs, but on the top floor, there are several small sections selling used kimono and obi, quite cheap. I picked up a kimono for a family member for about 5000 yen a couple years ago. The fabrics used to make them are quite nice, to say nothing of the finished product.

Plus, if you're in Omotesando, or Ueno, you'll be close to those wonderful giant toy stores.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:47 PM on October 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have you done the temple flea market thing yet?
posted by wintersweet at 3:50 PM on October 22, 2008

Best answer: Are you familiar with Yuzawaya (Japanese site)? It's a huge hobby and crafts store(s) located right in front of Kamata Station on the JR Keihhin-Tohoku Line. They have many other smaller chains, but the one(s) in Kamata is their main store and it's got the best selection, and by this I mean you could spend an entire day there and not be bored. Fabrics are sold in building No. 10 according to their website, and sewing-related accesories are sold in building No. 7. Once you get off Kamata station, there will be signs leading to the stores everywhere so you won't get lost, especially if you speak Japanese.

If you do end up heading over to Kamata, you might want to take the same train a little further out to Kawasaki, where there's a huge new shopping mall called Lazona on the west side of the station with stores like Bic Camera and Uniqlo and a pretty big shotengai on the east side. I go there a lot because everything is located in one area and you can get pretty much anything in one go. Hope you have fun during your stay.
posted by misozaki at 9:11 PM on October 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, I for one am deeply enamored of Don Quixote (, easily the world's tackiest department store. Cartoon penguins everywhere for no adequately explored reason.

Also, Village Vanguard ( can be an awful lot of fun.

If you're going to be in or near Nagoya anytime soon, I live about 40 minutes away by train. However, there really isn't anything worth showing off around here anyhow.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:26 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some great suggestions above - my wife loves to shop for fabric and we've hit most of these in our two trips. Okadaya in Shinjuku is her favourite. Just make sure your husband is ensconced in a nearby bar before you go in, because he'll be waiting a while.

Check out this Flickr stream (not mine) for some more places:

One of the places mentioned ("Momenya Makino") is in Shimokitazawa, which is hands-down my favourite district in Tokyo and well worth the trip.
posted by Gortuk at 10:03 AM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!

I think I went to nearly every fabric store mentioned in this thread (and a few extras), and wow, there was some great stuff. Also, I learned that fabric is really heavy when you buy it 20 yards at a time. Anyway, all of the stores were pretty different, so I'll run through each of them just for posterity.

Tomato (Nippori) - I think this is the supreme master of fabric stores in Tokyo. It has the best selection and the best prices for Tokyo (although there is one store slightly amazinger out in Nagoya, mentioned below). There are a few separate store fronts, so it's best to look around before buying. (Remember! Fabric is heavy!~) One shop functions as a giant discount bin, and ohmygoodness, it has great stuff for as little as 100 yen per meter. Just be careful to note that Tomato is cash only.

The main building has multiple stories and even and entire floor for knits! Knits, the bastard stepchild of American Fabric stores! Seriously, I can never find patterned knits or anything above t-shirt quality, but this store has an entire floor dedicated to this stuff. In the two weeks since I've been home I made three knit dresses just because I was so happy with the selection.

Anyway, there are lots of fantastic cotton prints that can be found on three separate floors and on the first floor there is almost an entire wall of chirimen by the meter.

Yuzawaya (Kamata) - This complex is so big that the buildings have to be numbered. However, they are all within a block or two of Kamata station. The prices here aren't quite as good as Tomato, but there were quite a few cute cotton canvas prints available that I couldn't find elsewhere. The notions building is also worth a trip just for the fantastic array of exotic gadgets and trims.

Yuzawaya (Kichijoji) - There is less stuff here than at the Kamata complex, but it had some fabric patterns and colors I couldn't find in Kamata. In fact, the selection felt a little less picked over. There is also a lot of Shinzi Katoh stuff on the first floor. I really regret not buying one of the amazing, colorful aluminum water bottles on display. This place is easy to get to on the Keio line from Shibuya and only takes about 20 minutes if you get on the limited express. There is an entrance to the store right in the station.

Cottonfield (Kichijoji) - As the name indicates this store is dedicated exclusively to cotton fabrics and is a good destination if you're into quilting. This place was also more expensive than Tomato, but it has a fine selection of 50cm by 55cm pieces if you just want a little for a quilt, craft project, or just to hold and look at because you can't afford the whole yard. There are a splendid selection of American cotton fabrics, including some Alexander Henry pieces that I had struggled in vain to find in the right color in the United States.

This store is a little out of the way, but I managed to find it without too much wandering around based on vague directions ("a block from the PARCO store") from the flickr stream that Gortuk mentioned.

Momenya Makino (Shimokitazawa) - Really, you should just go there because Shimokitazawa is such a great neighborhood. There are a ton of little boutiques and shops to explore even if you don't like fabric shopping.

Plus, the ladies who work at Momenya Makino are the nicest out of all of the places I visited. They were really great at helping me look for alternative colors and patterns. I guess they have to be nice just because the shop is absolutely crammed with fabric. The aisles are just wide enough for a medium sized dog to walk down. Any bit of free space is obliterated with tall stacks of bolts of fabric. Still, I found some rare colors of my favorite fabrics and got some great recommendations from the staff.

Okadaya (Shinjuku) - I think this place is my second favorite in Tokyo. It also has multiple thematic stories, though the best fabric can be found on the first floor and on the discount card tables outside. (Half price knits? Woo!) This is also a good place for quirky notions and patches. The eighth (?) floor has a rich selection of sewing and crafting books, which I recommend even to people who don't read Japanese because there are always lots of pictures for inspiration and the diagrams aren't too hard to figure out.

The neighborhood is a little sketchy, which is to say safe, but with lots of adult themed stores. However, it is within bean throwing distance of the JR Shinkjuku station.

Pakira (Nippori) - There are two branches of this store in Nippori, one selling knits exclusively. It's pricier than Tomato, but the store closest to the station is worth it if you like Liberty prints.

ABC crafts (Osaka, Tennoji) - This store is a lot more crowded than what I remembered. This is another store better suited for quilters and crafters rather than dressmakers. There is a good selection of small fabric pieces, though there are a fair number of cotton fabrics that can be bought off of the bolt. I'm also a huge fan of their remnant bin; I just kept reaching in an pulling out gem after gem. They also have a variety of vinyled fabrics pre-cut into 50 cm pieces. This is especially appreciated because this store is very popular and carrying bolts of vinyl through narrow, old lady-filled spaces increases the likelihood of an international incident.

Otsukaya (Kurumamichi, Nagoya) - This place is the Mother of all Japanese fabric stores. It is simply huge and by far wins for total selection and prices. I found so many things that I hadn't seen anywhere else and other things for 200-300 yen less than the equivalent in Tokyo. The discount pile is easy to miss on the first floor, but two weeks ago it was stuffed with bolts and bolts of fabrics that I had contemplated buying on the internet for $20 or more, all for 400 yen or less. The top floor has a great selection of quilting cottons and Japanese-style fabric. I think I walked around for two hours with a look of pure ecstasy on my face.

This store is also cash only, but that is probably for the best in my case.

Plus, there is a little cafe on the second floor where I one could stash their husband and buy him cake and coffee for being so patient.

It's really worth a trip from Tokyo if you have half a day to spare. It's only an hour on the Hikari and then a quick switch to the Sakura-dori line on the city subway. One of the exits from Kurumamichi Station leads directly to Otsukaya's front door of.

Okay, that was long. I'll post my boutique information in a separate comment, and possibly after a nap.
posted by Alison at 2:22 PM on November 18, 2008 [7 favorites]

Alison, this follow-up embodies AskMe at its best.
posted by adamrice at 4:25 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: Okay, to continue...

The two toy stories mentioned by Ghidorah are Kiddy Land and Yamashiroya. Both are excellent sources of souvenirs and trinkets, especially for lovers of Kitty-chan, Studio Ghibli, San-x, and Domo-kun goods.

Kiddieland is on Omotesando just down the street from the JR Harajuku station. There is a city subway stop that is closer, but I recommend this route because you'll get to gawk at the kids and their fancy get-ups if you're there on a weekend. If not, the surrounding stores are packed with the latest trends if you want to dress up like a Japanese teenager. Otherwise, outside of Kiddieland, most of the stores on Omotesando are ones that you can find in most US cities. You didn't go all the way to Tokyo to shop at the Gap, right?

Yamashiroya caters to a little more grown-up crowd and has a pretty good selection of exotic cell phone straps and an entire floor dedicated to Mecha models. It's located just outside of the Ueno JR station and the Kesei Skyliner station near the street that turns into Ameyoko.

I'm not a huge fan of Ameyoko just 'cause most of the shops are on the cheap, and pachinko-filled side. However, if you are looking for a place to take a date there is a Gyu-Kaku down a few blocks where you can have some nice yaki-niku and some beer. Also, during the winter there is a guy selling grilled mochi wrapped in seaweed from a little cart. I totally recommend them if you're feeling cold.

My husband and I are also confused by the many recommendations for Kappabashidori (I think I see one in every Tokyo thread). When visiting the area several years go we found the kitchenware stores to the sparse and kind of dull. We did find one or two shops selling plastic restaurant display food, which were interesting, but pricey. Are we missing something?

Asakusa is another area crammed with bland souvenir shops, but there are a few family-owned stores going back centuries and selling traditional Japanese goods made in Japan. My favorite is a paper shop that is just to the right of the Kaminarimon (big fat gate) if you're looking into Asakusa. They carry hundreds of colors of traditional washi paper and an assortment of paper kites. There is also a traditional store selling wooden combs and another selling old-fashioned tea-cabinets (I have one painted with birds) located somewhere in the shopping arcades.

From Asakusa you can take a train into Nikko city, and if you have a car you'll be able to access a lot of good stuff in the area, including a big senbe factory, a sake factory selling the finest stuff and the best soba around. There is one boutique in particular called Chambre that sells cute Japanese household goods. They have salt and pepper shakers shaped like houses, comfy pillows in the shape of cookies and donuts, and lots of colorful. quirky aprons. This place is one of my favorites and we visit every time we're back in Tochigi prefecture.

People who live in Nagoya are very serious about shopping. The Osu-Kannon area is crammed with hundreds and hundreds of trendy little shops selling electronics, clothes, and zakka. This is the perfect area to shop if you're looking for t-shirts covered in Engrish. There is also one boutique in particular that I absolutely love, Organ Fan. It's a narrow little store no bigger than a hallway, but it's filled with retro and international goods that I've never seen elsewhere in Japan.

Also, Seto City is just a Quick train ride on the Meitetsu line from Nagoya station. This city has been a pottery center since the Heian period and has numerous shops and markets selling local earthenware goods. It's also possible to see a traditional 4+ centuries old kiln at Masayuki Mizuno's studio and shop. It's a bit of a hike, but Mr. Mizuno knows some English and he's a really great source of information. If you have some time you can even sit down and try your hand at making your own tea bowl.

Tokoname is also another great pottery town in Aichi prefecture. There is a historical pottery walk though the town lined with shops making some of the most adorable ceramics. There is less emphasis on traditon here, so you're more likely to find quirky, original pieces. I can't remember any name or location specifics, but be sure to bring cash! No one takes credit cards.

I only managed to visit a few shops on this list this last time around, so it might be a good idea to check up before making any special journeys.
posted by Alison at 8:12 AM on November 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

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