Buy Yukata and calligraphy (shodo) set in Tokyo
July 24, 2009 12:56 AM   Subscribe

Buy Yukata and calligraphy (shodo) set in Tokyo. I usually don't buy souvenirs on my trips, ever, but if they can be considered tools or clothing, I might go for it.

I _really_ enjoyed wearing the Yukata and wooden shoes and walking out at night in Takayama; extremely refreshing compared to my jeans and shirt. I also got an incredible (but short) shodo lesson with brush, ink and japanese paper from the owner of the hotel I stayed at (Park City Hotel in Takayama, both town and hotel are highly recommended, btw).

So, those are the two things I want to take with me from Japan when I leave August 5th; a good quality Yukata, and brush, ink and some paper. I know I should have bought all this while in Kyoto, Kanazawa or Takayama... but I just didn't, OK? :) Now I'm in Tokyo for around 10 more days, so where should I go? (Secret, insider-tip back-street shops preferred.)

PS. I'm also looking for a shodo and character-learning lesson (one-day or multi-day), so tips on that would be great too.
posted by avocade to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The wooden shoes to which you refer are called 下駄 geta. (That's pronounced "gay-tah".)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:29 AM on July 24, 2009

Uniqlo sells yukata during the summer. High quality? No, but they're affordable, and you can put them on by yourself. A high quality yukata can be quite expensive. If you're looking for one of those, try department stores like Mitsukoshi (in Nihombashi or Ginza), or Takashimaya in Shinjuku. If you don't mind used, go to the Oriental Bazaar on Omotesando. The top floor, in the back, has a wide variety of used kimono and yukata.

As for calligraphy, you can find (admittedly touristy) sets at the Oriental Bazaar. In fact, the OB is perfect for all the omiyage you haven't bought yet for friends back home. If you're looking for something more spendy/nice, across from the Ginza Mitsukoshi (kitty-corner, I think) is Kyukudo, a store that specializes in washi (handmade Japanese paper), and has a lot of calligraphy stuff on the second floor.

Alternatively, you could check out the Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku (attached to Takashimaya by the south gate of the station), which will also have a good amount of stuff. Just down from there is Kinokuniya, which, on the top floor, has a good foreign language section, which has a pretty solid aisle of books for learning Japanese, and another aisle on Japanese culture and arts. You should be able to find books on shodo and Kanji learning there. There's also Maruzen, near Tokyo Station (the Tokyo Oazo building, near the Shin Marunouchi Building), which is pretty decent, though I'd recommend Kinokuniya if you have the time.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:36 AM on July 24, 2009

No suggestions as to where to go, but I just wanted to note that you probably shouldn't just buy any random yukata that you think looks nice. They aren't one size fits all. If you can, find someone to help you purchase one that properly matches your height, waist size and arm length. The requirements for proper fit are different for men and women.

Here is a handy chart that may help you come prepared. Note in the intro text that there is a different height measurement for men. The sizes can vary by up to about 5 cm, although the formality and fit is not nearly as important when you purchase a yukata. You just don't want to look like an adult wearing preteen-sized clothing, which would be silly.

If you do purchase one, return home and discover that the process of putting it on is completely baffling to you, the men and women at the Immortal Geisha forums are extremely helpful in guiding you through the steps. They would also be able to help you find a place in Tokyo to purchase a yukata, I'd bet, if the suggestions you get here don't work out.
posted by bristolcat at 7:14 AM on July 24, 2009

For shodo implements and paper, you should check out Kyukyodo in the Ginza, but Tokyo has a whole paper-arts district around Nihonbashi. In particular, check out Ozu Washi.
posted by adamrice at 7:38 AM on July 24, 2009

WTF bristolcat, there's nothing complicated about a yukata -- true, there's etiquitte about which flap's on the outside (left ot right), but other than that it's just a lightweight bathrobe. In my experience, those available in the department stores Ghihdorah mentions are very expensive, and beautiful too; but we usually want the simple one-size-fits-all kind we get in the hotel, in a traditional indigo-and-white pattern. I found mine in a bunch on a table out front of a clothing store in the Ningyo-cho district, cost about ¥2000. And those came in three sizes.
posted by Rash at 11:50 AM on July 24, 2009

Tansuya (chain of kimono stores) is also a good place to pick up medium-quality yukata with a salesperson's assistance.
posted by No-sword at 1:14 PM on July 24, 2009

It's true that compared to a regular kimono, a yukata is not very complicated. But you need to pay attention to the sizing if you actually want to wear it and not look silly. This is especially true for westerners, who may not quite be compatible with traditional Japanese sizes. This is even more true for women, because a woman's yukata is not as relaxed as a men's due to the difference in the size of the obi and the technique of wearing it.

A difference of 5 cm either way from your actual measurements should place you within a size category, which you can then look to see is available, although I'm sure that a M and L will vary from shop to shop just like it does anywhere else. And like I said, there is a difference between men's and women's sizing (women have a large fold at the waistline) so someone purchasing yukata should be aware of that as well.

Finding someone to help you pick one out is probably the best approach. Avocade asked for advice in selecting a "good quality yukata," and if he or she are going to spend a decent amount of money on something they want to wear, then why not get it right?
posted by bristolcat at 2:42 PM on July 24, 2009

Everyone's covered the yukata part fine, and I don't really know much about shodō (except that you might want to visit Kyūkyodō in Ginza) so I'll just touch on footwear.

Rather than geta, which, while they make a nice clop-clop sound while you walk and are the "traditional" accompaniment to yukata, are tough on your feet and not very comfortable, I recommend a nice pair of zōri (草履), in particular a pair of setta (雪駄). Setta are made from bamboo leaf with a tough sole, and a hanao (鼻緒) or thong made of velour or other fabric. They're flat and although men usually wear them with kimono, there's nothing wrong with wearing them with yukata as well.

No matter what you buy, purchase the platform and the hanao separately, and have the store thread the hanao for you (they should do this for free). This way you can properly coordinate your yukata and your hanao. I always go to Godo Hakimono between Sensōji and the Sumidagawa, a short walk from the temple grounds. They're a wholesaler, so they have a huge variety of goods and great prices (expect to pay 2500 yen and up for a pair of geta/zōri/setta and hanao), but they're closed Sundays, holidays, and the third Saturday of the month. If neither you nor anyone in your group speak Japanese, however, you might want to stick to stores along Nakamise-dōri.

Also, keep in mind that if you have feet larger than 28-29 cm, you will have a very difficult time finding footwear that fits; the same goes for yukata if you are much taller than 180 cm. In that case you may want to try visiting Sakazen, a big-and-tall retailer in Shinjuku, Bakurōchō, and a few other locations.
posted by armage at 4:40 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So sorry for the late reply, internet access haven't been good to me, especially in japan :) Found some good beginner sets at Tokyu Hands in Shibuya (great artisan store, btw, huge!). But interestingly the best brushes jumped out at me while I sort of strolled past Taipei for two days on the way from Tokyo to Singapore/Indonesia. They sell _great_ calligraphy gear at the Taipei Palace Museum of Chinese History (now one of my top 5 museums ever!).

Re yukata/kimono, the bazaar was sadly rubbish (ie very touristy, there was one nice used one but sadly way too short for me). The only good place to find really nice yukata seems to be at the department stores, as mentioned. I found my absolute favorite linen yukata at Tetsumiya in Shibuya, but even though I was extremely tempted to snag it even at a hefty Y45.000 I decided (very wisely) that I simply didn't have the space to take it on the road for one more exhausting month of Asia-trotting (especially the finale in India, Chennai/Mumbai... ouch!).

Let me end by saying that I now wholeheartedly _love_ Japan. There is no other word for it. Indonesia is on the brink, but Japan I love. Namaste. Peace out.
posted by avocade at 9:32 AM on August 25, 2009

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