Fabric Shopping in Tokyo


This summer, my husband and I went on an adventure to Tokyo and we loved every minute of it! The people are incredibly kind and the city is very easy to navigate. The street signs and subway lines are in English. Many people speak English but some do not. When we met non-English speakers, there was usually someone nearby who offered to translate. Side note: whenever my husband and I visit a foreign country we make a sincere effort to learn some key words and phrases in their language. We believe it communicates respect and shows our genuine interest in their culture. We have also found that many of the nationals appreciate our efforts.

True to form, we did as much research as we could before we arrived in Tokyo. We came prepared with our JR pass then we purchased a Suica card once we arrived in the city.  After a few days, we grew confident in our ability to navigate the subway system so we decided to split up and do some shopping. We stayed at the Imperial Hotel in Ginza and used our JR pass to take the Yamanote line to our separate destinations. My husband went to Akihabara prefecture, the ultimate destination for anime, gamers, and electronic lovers. I went to Nippori prefecture, otherwise known as Fabric Town! EEEEK!

I studied Jenny Rushmore’s guide to Fabric Shopping in Tokyo and referred to it throughout my visit.  Her directions and recommendations are on point!  I agree with Jenny’s observation that “it’s much more calm and easy to navigate than the NYC garment district.”  If you’re planning to visit Nippori, check out her site.  Her guide was also featured in Seamwork Magazine!

The community of Nippori also has their own website where you can download a map and read about upcoming events.  You can also find copies of the map inside many of the fabric stores once you get there.

I arrived in Nippori at 10 o’clock when the stores opened.  I brought a small suitcase with me so I wouldn’t have to carry my shopping bags all day.  It was helpful but it was also difficult to maneuver around the shops. Many of the stores have very narrow aisles and some have 3 or 4 flights of stairs.  I suspect it would have been just as difficult to lug around big plastic shopping bags so I’m glad I came prepared.

I also came prepared with my own portable WiFi hotspot. WiFi is available in cafes, restaurants, and other establishments but we wanted to be able to access the internet throughout our travels. The pocket WiFi device can be purchased online ahead of time or you can simply pick it up at the airport.  The WiFi allowed me to use Google Translator on my phone to read the labels.  This way I knew the content of the fabric.  I can usually tell by feeling the fabric and sometimes, that’s all that matters anyway.  But, I like to know what I’m buying.  It’s interesting to note that there was almost no silk!  In fact, I think I found only two silks and they were wool blends! I was actively looking for silk lining but every time I scanned a tag it turned out to be polyester. Click photos to enlarge.

Tomato is one of the most popular stores in the district.  There are 5 Tomato stores and they’re all close to each other.  One store is upholstery only.  Another sells notions.  The other three have a variety of fabrics.  The main store has 4 floors!  It’s all very organized.  Cotton, cotton blends, and linens are on the first floor.  Knits are on the second floor. Wool, polyester, and lace are on the third and quilting cottons are on the fourth.  You must pay for your purchases on each floor before you go to the next. This was one of my favorite stores. I spent a great deal of my time and money here. Click photos to enlarge.

I also really loved a store called Elegance.  It was very organized and shopping was easy.  I purchased a brightly colored cotton print.  It was so soft I couldn’t stop touching it!  They also had some beautiful boucle and wool crepe.  The bottom floor showcased selections that would appeal to the average shopper. But when I ascended the stairs, I found some really high end items.  Fabric from Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, and Chanel! Click photos to enlarge.

The smaller shops were equally interesting and I did find some amazing deals.  All but one of the stores accepted my Visa card.  Thanks to Jenny’s guide, I came prepared with some cash but I preferred to use my Visa whenever possible. It just seemed smart to keep the cash on hand in case I ran into another store that didn’t take Visa.

My husband met me at the Excelsior Cafe for lunch around one o’clock. It’s located just around the corner from the Nippori subway station.  We fueled up and went back out so I could explore some of the shops I missed because I spent so much time in Tomato lol.  I am so thankful for his patience and understanding!  We certainly don’t plan fabric shopping excursions on vacation but he understood this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  BEST. HUSBAND. EVER!

If you’re traveling to Japan, don’t hesitate to reach out to me on the blog or instagram.  There are so many wonderful things to see and do.  We already want to plan a second visit!

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