Japanese Fabric Shopping: Tomato

Nippori

So, yes, I bought a little fabric in Japan. (I know you're all surprised by that.) Last Tuesday morning I went to Nippori Textile Town.

Small digression: I know it seems scary, the idea of running around a strange city, by yourself, not knowing a word of the language (okay, I can say "sugoy" which I *think* means "awesome!") — but, really: it's okay. It's exhilarating, even. When you're traveling somewhere familiar you don't notice even a tenth of what's going on, because you don't have to. But when everything's strange, everything is important, and you notice every detail. The colors matter, and the expressions on people's faces, and even the flow of the air around you — they're all clues as to where you are and what you should do. If traveling somewhere so different doesn't make you feel incredibly awake and alive, you're doing it wrong.

But: back to the fabric:

Fabric from Japan

When you walk into Tomato in Nippori, the first thing you see is the half-wall of 100-yen fabrics, presided over by the winking Tomato. It's pretty crowded around that wall, as you might imagine. When I was there on a Tuesday morning, the crowd was split pretty evenly between younger, student-y looking women, and sweet-tiny-grandma-type women. (I was the only non-Japanese in the store that morning, as far as I could tell.)

There's a lot of other stuff on the first floor which I neglected to take pictures of; mostly linen-y things.

The second or third floor (I forget which) has silk:

Fabric from Japan

Hilariously, each floor plays different music. The ground/first floor plays upbeat J-pop; the knits floor (which I also neglected to photograph) was playing some Justin Timberlake; but the silks floor was playing classic big-band jazz. Talk about setting the atmosphere!

I spent most of my time (and money) on the cotton-prints floor:

Fabric from Japan

You have to pay for your purchases on each floor separately. It seemed to me as if they did take credit cards, but I had brought a lot of cash with me, so I used that, instead. (I like to leave a country with less than $20 of that country's currency on me. My bureau drawer is not an effective foreign-currency hedge.)

Fabric from Japan

One nice touch was the display of completed projects and patterns that lined the stairwells and landings at each floor:

Fabric from Japan

The store staff were very friendly, and, even though (as I said) I don't speak any Japanese, I managed to get by just fine with hand gestures and lots of smiling — even when I was trying to express tricky things like "I want all that's left on this bolt, please." (However, if you need more than ten fingers to express how many meters you want, I'm not sure I can help you — although I'm really impressed!)

So enough of the travelogue: what did I buy?

Fabric from Japan

I finally found the elusive orange bandanna print; I think this was 300 yen/meter:

Fabric from Japan

And some brown/red/teal heavier cotton, which will almost certainly become a skirt:

Fabric from Japan

Some black floral/dot fabric, which is probably going to be a Duro Jr.:

Fabric from Japan

And this orange leaf-and-stripe fabric, which is also going to be a Duro Jr. (Sorry, I'm obsessed.):

Fabric from Japan

Lastly, I picked up about 8 meters of this stripey fabric for my friend Jilli, aka the "Lady of the Manners" at Gothic Charm School. Wondering why anyone would need 8 meters of black and white striped fabric? Go check out that site and not only will you know, you'll want some for yourself …

Fabric from Japan

Tomorrow: directions and photographs of the store in Nippori that sells LIBERTY.

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0 thoughts on “Japanese Fabric Shopping: Tomato

  1. okay…i am green with envy, esp the green print in one of your first pics! and I love traveling by myself too. i totally get what you mean about noticing everything! personally,i am so scared that i will get lost or miss something impt that i am extra vigilant about my surroundings!glad the trip was a success. cindy

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  2. Oh, I know what you mean about how exhilarating a strange city can be! Love your shopping story and especially the brown/red/teal – yum!

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  3. Must…remember…this… I am planning to go to Japan in jan next year, and this is making my eyes pop out in excitement at all the beautiful fabric. Nippori Textile Town… Nippori Textile Town…It looks like you had a great time buying fabric!

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  4. Oh, that is such a satisfying photo-journey. I am in love with the b/w floral polka dot, and a duro is a nify use for it.

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  5. I’ll be there in five weeks so this is just thrilling. Although now I’m thinking I might have to send some home because there might not be enough room in the case…and yeah, sugoi means awesome 🙂

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  6. I love the thought of fabric shopping in a non-english speaking country. I can imagine the thrill of finding something so wonderful – and then trying to figure out just how much to buy knowing you’d NEVER be able to get back for more if you needed to. thanks for the great pictures!

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  7. That black floral is amazing!I’d use the boldness of the print to offset a dignified, businesslike, even matronly cut then add a bold, red jacket or shawl.

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  8. I recently discovered your blog (I LOVE your Secret Lives of Dresses).These fabrics are wonderful! Both my sons went to Japan this summer. One of them gave me a fan… But now I can convert yen to dollars…and say you got a deal on that cute cute orange paisley bandanna fabric.I used to sew a lot, but haven’t in a long time. Your blog is inspiring!

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  9. Lovely! I particularly love the black and white. I can’t wait to see the FOs, especially the Duros as you have inspired me to make one of my own.

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  10. Love it, love it! Brings back many fond memories! My DH and I met in Japan while both in the Navy! A lot of times the people want so badly to practice their english on you that that can help quite a bit. There was a place outside of Yokosuka (south of Tokyo) that as you said had different types of fabric on each floor. At the time we were pregnant! And found the floor that had nothing but childrens fabric! Amazing!!! I didn’t discover it until just before we left to come back to the states, or believe me my stash would have been quite hefty, not just kids stuff either! But by that time we were pretty much packed up and couldn’t afford a whole lot else… so sad! Enjoy, hope that your trying all sorts of fun foods! We used to go off base to the movies, and I would have dried squid instead of popcorn!!! Really good, that is if you like fishy stuff!Have fun! Guess I will live thru you while you are there!

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  11. i know. i want. Yet I am SURE Jill will make good use of it. I’m also almost certain I saw her at the VB Ball. 🙂 I hope she tells her readers what she does with it…. heehee

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  12. The first time I went to Japan I didn’t speak any Japanese, and I was delighted to be able to successfully purchase several meters of traditional indigo-dyed cotton in a very tiny fabric shop I found by accident in a tiny neighborhood (Higashi Koenji) of outer Tokyo.When I was there last year it was with two and a half years of Japanese study under my belt, but I was unable to find that fabric store again.In addition to sugoi (fabulous) You will probably want “kore o kudesai” (koh-ray oh koo-deh-sah-ee) which means “this please”, as you hand something to a clerk for purchase, or point at something you want.And of course “domo arigato gozaimasu” (doh-moh, ah-ree-gah-toh goh-za-ee-mahs) “thank you very much”Have fun. I am envious of your awesome trip and especially that burgundy and teal print.

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  13. Oh my goodness! My friend who is visting Japan went to Tomato on either Thursday or Friday last week, and bought me some gorgeous fabric. I got it yesterday in the post. Can’t wait to get there myself in a couple of months. I love what you purchased!

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  14. Wow that orange leaf fabric is a dead ringer for Orla Kiely! Great work here, I’m surprised you kept yourself to only 5 purchases!

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  15. Oh my, Jilli will love thatstriped material. Wish I’d thought to have you get me some, also! No worries of doubling, we’re on opposite coasts! 🙂 -dAngldst/Donna, another stripey-loving goth.

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  16. I am going to Japan in October! My sister is there for a year abroad. I am so excited. But today, I saw you article in one of those sewing magazines (Threads?) about fabric shopping in Japan so this post was total deja vu for me. Was the article about this trip? Congrats on the article though. And thanks for the fabric shopping tips.

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  17. I was just wondering what I would have to do to get you to pick up stripes for me! I think there are likely dozens of envious stripe-loving goths out there now. 🙂

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  18. Ooh, I’ve been to Tomato!! I loved, loved, loved it. Especially the 100 Yen wall, of course! You found such cool stuff – congratulations! Hopefully my work will come up with a need to send me back there soon…

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  19. You’re evil, teasing us with all these swatches.I wish I’d known you were going (I just got back from Colombia); I don’t know if you’re interested in Japanese pattern books and magazines but there’s slews of ’em.

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  20. Now I’m jealous that I didn’t take any time to peruse fabric stores while I was in Japan (but the trip was for our daughter — see comment on next entry). Sigh. Beauties, especially that black and grey…Does it count that I oggled some yarn while I had my current knitting with me?

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  21. I was given a bag of fabric scraps from a friend whose elderly mom is clearing things out and didn’t know what to do with them because they were so homely. This Liberty stuff mostly looks like stuff back from the 60’s like these scraps. Just when I was thinking I’m glad to be away from it!! I didn’t like it much back then either… to each his own taste.

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  22. I was given a bag of fabric scraps from a friend whose elderly mom is clearing things out and didn’t know what to do with them because they were so homely. This Liberty stuff mostly looks like stuff back from the 60’s like these scraps. Just when I was thinking I’m glad to be away from it!! I didn’t like it much back then either… to each his own taste.

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  23. On the other side of the street, there is a store with lots of japanese prints cotton fabrics… Some bundles of perfect for patchwork projects.

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