SHOPPING GUIDE: NIPPORI TEXTILE TOWN (2016)
Originally published in Metropolis Japan on June 27, 2016 (Link)
Whether you’ve gone DIY by choice or necessity, making your own swag is a great way to save cash. Even if you’re just a beginner, lots of easy projects can be completed in an afternoon with surprisingly good results. Need new curtains? Grab some fabric and sew them yourself!
Fortunately, Tokyo isn’t short on places to stock up your sewing kit. While a variety of stores can be found across the city, a veritable pin cushion of retailers lies right on the Yamanote Line: Nippori Textile Town (also known as Nippori Fabric Town, Nippori Textile District, or Nippori Fabric Street). Identity crisis aside, this one-kilometer strip dates back to the Taisho Era (1912-1926) and its 100+ stores offer everything from straight pins to fat squares.
Textile town is located only a few minutes from Nippori Station's east exit and signs pointing the way can be found right outside the station. Nearly everything is situated along the main drag, although some hidden gems can be found down the sidestreets. For a list of what’s available, grab an official map of the area: they’re free and can be picked from the cashiers of most of the area's shops.
Part of the fun is exploring the area for yourself, with good deals and rare finds scattered throughout. A lot of the smaller shops seem to have been around for ages and might look more like linen closets than fabric stores, but the owners know them like the back of their hand and and are usually quick to help you find what you’re looking for (you’ll get a cooler response in the wholesale stores unless you’re planning to make a significant purchase).
If this sounds a little overwhelming, don't get your denim in a bunch. Metropolis has a few recommendations to help get you stitching in no time.
This two-room corner shop near the entrance of Textile Town is a good place to start. The front room has sewing patterns and basic supplies and a limited selection of sewing machines, including the much-loved Bernina brand. In the back, you’ll find a small but diverse selection of fabrics starting at around ¥300 per meter.
5-348 Higashinippori, Arakawa-ku. Open daily, 10am-7pm. yamayo-nippori.com.
Your favorite rice topping is now your favorite textile store! As the name suggests, Furikake serves up “sprinkles:” beads, sequins, and metal bits and/or bobs. The top floor has an eclectic selection of fabrics, including a metallic mesh perfect for the Game of Thrones cosplayer on a budget.
5-34-1 Higashinippori, Arakawa-ku. Open daily, 9:30am-6pm. ameblo.jp/furikake-nippori.
Nippori Showroom Machine Shop
One of the largest sewing machine stores on the strip, the appliances on display here range from basic models starting around ¥12,000 to high-end varieties at ¥100,000 or more. As an added bonus, free stacks of scrap fabric are supplied so you can give any machine a test run before you take it home.
5-3-10 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku. Open Mon-Sat, 10am-7pm; Sun, 11am-6pm. zakzak.tanmono.com.
If Textile Town was a Monopoly board, Tomato would be winning. Occupying multiple spots along both sides of the street, Tomato has separate storefronts for upholstery, high-end garments, sewing tools and discounted goods, but the main attraction is Tomato Honkan. At five stories tall, this main store is almost guaranteed to have whatever you’re searching for, and often at a decent price to boot. Fabric-wise, there’s a hefty selection of solid colours and a wide variety of prints: the requisite manga/anime staples you'd expect, official Life magazine prints (who knew they had a fabric line?) and even Lichtenstein. If you're after more traditional Japanese designs, they've got those, too–but the prices run a little higher than other stock. There’s even a dedicated floor for formal wear goods. You’ll want more than you can carry, but they’ve planned for that. Each floor has its own set of rolling fabric bags that can be used to wheel your selections to the cutting table.
6-44-6 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku. Open daily, 10am-6pm. nippori-tomato.com.
So, what are you waiting for, thrifty pants? Halloween is only a few months away. Haven’t you got a costume to make?