This is part one of a three part blog series featuring my travel experiences this year in Kyoto, Tokyo and Yokohama. I will share with you fabric shops, sewing shops and other fashion related places that are a must see while in travelling in Japan. You will want to book a flight to Japan after reading this!
Kimono Forest. Read on to learn more!
Fabric and Trim Shops
For me, there are three stand out shops you have to visit while in Kyoto.
Sou Sou is a lifestyle label that offers women's wear, menswear, children's wear, accessories, housewares, shoes, and textiles. This is not your traditional fabric shop. They offer a specific type of cotton called Ise-Momen in a few different weights. According to Sou Sou, "Ise-Momen cotton, a traditional craft manufactured in Mie Prefecture, has more than 250 years of history since the Edo period (17th century). The thread is lightly twisted, hardened with natural starch, and woven slowly with the traditional loom."
Sou Sou is well known for unique and bold prints, which they design in-house. I purchased 2 meters of each of the fabrics pictured below. I'm not so much a bold print person, so you will notice I picked out the least vibrant prints in the entire shop.
Fabric is purchased in 10 cm (.010 meter) increments. It might seem costly, but given the unique weaving, design and hand feel, you can't go wrong.
You can purchase fabric made for kimonos. Notice the unique narrow width?
Misuyabari Needle Shop
Visiting Misuyabari Needle Shop was on the top of my TO DO list. Many of our studio designs are hand sewn, so visiting a needle shop dedicated to making a tool I cherish was kind of surreal. They offer a variety of hand sewing needles that are hand made and machine made. Unfortunately, their hand made needles were out of stock as the creator is currently ill. Wishing them a speedy recovery!
I tested out many soft hand sewing needles made for dress making. I ended up purchasing 10 packs of size 8 soft needles and 4 packs of size 9 soft needles. Each pack comes with 25 needles. I also picked up a variety pack of soft needles, just in case. Since I wasn't sure If I'll return to Kyoto next year, I took advantage of being in the city and ended up visiting this shop 2 times during my stay.
There are many blogs explaining how to find this hidden away shop. For me, the easiest way to find this shop was to find the T intersection of Sanjo Dori (三条通) and Kawaramachi Dori (河原町通). The picture below shows the entrance into Cupola Sanjo (三条名店街), where the T intersection is located. Enter into the covered shopping area, and after a few shops/restaurants on your right you will see the first side entrance leading into a green space. Look for a psychic business at the foot of the entrance.
There is a hallway down the side entrance that looks like this.
Pass the hallway, and you will be transformed into old world Kyoto. In front of you is a traditional inner garden called a tsuboniwa (壷庭), with a tiny shop hidden at the back.
You cannot resist ohhing and awwing at the shop's very kawaii decorative hand made pins. They come in a variety of categories, from animals, to sewing objects, to nature objects, and food. In September, they just released a special edition Halloween series (photographed below). I picked up roses, dogs, cats, birds, sewing related ones and obviously the Halloween edition. Let us know in the comments which ones you are gushing over. I just cannot decide which one I love most.
Idola Bead and Button Shop
Located on the third floor of a retro style building called Sacra Building, you will find Idola bead and button shop. There are two shops, one dedicated to buttons and the other for beads and associated trims.
Buttons are relatively small, so you can pack a ton of stock in a small 200 square foot room. Open every drawer possible! Hidden treasures from new to vintage buttons await you.
Below are some of their vintage buttons, so beautifully packaged. I fell in love with below clear vintage buttons with thread floating inside.
Sanjo Mercerie is a shop dedicated to beads. It is only a couple of blocks away from Idola, so check this out on the way there. A bit more expensive, but the quality speaks for itself.
Established in 1952, Nomura Tailor Shop has two locations. I visited the Nomura Terra Teramachi store, located close to the famous Nishiki Food Market. If you are into printed cottons, you will love this store. There are also a selection of notions.
Other Kyoto Must Visits
I did so much more than fabric shopping on this trip. I promise.
Located in Arashiyama, the Kimono Forest is a collection of large clear tubes filled with a variety of kimono fabrics. It is located right beside the Randen Tram Station on Kyoto's Keifuku Arashiyama line. There are approximately 600 pillars installed, and they light up at dark. The artist of this project is Yasumichi Morita.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Located in Southern Kyoto, this is a Shinto shrine established in 711, during the Nara period. This shrine is well known for its thousands of vermilion torii gates. Every torii gate has been donated by a Japanese business, to ensure prosperity in their ventures.
This place gets packed with tourists! Get there early and bring water. Bottled water gets more expensive as you hike up higher and higher.
Anzukko Gyoza Bar
I love gyoza, so eating at Anzukko was a no brainer! Anzukko offers a variety of fried and boiled gyoza. You must order the original iron pan Anzukko gyoza. We also ordered the Camembert cheese gyoza, fried kitsune, potato salad, Japanese fried rice, and sake (of course)!
Be sure to order their potato salad. Actually, anywhere in Japan, order the potato salad. The Japanese know how to make a good potato salad. At Anzukko, there is bacon in their potato salad!
Taiyaki in Kyoto Station
Taiyaka is a fish shaped cake, normally filled with azuki (red bean paste). The most magical taiyaki is located inside Sanjo Station in Kyoto. If you smell the sweet scent of butter, just follow your nose. This small vendor is located between the main pay gates and exit #7.
Hope you have enjoyed this Kyoto review. Stay tuned for a fabric haul video, as I picked up over 15 different fabrics over the course of the entire trip, as well as parts two and three of this mini-series.
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Written and photographed by Sheila Wong
Edited by Samantha Quon
Sheila Wong Sewing Team