I just got back from a fabulous trip to Japan with my partner Brian, and wanted to share the best quilty aspects of it! Japan is renowned for its fabulous textiles and quilt artisans, and I was so excited to experience some of that in person.
We started our trip at the beginning of November with a direct flight from Seattle to Tokyo. It was only an 11 hour flight, which was much less than I was expecting crossing the entire Pacific Ocean.
The day we went to Nippori Fabric Town (the area with the fabric and textile shops), we first spent some time in the neighborhood of Akihabara, which is famous for its electronics and computer-related shops. We spent some time shopping and at a multi-floor arcade complex. One of the most interesting things about Tokyo is how different each neighborhood is. As we traveled from Akihabara to Nippori, I was struck at how Nippori felt like more of a smaller shopping hub versus the metropolitan nature of Akihabara.
I was pretty exhausted already by this time of day (we were walking 8-10 miles a day) but I mustered enough energy to get myself to Tomato, which is a popular multi-story fabric store.
They had many fabrics produced in Japan, and tons of quilting and garment fabrics. Since I came without a plan, I bought two fabrics. One to make a top/skirt set and one just for fun! I couldn’t resist the cute little cloud doggies.
After that we went to a cute little shop that sold handmade goods from local crafters, called Craft Apartment. The owner rented out small display boxes to the local artists to sell their goods all in one place. I had so much fun looking through all the shops and I purchased a couple adorable things (they are gifts for family so I can’t show them yet!)
The next day, we went to the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo for a ramen and gyoza cooking class! It was an amazing class. If you’re ever in Tokyo, I highly recommend it! The name of the awesome company is Chagohan Tokyo.
After our cooking class, we strolled the traditional market in front of the Sensoji, which is a traditional Buddhist temple. The entire area retains a feel of old Tokyo, with many old style shopping streets and shopping arcades.
We then went to a shop that sells antique kimonos with the intention of getting one to recycle in my quilts. However, Brian and I both ended up getting a beautiful kimono/yukata to actually wear! The owner of the shop (Antiques Kimono Lily) was so friendly and let me look through her extra kimono fabric scraps to find some to purchase at a minimal price! I’m so excited to design a quilt around incorporating these beautiful antique silk fabrics.
In Kyoto, I used the Okan Arts blog by mother and daughter partners Patricia and Victoria to help guide my textile journeys. I first went to a fabric shop called Nomura Tailor where I purchased three fabrics… a black and white one to make a button down shirt for Brian and two beautiful florals with no plan. The florals were produced in Nara, Japan, which I had been to the previous day, so I was excited to find them!
Okan Arts also directed me to the cutest tenugui shop called Sou Sou. Tenugui is a Japanese hand cloth that can be used as a scarf, wall hanging, bandana, or even a cloth to wrap items in.
Without the Okan Arts blog, I never would have found Misuyabari or Konjaku Nishimura. Misuyabari is a tiny needle shop that is located in a lovely Japanese Garden hidden within a popular shopping arcade. I ended up with some high-quality quilting needles and a tiny decorative pin. Photographed below is the outside of the secret needle shop.
Konjaku Nishimura is a seller of antique textiles from kimonos, obis, and other silk fragments. I ended up getting a small fragment of a silk book design to frame and hang near our small library at home. I also purchased several antique textile fragments to use in my quilt designs. They had such fabulous textiles at this store, and I highly recommend any fabric fan check it out. They had fabrics at many price points so there’s something for everyone.
I also wanted to share about my most traveled quilt, Treetops! My tradition of bringing a quilt on every trip I go on continues. I made this quilt back in 2020 and it was displayed in QuiltCon Together 2021. I will be expanding the pattern for my first release in 2024! Here are some photos of it in Kyoto!
One final tidbit from my Japan travels… Brian and I got engaged in Osaka! It was the perfect setting and we celebrated with some amazing strangers at a tiny karaoke bar (BAR 行世 yukiyo) in Dotonbori!