travelknitter’s guide to tokyo

Phew!  I can’t believe how long it took me to put this post together; it seems like my trip to Tokyo was such a long time ago.  Anyway, here’s a snapshot of a few crafty highlights from my trip, and I hope you find it useful in heading off on your own Tokyo adventures!

Loft

This was my first crafty stop as I wandered around Ikebukuro, getting my bearings.  Loft is part of the massive department store Seibu, on the eastern side of Ikebukuro station.  I went straight up to the massive stationery section, which was well-stocked, nicely laid out, and great fun to rummage through.  I didn’t buy anything as it was my first stop in Tokyo, and I wanted to see what else was around.  I regret that now, as they had really nice things that I didn’t see anywhere else.  It’s on my list for next time.

Website (in Japanese): www.loft.co.jp

Tokyu Hands

One of the must-do shopping highlights for anyone in Tokyo has to be Tokyu Hands, and I made my way to the branch in Ikebukuro (I also made a quick visit to the Shinjuku store a few days later).  The by-line for Tokyu Hands is ‘Creative Life Store’ and it really has pretty much anything creative or home-wise you could want, spread across seven floors.  I knew that I had to have a plan of attack for this one.

I started out on the top floor (8F) where you’ll find Nekobukuro – “Cat’s House”.  I’d read about this on various other blogs, but didn’t know anyone who’d actually been in.  It’s set up for apartment-bound city dwellers to have the chance to play with the 20 or so resident cats, and at the entrance I spotted named photographs of all the feline residents inside.  Cute!  I sheepishly paid my 600 Yen and wandered inside.  It’s set up with a large play area, but with sections divided off like rooms in a house – not sure if the cats appreciated the distinction though.

After marvelling at the way in which the cats managed not to claw the streams of visitors all day, I ventured downstairs.  I spent most of my time on 6F stocking up on stationery (my friends will all be getting Japanese birthday cards this year!), although I think I preferred the range at Loft.  I worked my way down the levels, wishing that I had a Tokyo apartment so I could furnish it will all the gorgeous homewares.  I stopped at Kitchenware (3F) with the intention of buying some bento boxes but after 20 minutes or so the selection overwhelmed me and I didn’t buy any at all.  But realistically, I think it would take more than cute packaging to encourage me to make a packed lunch anyway.

How to get there:

There are stores in Ikebukuro, Shibuya and Shinjuku, but only Ikebukuro has the cats!  To get to the Ikebukuro branch, exit Ikebukuro station and just follow the signs for Sunshine City – it’s right next door.  It’s well sign-posted.

Website (in Japanese): http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/index.htm

Avril

This is the home of the wonderful Habu yarns, known as Avril in Japan. Before heading in, I’d recommend checking out the Habu website to make a shortlist of yarns you’d like to check out, as it can all get a bit overwhelming once you’re in the store to figure out what all the yarns are, and what to do with them.  I found the staff to be helpful, and with a few words and a bit of hand waving I was all set.  I was hoping to get some Kusaki Zome, but they only had a small amount left in the colour I wanted, and not enough for the project I had in mind.  As consolation, I picked up some Tsumugi Silk in two colours (projects still to be identified):

How to get there:

I was expecting it to be quite difficult to find, but didn’t have a problem at all.  The nearest station is Kichijoji, and a return ticket from central Tokyo cost ab0ut 580 Yen I think.  Kichijoji station isn’t particularly big, so I don’t think it matters too much which exit you take (I think I took the Park Exit and had no problems).  As you come out of the station, have a look for the big Parco department store, which will be diagonally to your left.  Head in that direction, and across the intersection you will see the entrance to the Nakamichi shopping street:

Follow the street for about five minutes, and on your left you will see the sign for Avril…

and then there is a knitted/felted sign leading you to the door!

The Avril website has a map, but I found the store pretty straight-forward to find.

According to various other bloggers, another amazing craft store, Yuzawaya is right above Kichijoji station, but somehow I managed to not find it.

On the way back from Avril I popped in to the Parco store, and wandered up to the Zakka/Children’s floor, and found a whole heap of cuteness!  Again, I stocked up on some more stationery, as well as these cute fabric buttons:

Ladybirds always make me smile!

Okadaya

I spent quite a ridiculous amount of time in Okadaya, which is a large store covering just about every craft need you can think of.  Again, my plan was to start on the top floor and work my way down from there – it seemed to work for me.  The top floor was dedicated purely to craft books, with knitting well represented.  I didn’t find anything new that I hadn’t seen before, but I came away with a couple that I’d been interested in for a while, so I was happy with that.  It definitely had the best range of craft books I’d seen in Tokyo.

ISBN 9784579109258

ISBN 9784579109258

I worked my way down each of the levels in turn, buying something on almost every floor!  They had a good range of buttons, so I snapped up a couple of different styles (no photos though, as they’re black).  I somehow missed the yarn floor, but discovered that some of the floors have a separate section off to the left, so I had to revisit each floor to see what I’d missed out on!  (The yarn is on 5F).  There was an OK section of yarn, lots of Annie Blatt and Japanese Brands.  There wasn’t anything I particularly wanted, although was surprised to see Daiketo yarn made from Tasmanian Merino.  Having grown up in Tassie  I would have been thrilled to buy Tassie merino locally, but Tasmania is well-renowned for exporting all its best produce to Japan.

Okadaya really does have stock to pretty much cover whatever craft you’re in to, whether that’s knitting, sewing, needle felting, beading, or anything else really.  I’d highly recommend a trip, but be prepared to while away a lot of time!

Website (in Japanese): www.okadaya.co.jp

How to get there:

It took me a while to find, but needn’t be a mission at all.  Take the East exit from Shinjuku station.  From the station exit, take the street that’s furthest to your left; it will run alongside the train tracks.  Keep your eyes out along the right hand side, as Okadaya is only a few buildings along.  You’ll spot a small sign in an alcove; take the lift up to the top and away you go!  What I didn’t realise though is that Okadaya actually has two buildings, and the second building has all the fabrics.  I did actually spot it on the way out (it’s along a little side street) but I thought it was just a small section at ground level, so didn’t stay long.  Ooops.  Turns out there are several floors!  Again, another one on the list for next time.

more cute Japanese stationery...

Tomato/Fabric Town

I made the trip to Nippori to hit the famed fabric store Tomato, on what is known as Fabric Street in Fabric Town (yes, it is named such for the benefit of tourists, I’m sure).  Despite all my online research, I didn’t realise that pretty much all the shops in the street are closed on Sunday!  I found Tomato easily enough, but upon discovering it was closed, was too disheartened to take any photos.  What a waste on my last day in Tokyo!

How to get there:

Luckily, fabric street (Nippori Chuo Dori) is easy to find, and I’ll definitely be heading back on my next trip.  Catch the JR Yamanote Line to Nippori.

Upon leaving the station (take the North exit and then the East exit) you’ll find yourself in front of a taxi rank.  There will be two streets to your right; one directly to the right and one heading diagonally.  Take the street on the diagonal.  You will see lots of signs and banners on the way, with various proclamations such as ‘Nippori fabric street’ and so on, so you’ll know you’re in the right place.

Daiso


Daiso is the pick of Tokyo’s 100 Yen stores (Japan’s much better version of UK pound stores, or Australian Two Dollar shops). I went to another 100 Yen store in Tokyo, but it didn’t have anything too interesting, whereas Daiso has so many wonderful things, all at a bargain price.  Initially I wasn’t sure if everything really is priced at 100 Yen, but it turns out they are, so some items are a bigger bargain than others.  Normally I avoid buying cheap made-in-China tat, but somehow it seems OK to do it in Japan!  I was conscious of not getting too carried away, but ended up coming away with a dozen items, ranging from a coffee mug to sewing supplies, stationery, and strange Japanese sweets.

I arrived before opening time on Sunday (10am) and actually joined a queue for it to open!  I think everyone else was just after an umbrella though, as it had started raining.  I also managed to leave my wallet on the front bench of the store, and had a mad panic half an hour later when I discovered it missing.  On the verge of tears, I did a mad dash back to the store. I can’t believe that someone had handed it in – credit cards and my last few Yen all intact.  I nearly hugged the staff member who retrieved it for me. I love Japan.

How to get there:

This one’s easy.  Go to Harajuku station, and just follow the crowds!  This will be especially the case on a Sunday, when Tokyo’s young people like to dress up and parade their cutting-edge fashions in Harajuku.  Exit the station and directly across the road follow the throngs of people down Harajuku St.  Daiso is a few doors along on the left hand side.

More shopping guides:

If you’re planning a crafty shopping trip to Tokyo yourself, here are two of my favourite Tokyo guides to check out:

  • Asking for Trouble’s lovely Tokyo Shopping Guide.  This has an emphasis on fabrics, stationery, and lots of kawaii loveliness.  I bought a copy of her pocket-sized guide to take with me, and it was a great source of information.
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17 thoughts on “travelknitter’s guide to tokyo

  1. This is really great – I love the shot of the cones of Tsumugi Silk – I think I would buy them just as decorations!

    hey, do people get to vote on where you’ll travel next, for the next great guide? 🙂

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  2. Hi! Thanks for giving me the headsup on melbourne knitting / LYS. I completely forgot about woolbaa, but will definitely be heading that way if i can get my directionless nose in order. You’ve got a great blog and resource going here! Love it.

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  3. Hi there!

    I’m living in Taiwan and planning a Japanese jaunt in May, which I want to include some stash building. However, I’m an embroiderer and textile-y sort rather than a knitter (at present!). Can you remember from your trips through all these great looking shops which one or two might be best for an embroiderer to head for? I can’t see Sir wanting to visit more than one or two.

    All the best, E.=)

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  9. Wow, great guide! Never would have found that Avril store if you hadn’t posted this. A couple of notes:
    1) take the North Exit out of Kichijoji station; you can’t see the Parco store from the Park Exit.
    2) as of December 2013, the “Nakamichi Shopping Street” sign in your photo is no longer there; look for the ECC/ Docomo store (also visible in the photo) instead.

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    • Great – just keep in mind that it’s probably a bit out of date (wish I could go back!) As for White Gum Wool, yes I visited the farm a few weeks ago and have a wholesale order and am dyeing some up to sell through my brand – travelknitter

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  10. this is my first venture into checking out Japan as a knitting destination and was very glad to have found your newsletter. Great information: thank you. PS Have you tried White Gum wool from Tasmania? I love it.

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  11. I’m just starting to knit and this shopping guide is SO helpful to me! I’ve lived in Tokyo for 5 years, and had no idea you could get knitting supplies in most of these stores. Of course I’ve been in most of them, but because I didn’t knit, my brain just blanked out on the knitting areas! Thank you for the guide and information on the stores I didn’t know about!

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