Japan: inspiration overload

Friday 9 October 2015
Apologies for the blog silence around here lately, but I've just come back from an amazing few weeks in Japan so actually I'm not really sorry at all! It's my ten year wedding anniversary and my parents kindly offered to watch the kids while we went on holidays without them - so the holiday was doubly fantastic.

Japan was just amazing and overwhelming with inspiration - the architecture was a real highlight for us, not only the ultramodern skyscrapers that dominate the cities but also the beautiful and serene lines of the residential dwellings. The food was outstanding, the culture very interesting and I loved people watching for Japanese fashion, from the crazy and colourful young girls in Harajuku, to the head to toe designer labels in Ginza and the simple chic in Kyoto.

And of course I did a fair amount of fabric shopping!

I hadn't planned to buy much fabric given that my stash is already overloaded and the fabric prices in Japan are comparable to Australia, but the huge range and variety of beautiful fabrics in Japan that are not easily found here soon persuaded me to buy more that just one piece per city! I came to Japan travelling very lightly, with one small suitcase that was carry on size:

But left Japan with another bag filled with fabric (but still well under my luggage allowance so I should have bought more):

Fabric shopping in Tokyo

Of course I went to the Nippori Fabric Town in Tokyo, which is as exactly as everyone describes it: one really long street with so many shops it's impossible to go into each on one day only. We came here the first day we arrived but it turned out to be a public holiday, so we made a second trip at the end of our holiday the day before we left for home. In hindsight that turned out for the best, because by the end of the trip I had given up my commitment to only buying one piece per city and I ended up buying a lot more fabric than I intended!

There was an overwhelming number of stores to choose from, and in the end I only shopped at 3 stores, plus the fantastic 5 storey Tomato store. I was there on a Saturday morning and the ground floor where the beautiful Japanese linens, cute cottons and infamous 100 yen shelves was so packed with people that I couldn't get near the fabrics at all. But I purchased quite a few knit fabrics on the second floor, plus a few pieces and some cool zips from two other stores as well:

Fabric shopping in Kyoto and shibori dyeing

The hotel we stayed in Kyoto happened to be directly across the street from the main Nomura Tailor store, so I had to walk past this shop multiple times over 5 days and restrain myself! This is a three storey shop crammed with the most beautiful fabrics and notions, but I managed to restrict myself to only four pieces of Japanese linen, cotton and seersucker because at this point I was still committed to just buying a few pieces in each city. I am now sorry I didn't buy more!

Also in Kyoto I visited the tiny, hidden away courtyard shop of the Misuyabari needle shop, which I found really easily thanks to the numerous other bloggers who have visited there and posted very helpful directions (such as this and this). They had ultra cute decorative pins all handmade, and a huge range of needles too, but since I'm rather practical I bought a mini sewing box which contained a tiny pincushion, some thread, small snips and some needles in a timber box:

We also visited the Kyoto Shibori Museum, thanks to the recommendation of a friend from my ASG group. We were able to learn all about the art of shibori, which is a very labour intensive method of wrapping minute portions of silk with threads to do a very elegant form of tie dye. We did a class where we folded some pure white silk concertina style, clamped with blocks and then dyed multiple times in different coloured dyes. This is how my scarf turned out:

Fabric shopping in Hiroshima

I hadn't planned on doing any fabric shopping in Hiroshima because we were only there for a few days, but we arrived on a rainy afternoon and ended up doing a bit of window shopping in their department stores marvelling at the crazy and cute stuff for sale. I accidentally stumbled on the craft area of the Sogo Department store, which up on the 9th level had quite a large range of fabrics, both by the metre and pre cut lengths, as well as patterns, notions and other crafty items.

I only bought one piece of fabric and a pattern from here, because I was still restraining myself at this point:

Fabric shopping in Osaka

In Osaka I made a bee-line for the Nano Iro store, which again I found quite easily thanks to those helpful bloggers who post very detailed directions (such as this post). The showroom was quite sparse, with not a huge range of fabrics available for purchase but they were all very beautiful.  The lovely sales assistants were quite interested and amused as to why I had travelled so far just to come to their shop! I bought one piece of fabric and a beautiful watercolour calendar which I then had to carry in my hands through 4 more cities because it didn't fit in my suitcase!

Overall I can highly recommend Japan as a travel destination. There's just so much for everyone - technology freaks, architecture buffs, foodies, culture vultures, shopaholics - you name it you can do it in Japan!

Luckily our return home has coincided with the arrival of hot weather here in Sydney, so I am very keen to start sewing at least a few of these fabrics (some of those knits will have to wait until next winter).

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