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Get creative with a visit to Nippori Fabric Town

Date: 04.13.2020

Do you need to make a costume for your child for a school concert or a cosplay event? Or perhaps you want to add a decorative patch to your jeans. Are you feeling the urge to dust off your old sewing machine or reopen a long-closed sewing box? In other words, are you ready to get creative with textiles? If so, Nippori Fabric Town should be your first stop.

To get to Nippori Fabric Town, head to the Nippori Station which is accessible on the Yamanote Line, the Joban Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Keisei Main Line, and the Nippori-Toneri Liner. Leave the station through the south exit, head to the right at the first Y intersection, and then left at the following T junction. From here, walk straight up the street past the MOS Burger and turn right when you come out at Nippori Chuo-dori street. Cross the street at the intersection, and keep walking straight ahead. You will be in Nippori Fabric Town before you know it.

But before setting off, drop into a store and pick up a copy of the English version of the Nippori Fabric Town Map.

Over a hundred years ago, the area around Otakebashi Avenue, between Uguisudani and Mikawashima Stations, was a primary location for fabric wholesalers. In 1905, Nippori Station was built on the Yamanote Line, one of the most frequently traveled lines in central Tokyo. The presence of the new station induced many shops to locate in the surrounding area.

Today, the streets near the station are lined with numerous fabric stores selling goods that are a feast for the eyes. Look for the large signs featuring a lemon and a tomato, which identify the popular fabric stores bearing those names. Tomato has branches here and there that sell a wide selection of materials at affordable prices. The main building is a five-story gem. Keep in mind that you must pay for your fabric purchases on the floor where you found them.

TOMATO MAIN STORE

6-44-6 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa

 

You’ll find that the shops begin to thin out toward the end of the long street, but please don’t think that there’s nothing beyond that. Keep walking, and you will come to Humongous, No. 81 on the map, a charming old Japanese shop with a front of glass and wood that immediately invites you to peek inside. Upon entering, you instantly relax and can't resist touching the beautiful, soft fabric on display. The material is woven and printed in India using traditional block-print methods. The colors and designs are created by Humongous. Hand-painted buttons in a profusion of colors and styles adorn the wall on one side of the shop, along with natural stones and other craft items. The shop is so tranquil that you wish there were a tiny café in the corner where you could enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. I playfully suggest this to the owner, whose face lights up at the idea. Humongous also has an online shop with a page for ordering in English.

HUMONGOUS

3-28-4 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa

Phone: 03-6316-9707

 

It's time to take a side trip to No. 77, Saito Shoten. Mr. Saito is the leader of Nippori’s fabric association. He, his wife, and his son are friendly and always welcome visitors with open arms. Mrs. Saito proudly mentions that fashion students often visit their shop to obtain high-quality materials at reasonable prices. Many of their customers have won international awards. Here, you will receive excellent personal service, and there won’t be any crowds.

SAITO SHOTEN

4-33-3 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa

Phone: 03-3803-4007

 

Our next noteworthy stop is No. 85 Mogi Shoko, which was established seventy years ago as a canvas manufacturer producing truck canopies. Over time, the use of plastic became prevalent, affecting many industries, so Mogi Shoko converted to the production of canvas bags, all made to order. This product change proved to be a huge success.

Mr. Mogi said that his father had chosen the image of a swallow for the company logo because of its symbolism—even if it leaves its nest for a long time, it will always come back to it eventually. He wanted to create a stable, robust family business for future generations. A varied selection of colors and designs for canvas bags is available. You are welcome to come to the factory to place an order for your chosen design and color. The current turnaround time is three weeks.

If you don't want to wait that long, you can join a Saturday workshop and create your own bag. Bookings are essential in advance online.

These two-hour workshops are extremely popular with the local residents. Please remember that your basic pattern and color choices must be made in advance online.

MOGI SHOKO

4-14-13 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa

Workshop price: ¥5,500

Workshop and order-made only.

Japanese only

More info: info@mogi-shoko.co.jp

 

I peek in the window of No. 89, Murata Shouten, to check if this is the kimono shop Mrs. Saito recommended, and I am immediately greeted by a young man with a beautiful smile who welcomes me inside. Removing my shoes and stepping up onto the tatami, I find myself in a shop from another era. The young man’s father enters the room, and both father and son proudly show me their selection of kimono material. They say they have many foreign visitors, and when I tell them I am from Australia, the son produces a bundle of letters and cards from their Australian customers. They invite me to read these messages—unable to contain their excitement!

We sit on the tatami surrounded by high quality material in beautiful colors, designs, and textures. There is something here for everyone. Mr Murata and his son welcome you to come and share in their love of traditional Japanese kimono. They may even be willing to show you a rare and exquisite kimono. It wouldn’t be for sale, but it would definitely be worth seeing!

MURATA SHOUTEN

4-34-6 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa

Phone: 03-3806-5298

 

I need to stretch my legs after having knelt on the tatami, so I walk briskly toward shop No. 56, On-travelling, which offers an eclectic array of cloth patches, tape, ribbons, beads, coconut-shell buttons, African prints, lace, and more. Let your imagination and creativity run wild! Don't miss the second floor (go out the front entrance, turn left, and go up the back stairs). Be ready for a splash of color and a profusion of designs!

ON-TRAVELLING

Imamura Building, 5-25-1 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa

Phone: 03-6426-0958

 

If you feel a little hungry on your walk around Nippori, drop by Ito-Pan for some fresh baked delights.

ITO-PAN

4-14-10 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa

Phone: 03-6759-1322

  

The last stop of the day is the Paris-inspired L·musée button shop, No. 28 on the map. It has two stores in the vicinity. If you need buttons or beads, stop by and start choosing from a fantastic array of colors, designs, and textures.

L·musée

5-34-1 Higashi Nippori, Arakawa

Phone: 03-5858-6722

 

As you head back to the station, you may see shops you missed earlier, including kimono stores, leather-craft suppliers, and more. Enjoy browsing!

This article was written by Sarah Nishina.

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