Monday, April 06, 2009

To Japan with Love

A sweet friend lives across the ocean from me, one who has read my blog faithfully since it's inception. How blessed I have been to meet her in person - twice! We have shared afternoon tea, conversation, and the wonderful pipe-organ recital of her daughter, Bethany. Toshiko encourages me with her words and teaches me new things about life. How interesting it is to learn about other cultures and customs. Toshiko's home is in the country amongst rice paddies and other agriculture. Recently, though, she took a trip to Tokyo and took time to spend some time in what I call the garment district and she calls Nippori - town of fabric. What delight! I loved her descriptions of things seen in the pictures and will share some of them with you so you can enjoy a virtual armchair tour of Japan from wherever you are. Toshiko says:

"The fabric place is just awesome. There are many small shops. Not big at all. The shops are mostly old and have bare walls. BUT there are so many varieties of materials there. Materials I've never seen! And so inexpensive. I enjoyed visiting all these shops. Often times they sell cotton for a dollar for 1m (1yd is 92cm, 100cm is 1m). They are not the best quality in Japan but good enough for everyday thing. Some places sell more expensive materials from overseas."

"One shopkeeper told me they used to be wholesale shops. Individual customers couldn't buy any. They sold like half a roll or for a whole role. Now they made the place to be inexpensive, varieties of kinds, and some of the shops sell the same yardage as from Japanese pattern and sewing books."

Many fabric rolls were displayed right on the sidewalks. What was unusual about this is that the space they were stored might not be close to the shopkeepers store. The honor system is well and alive in Japan! According to Toshiko, some of the signs shown in the collage above said:

The yellow sign said "Please go to pay at the third shop from here.

The blue sign said "Please don't take these " and "Please don't take these to the next door shop, but take the to our shop - HAPPY. Please take them to HAPPY" (I thought they are saying not to take them home, but they meant not to take them to the next door neighbor).

The town of fabric consists of 92 associated shops with fruit, flower, and other shops interspersed. The assciated shops sell not only textiles in raw form, but shops for jeans, clothing, beads, hats, buttons, belts, and quilts. Awww, wouldn't it be fun to visit there?

Toshiko and I have been enjoying conversations about kimonos. They are held in high regard and are quite valuable. Our discussions have led to modern clothing designed and made with elements of the traditional kimono. In the collage above, you will note a Japanese Hoari jacket. It is an American version of the Japanese design. It was a photo from a local quilt show and had an attached note that said that the length of the sleeve is made according to the age of the individual (the younger you are, the shorter can be the sleeves). I am not sure why, but I like the concept! Toshiko's experience and expertise doesn't mesh with the Americanized version of the attached note, though. She says that all kimonos have sleeves of the same length.

Thank you, Toshiko, for sharing so generously with us!

Photos are by Toshiko@2009 and her son, Joel@2009.


  1. What an awesome friendship! Toshiko is equally as fortunate to be able to enjoy your friendship!!

    I would definitely like to go shop for fabric there!! My Grandmother was an interior designer and I loved to go to a fabric store with her or hear her talk about fabric. You could really sense her passion for cloth!!

    Have a blessed week, friend!!
    Hugs 'n Joy,

  2. I love Japanese fabrics and quilts and would love visiting all those fabric shops. What a very special friendship.

  3. That was an interesting post. It is fun to learn about such different things. Even the translation of the language is intriguing. How nice for you to have a friend in Japan to share these things! (Yes, the sleeve getting longer with age seems just right to me as well.)

  4. Wow - that is very special! I have a friend who recently visited Japan and had such a vivid recollection about the fabric stores!


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