Chic Steals, Carly J. Cais shares her top tips for craft shopping in Japan.
Japan is filled with amazing craft stores - some tiny and tucked out-of-the-way, some occupying 5-building complexes spanning more than 4 city blocks - and all of the filled to the brim with exquisite supplies for crafts many non-Japanese have not even heard of. Every year I visit there's always something new and incredible to be found. Here are a few destinations for crafting materials - and a couple unique crafts! - only found in Japan:
Probably the most representative (and extensive!) on the crafting scene is Yuzawaya, a company with 25+ stores spanning the length of Japan.
Also featuring an online shop (for shipping address within the country), this retail store is packed with general and specialty craft materials, fabric, kits, and hard-to-find tools and notions. Corsage-making, silk flowers, fabric, buttons, cord and elastic, clay, beads, clothing patterns, felting kits, and cellphone mascot kits make up only a small fraction of what they offer. They also conduct classes and events.
Though considered a store for "general lifestyle goods" and souvenirs, each Tokyu HANDS around the country boasts a fairly extensive array of crafting and hobby supplies (usually located on their 7th floor or thereabouts). Art Clay Silver and Precious Metal Clay supplies, molds, tools, kilns, and kits; some clays and supplies for Deko Sweets (items decorated with clay and silicone designed to imitate sweets, cookies, and desserts); a well-appointed leatherworking area with a variety of skins and hides (including ostrich and alligator!), brads, grommets, leather punches, dyes, burnishers, setters, and buckles; printed traditional Japanese washi [rice paper] and raffia for papercrafts; a variety of beads and kits for intricate beadwork; and woodworking supplies, stains, and hinges. They also have a nice variety of make-it-yourself cooking kits aimed at a younger age group: bread, flavored popcorn, caramels, taiyaki [sweet bean-filled fish-shaped cakes], donuts, macarons, chocolates, and gummis.
Nippori Fabric Town (Nippori Sen-I-Gai)
If you want stores and stores filled with every kind of fabric and trim imaginable, Nippori Fabric Town warrants at least one visit if you ever make it to Tokyo! (Map in English available here) Vintage kimono fabrics, leather hides, printed cottons, lace, polys, pellons...whatever you could possibly desire is likely available somewhere along this strip south of the JR train station. This destination is popular with the Gothic Lolita crowd since there are also a few stores carrying licensed fabric in Lolita-style prints (think kittens, bows, ribbons, hearts, playing card symbols, printed lace on pastel backgrounds), make-your-own parasol kits, lace trims, grommets, and boning.
Of course smaller craft stores are scattered throughout the country, though my favorites are Mano Creare at Futako Tamagama's RISE mall, and any 100-yen Shop (the equivalent of our Dollar Stores stateside). At Mano Creare I was amazed at the wool roving for felting, available in rainbow of colors and a number of cute kits, and the PVC lacing crochet kit to make your own Anteprima-style crocheted bags (which, since the original and very popular bags retail for $180, the kit, at $130, could hardly have been called a deal)...as well as the well-stocked crafting book section. And the 100-yen store is always a great source for the smaller notions, such as thread, needles, awls, bead cases and organizers, stickers, paints, and clays - all for only 100 yen each! (About $1.23 USD at today's exchange rate.)
Wherever you go in Japan you're likely to find kits and supplies for making things - as being skilled with one's hands is almost considered a given here! So no matter whether you're at the grocery or convenience store, 100-yen or dedicated fabric shop - there will almost certainly be something available to help you create one-of-a-kind beauty.
Check out more from Carly J. Cais and see her awesome projects at Chic Steals.