Sunday, 3 May 2009

Tokyo Trip!!! Part One: Shopping

At last I have time to sit down and share some photos from my trip to Tokyo last week. This was just one part of a family holiday that also included the Gold Coast and rural Japan. We had a total of five days in Tokyo and it was just enough to get around to all of the major shopping/eating areas and get a taste of Tokyo style.

Let me just say from the outset that it is NOT easy to find places in Tokyo. Lots of streets don't have names and even if they do, they are not in English. Many places are hidden inside big buildings, down side streets or behind skyscrapers and you can waste a lot of time looking around and getting frustrated. I did a lot of initial research and used the Asking For Trouble Tokyo Shopping Guide and the Lonely Planet Tokyo Guide to help me get around, so I eventually managed to find most of the places I was looking for. Also, I concentrated on one or two areas each day so that I wouldn't have to backtrack. I was quite pleased with what I found, although next time (yes! there will be a next time) I would like to find more of the smaller indie zakka shops that are dotted about. Mainly I shopped in bigger department stores on this trip.

So here is what I found, starting with Harajuku...

Harajuku, where our apartment was, is the stamping ground of art students and teenagers and as such is packed with cute and kitsch fashion stores. My favourite places here were Kiddyland (7 floors of toys and sweet stuff), the Daiso 100 yen shop (everything is 100 yen, I bought tonnes of stuff here) and the Tama Depa, which is the official tamagotchi store. Apart from the toys and merchandise you can buy Tomagotchi fresh doughnuts and there is a fun video camera feature outside that my kids wanted to visit every day. And next to Kiddyland, a pizza place that has banana and marshmallow pizzas!

I didn't really explore clothing shops but there are loads of trendy places in Harajuku including La Foret deparment store, which was about to open a doll exhibition with Blythes and other dolls that looked fab, but it started the day after I left, boo!

We found a lovely restaurant in Harajuku called Mominoko. It is an organic/macrobiotic restaurant in a basement down a little lane and was a really welcoming place, with comfy chairs and blankets. I tucked into seaweed salad and tempura made from seasonal mountain vegetables, while the kids had a huge plate of pasta - not very Japanese but it kept them happy!

Near to Harajuku is Shibuya, a major shopping area. Here I found Loft, a homewares and gifts department store, great for kitchen things and stationery (and with a vintage vinyl record section), and Tokyu Hands. The latter was one of my favourite places in the whole trip. You can get anything here from bicycles, to packing materials, exquisite and useful stationery, party goods, DIY goods, and every craft item possible. They have the best range of washi masking tapes. There are a few branches of Tokyu hands but this one is by far the biggest and best. If you're travelling with a bloke, this is one shop you will both be happy to spend a few hours in!

I had allowed a whole morning to go to Nippori, which is famed as the fabric/textile area of Tokyo. It was quite a way from Harajuku and we got hopelessly lost trying to find the street with all the fabric shops. A lovely Japanese lady stopped to help me - I was looking for the Tomato fabric store and at first she thought I was looking for a shop to buy tomatoes! Eventually it was all sorted out and she took me to her friend, a local school teacher, who knew where it was. Once we got to 'Fabric Street' I sent the boys off for something to eat and went to explore.

Tomato is the most famous fabric store and it is located in several buildings, with floors for buttons, beads, embroidery and various types of fabric. On the very top floor of the main building is a massive amount of fat quarters and cut fabrics. I bought a little stack of cute fabrics, but I have to say that I was really disappointed with Tomato overall. Unless I missed something, the fabrics seemed to be either pretty boring, full of licensed kiddie's characters or a bit pricey - nothing you can't get online here in Australia.

The rest of the street is pretty cool, I found some good patterns and buttons, and there is a cute children's shop called Lemon that I found in my shopping guide.

Our next stop was Ebisu, where there is a great little museum which houses the world's longest tapeworm (8.8 metres). Yuck! Even my two boys were grossed out by this museum and have been much more keen to wash their hands before meals since they saw the display of worms! There is also a nice modern art museum and a photography museum in this area.

On the way back from the parasite museum, near to the Meguro metro station, I bought some cute fabrics and this very old fabric store called Lucky Star. The lady used an abacus and the world's oldest cash register to tot up our purchases!

And a few doors further on I was taken by surprise to find a whole shop full of Cram Cream stuff - called Outlet. We almost had to put our sunglasses on just to enter this very gaudy shop, but it wasn't hard to fill a large bag full of cute goodies!

Not far from this part of town is Daikanyama. I have since heard that there are some good indie boutiques in this area but my objective on this trip was to visit the Tokyo branch of Cath Kidston. Not very Japanese, I know, but we don't have a Cath Kidston shop in Australia and I was just curious to see how it worked in a Tokyo setting. It turned out to be pretty cute, just like the London shops but with Japanese staff. The range was not very extensive and I managed to only buy some tea towels (!!). The other shops around this part of Daikanyama seemed to be mostly foreign and pricey boutiques so we went to a convenience store and bought lots of sushi to eat in a little park we found. I might add here that Tokyo convenience stores (Mini Stop, 7-11 etc.) are nothing like the ones in Australia, you can actually get fresh, healthy snacks. They even have kettles so you can buy a pack of fresh noodles and make soup. We found these stores, which are everywhere, really helpful as it meant we weren't constantly on the search for cafes and restaurants.

We spent a good part of a day in Shinjuku, another major shopping area. Here I found Okadaya. My favourite shop in the whole trip. Okadaya has a 6-floor fabric store and a 7-floor craft store opposite. Having been disappointed at Tomato, this shop more than made up for it and I would advise any craft-aholics who have limited shopping time in Tokyo to head straight here rather than Nippori.

The ground floor of the fabric shop was packed with thousands of pretty fabrics, including many I have not seen before. Most were between 1000-1600 yen ($15-20) per metre, which is pretty good as they were really high quality and included some lovely linens and linen unions. I was quite restrained and walked away with this lovely stash.

Across the road I spent what seemed like hours in the floor devoted to craft books. I only wish there had been a few signs in English just saying 'knitting', 'embroidery' etc. as it took me ages to find the sections that interested me. But if you get inspired by Japanese craft books, with their gorgeous photography and breathtaking design, you will be in heaven here.

I also indulged in the ribbon department.

And I loved some of the craft kits on offer in Okadaya too!

Luckily there are some huge electronic stores in Shinjuku selling cameras, computers and every type of gadget, so I was able to send the guys off for a few hours while I seriously shopped. Later we met up and went to the Kinokuniya book shop, which also has a great selection of craft books, a bit more accessible than at Okadaya. There is a huge magazine section too, where I loved browsing the hip crafting, cooking and parenting mags. I bought these two lovely books about 'handmade Tokyo' - the each have a listing of small indie shops that I hope to explore on my next trip.

On the other side of Shinjuku there is a very modern shopping development called Takashimaya Times Square which has another branch of Kinokuniya and a Tokyu Hands - so if you're pushed for time you could kill two birds with one stone!

Ginza - this is the ritzy, glitzy shopping area of Tokyo. I went there specifically for the Itoya stationery store, which was a 7-floor shop packed with all kinds of paper goods. I am probably even more into stationery than craft supplies so I spent ages here admiring everything. I bought lots of cute stamps, letter sets, papers, tapes and other bits and bobs. This is just one tiny part of my haul.

While the boys explored the big Sony centre I went in search of Muji. Angela and I loved Muji on our trip to London last year and it was brilliant to see this Muji megastore, which has a lovely cafe too. I didn't buy much, as all the things I liked were either too big (furniture) or too small (clothes). Muji has a gorgeous clothing section, I wistfully wandered around it wishing I was tiny. Even the size Large here (if you can find it) would be about a 10 in Australia. Oh, well! Maybe I can make some myself using those lovely craft books!

Nearby Omotesando also has some very sweet little shops. This one appeared to be a chopstick and soup spoon specialist!

I think this covers most of the shopping I did during our Tokyo trip. I think you could pack all of this into about 4 days if you were organised and didn't have kids with you, but I found it nice to mix the shopping with other activities like musuems, eating and just people-watching.

I have only posted a few photos here but I will be uploading many more into Flickr next week if you are interested. Next up is my Japan Giveaway and tomorrow I will be writing some more posts focusing on the basics of a trip to Tokyo.


.girl ferment. said...

sounds fantastic

Hello Sandwich said...

Dearest Allison!
Thank you for sharing your Tokyo Tips with us! I really enjoyed reading them! I would love to go to the craft magazine shop in Shinjuku! That sounds amazing and I have never been! I wonder if it would be at all possible to get a scan of the page in your books that have the small indie Zakka shops and I can visit and take photos and buy you any thing you need from there? I have lots of Japanese friends who can help to translate the address' for us!
Hey did you know that Shibuya also has a ITOYA! I love that shop! I bought a whole stack of gouache paints there last time! And metallic and fluro colouring pencils! I love you new MT tape! Thats the one I want too!
Oh and I love that outlet shop too! I bought a stack of polka dot chop sticks from there a few trips ago!
Well lovely Allison have fun unpacking and using all of your wonderful new treats! And thank so much for sharing!
Love Love
Hello Sandwich / Ebony

Jo (sparkly green knickers) said...

My goodness, I'm so green with envy! Did you fly over with virtually nothing and buy some suitcases to fill once you arrived??

Amy (badskirt) said...

This is exactly what I needed! I've booked a flight to Japan for the end of June and am just compiling a list of must visit stores. I really appreciate this post tremendously. Also, thanks for the tips about the blokes. My husband decided to come with me on my fabric buying trek, so I'm really excited to find out where I can send him off while I'm shopping.

This is simply terrific!


Cass said...

Allison looks like a fantastic trip. I think Japan is on my trip wish list now

trixi said...

I want to go to Japan NOW. I am so jealous.I love Japanese craft books and materials and braids and....thanks so much for your trip report it was amazing.

lisa tilse said...

Thanks for your Tokyo round up Alison. It's so easy to buy lots of supplies isn't it?! I'm heading off in a couple of weeks - on my own - for some intensive art & craft shopping and gallery hopping. We were in Tokyo for 3 weeks last year, but I didn't know about Okadaya then - even though we stayed in Shnjuku. It's definitely on my list for this visit.

Don't you just love Jetstar?! I'm planning to go back every year now.

Did you get to Disneyland and Disney Sea with the kids? Sooo much fun!

cata said...

Thank you indeed, Alison, for your great article abuot Tokio's crafts stores.
I really enjoyed reading them!
Regards from Tuscany.

Linda said...

Oh my! That looks sooo fun! Great buys!

Lyn said...

ohmigoodness! this is sooo awesome! i love japanese products! the photos u took are so lovely - especially the fabric goodness *faints*. okadaya sounds and looks so heavenly. And stores devoted to Cram Cram and Cath Kidson? If only they has such stores here!
thanks for sharing the photos =)

btw, do you have daiso in australia?

AnastasiaC said...

awesome!! i hope to visit Japan one looks amazing!

belleandboo said...

I am literally drooling !!

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