Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sew Sweet :: Cashless capers in Textile Town

And so here we finally were. Nippori Textile Town in the outer Tokyo suburbs. With quiet anticipation of the fabric discoveries we would make and armed with this map, we exited the subway and followed the signs to a main street full of fabric stores. It's a rather non-descript street in a residential neighbourhood where everyone rides on bikes. The stores also look rather non-descript, but that didn't matter when there was fabric goodness to be found!

We wandered up one side of the street, scanning a few things we planned to come back for. We didn't want to laden ourselves with goodies too soon, but already there were lots of "Wow's!", "Look at this!" and "Oh my goodness, I NEED to have that!" After lunch in an Italian cucina called Cinderella (ok, so there wasn't much choice in the eats department on this street & the air-con was highly appreciated!), we headed down the other side of the street.

And this is where we discovered the store of all fabric stores...Tomato. This place is split into several shopfronts, one specialising in soft furnishings, another in trimmings & sewing accessories...but the best was the main store. 5 storeys of the most amazing fabrics at amazing prices! It was Tokyo's take on our Spotlight stores...but on steroids! Ok, so Spotlight doesn't even compare. We knew there were bargains to be had when we could see the masses of women rifling through fabrics on the ground floor.

We systematically scanned every floor, so we could see what we wanted to buy. And believe me, there was SO much we wanted to buy. And that's when we came to a little problem. After finding some amazing fabric for our business, we proceeded to the counter with all 12 rolls. We'll have 3m of each thanks. After cutting the third roll, I see a's Cash Only. What?? Yes, all 5 floors we're told...Cash only. Stop, more cutting we say! Neither Tiff or I had too much cash on us, so while Tiff waited with the fabric, I dashed down the street, trying to find an ATM that would accept my card. No such luck. I had an inkling getting cash out of Japanese banks could be difficult & we were in the 'burbs. It wasn't gonna happen.

So there we were, shaking out our coinage to pay for the 3 pieces that had already been cut. We must have looked like we couldn't afford the stuff! Here they are:

We couldn't believe our luck. We just couldn't believe a big place like that didn't accept credit cards. We'd come all this way to stock up on fabric for our business & our own personal stash...only to be stumped up by a lack of cash. And I think it was pretty much the same for all the other little shops on the street. I did manage to scrape together some cash to pick up these goodies, also from Tomato - a few trimmings and French-inspired fat quarters:

So everyone, the moral of the story is...if you're heading out Nippori way, be CASHED up or you'll find yourself commiserating all the way home! And the upside to this story...we saved a lot of pennies including excess baggage fees! N


Anonymous sally said...

What beautiful fabric! No credit cards? Good to know! The hubby is flying out to Tokyo in a few weeks and I'm trying to find fabric stores for him to visit. =) I'll have to tell him to bring a lot of cash!

12:38 am, September 25, 2006  
Blogger Ali said...

I was shocked when I first lived in Japan at how much cash everyone carried, then I discovered how frequent the 'Cash only' phenomenon is. You'll just have to go back!

3:07 am, September 25, 2006  
Anonymous amanda said...

Almost all post offices (even in small towns) have ATMs that accept foreign cards. Also some convenience store ATMs also accept foreign cards and have English instructions. Banks seem to have the least connected ATMs - they usually accept Japanese cards only.

9:02 am, September 25, 2006  
Blogger nicbiccie said...

Hi guys...oooh Sally, lucky you - a hubby to bring back fabric goodies for you! I think it's only the Nippori stores that needed cash...the Marunan fabric store in Shibuya gladly accepted our Visa's! Yes Ali, we will just have to go back someday! It's weird...we never had a problem with credit cards until that day! And thanks for the post ofice tip Amanda...I did try a convenience store but with no luck...Citibank branches seemed to be the best bet for foreign cards!

1:46 pm, September 25, 2006  
Anonymous suzy said...

Oh no! That would have been torture... so much great fabric and not being able to buy it. I was at Tomato yesterday, I'm kind of glad it is cash only as it forces me to exercise at least a little bit of restraint.

11:06 am, September 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a passer by reading ur blog. In general most of Japan doesn't take any type of card, they mainly take cash. Out of all the fabric stores in Nippori the Tomatoe store is the best bargin for extreamly cheap fabric but if ur also into higher end fabric or leather the price is also quite good. I bought a skin of leather treated like crocodile skin for 20 canadian and it was a huge piece. For any sewing enthusiest who are traveling to Tokyo, Nippori is a most stop.

3:21 pm, October 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you walk down the first street on left to the Nippori Station East Exit towards the end of the 2nd block you will find a Post Office. Maybe this will be of help on your next visit.
I have visited those shops and it is fantastic even just to watch all the fabrics.

9:09 am, October 31, 2006  
Blogger Megan said...

I just found your blog as I was searching for fabric stores in Tokyo. I'm going for a visit in just over a month and am trying to figure out where to shop! It's good to know about the cash or else I may have been very disappointed.

One question, though, if you happen to remember - what are the fabric prices like? Obviously it will be enormously better than paying local (US) prices for imported fabric, but I'm trying to figure out how to budget my vacation stash...


8:18 am, March 31, 2007  
Anonymous Tiff said...

Hi Megan,

The fabric prices are much better than buying online... Cute fabric on cotton starts at about 350 Yen... and the linen with cute designs starts at about 1000 Yen.

If you can't make it out to Nippori town Mauranan at Shibuya is excellent... if you come out of the station and are facing the big crossing (mega TV screens) turn left and walk up the hill. It is on the left hand side and there is lots of fabric hanging from the doors and walls. You can't miss it.

hope this helps,


11:07 pm, April 01, 2007  
Blogger Sheila said...

Thanks for the helpful info on Tomato. I love love love your flickr photos!


3:30 am, February 15, 2008  
Blogger cidell said...

Oh fantastic. I hope to be in Japan next October. I'll have to check back here.

4:54 am, September 22, 2008  
Blogger helen-mary said...

I'm so glad I found this post. I'm going to Tokyo in January for the Quilt Festival. I cannot wait - very excited!!

2:20 pm, December 22, 2008  

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