Textiles and design from Japan have always beguiled me with their beauty, form and textures conspiring to tell a story of a nation’s culture and tradition all in an unassuming piece of tapestry. The simple monograms one sees on a piece of cloth may in fact be a family crest that goes back centuries or how a ‘tie-dyed’ fabric is in fact a complex diminishing art form called ‘Shibori.’ The mission this time around was to look for textiles as gifts for friends back in London.
A quick JNTO search turned up Yanesen, which seemed interesting due to the traditional Japanese atmosphere that purportedly still lingers there. Yanesan is the combination of the 3 neighbourhoods of Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi.
This visit was my great plan to kill multiple birds with one stone. as this was my plan…….
- Distract myself for the morning before meeting Gerry at the Chocolate show later in the afternoon
- Visit Nippori Textile Town for T, who is undertaking shoe design in London
- Get some info on Furoshiki for my future use
- Get some traditional textiles for M for her shawl
- Get a very special gift for P, after searching Tokyo to no avail
- Visit a part of Tokyo I have never experienced before
Landing at Sendagi station with initial aim of finding Isetatsu (A traditional Washi or papercraft store), I managed to get lost and wander into Yanaka and Nezu, which fulfilled the ‘nesan’ part of this tour.
The coolest street though, was the short walk through the fascinating Yanaka Ginza en route to Nippori.
This narrow street was abuzz with activity from the locals doing their everyday shopping. The air did have a tinge of tradition to it as everyone went about their business.
Wonderful aromas wafted from every corner, from pickles, fresh seafood, tea to fried foods. This store above in particular sold a kind of fritter that was apparently featured on TV. There was a line of customers there and though I was hungry, my focus was elsewhere.
Having failed to find a perfect gift at Itetatsu, I chanced upon this wonderful store 金吉園 (Kanekitien) along Yanaka Ginza. A hot cup of green tea greets visitors, encouraging them to stay a while and browse through their teas and collection of traditional wood craft and textile wares. Looking around, I found the perfect gift for P and M. Distracted by this wonderful discovery, I neglected to take a picture of this shop and had to steal it from a Japanese website instead.
Further down Yanaka Ginza, a little shop selling quaint Japanese figurines and textiles captured my attention and it was here that I found some beautiful Furoshiki.
Time was not on my side and I had to rush to Nippori and along the way, chanced upon a ancient looking temple. A quick photo shot and peek beyond the gates revealed that it was instead a cemetary, Yanaka Cemetary to be exact. Oops.
A short distance from the cemetery came Nippori Station and beyond that, Nippori Textile Town.
Calling this a town would be an overstatement, but it is a rather big and long street filled with textiles shops. For those with no time, a visit to the Tomato Nippori shop will fill most needs. This is a multistory textiles superstore with an extensive range of textiles for the bargain hunter, budding designer or connoisseur of cloth.
Perhaps in my haste, the task of finding traditional Japanese textiles, preferably with samurai or traditional tattoo motifs on them went unfulfilled. On the main street, the only traditional style textiles were commercially printed ones that are made into a plethora of products like the same textile used to make my name-card holder.
Though slightly disappointed, it was my fault, as more time spent looking would have perhaps uncovered what I was after. Yanesen is a charming area well off the beaten path for tourists (I think…for I did not see any gaijin there). Next time, I will give Yanesen a fair go to fully experience how Tokyo was like back in the day.