Usually on Thursdays, I like to share fabric finds, or post about fabric shopping. But I just had to do this eBook review today because it is totally relevant to fabric + craft shopping!
You must have heard about the Tokyo Craft Guide by now, for those of you who have already bought it, I bet you are planning for a trip to Tokyo right now. For those of you who haven’t, here is a sneak peek and you know you will want to have your own copy after seeing these pictures.
I have been to Japan many times, but only 3 times to Tokyo. The first time I went, I was not yet into sewing. Second time I went, I tried searching on the internet for fabric shops and the information was scarce. At that time I only found Odakaya in Shinjuku, which was a pretty good find because it was quite a large fabric shop with many floors selling not just fabrics but all sorts of craft supplies. It was near a major station, Shinjuku, but it was not easy to find because Shinjuku station itself is so massive it is easy to get lost in there.
I could not help but think that there must be a lot more craft shopping out there, given that Japan is the land of craft and zakka. After all these years of poring over Japanese sewing books, I have learned how to search on the internet for craft shops but even then, most of the shops are scattered all over Tokyo and there is no single website or guide book in English that shows you where the out-of-the-way, hard-to-find shops are.
On my recent trip to Nani Iro Atelier (in Osaka), I thought I was pretty well prepared. I copied the map from the official website, wrote down the main landmarks, road names etc and even saved the google maps on my mobile for reference. But the minute I got out of the station, I went in the wrong direction (the map on the website gave the impression that the station exit was on the other side of the road). In a nutshell, I turned left instead of turning right. It was starting to look strange as I seemed to be walking into a business district full of tall buildings, so luckily I decided to walk in the other direction for a look, stopped by a courier office (where lots of courier deliveryman were taking their break ;P) and asked for directions. Well, they are the experts in recognizing addresses right? So I did end up at my destination and it was not along a shopping district or even a large building. That’s the thing about shopping in Japan. There are the large department stores (easy to find) with their luxury goods and high end crafting supplies, and then there are these little boutiques selling very specialized/specific ranges of craft supplies.
So how do we go about looking for these out-of-the-way, hard-to-find, only-the-locals-know-it type of places? It’s Tokyo Craft Guide to the rescue!
Written by Frances Arikawa of Miss Matatabi fame (aka my nani IRO supplier), and Angela Salisbury of Sake Puppets fame, they have accumulated their years of Tokyo craft shop discoveries and knowledge in a convenient eBook. Why an eBook?
1. You can view it on your mobile/iPad, or any other device that you are already carrying with you on the trip anyway.
2. Even if you don’t have a device, you can just print out the selected maps and addresses of the places you are going, without having to lug a heavy guide book along. You know you need every bit of your luggage space for carting fabrics and craft supplies back home.
3. Within the ebook, there are lots of links to the shop websites , or you can just click on the links that say “MAP” (the pink button in the shop listings) and it brings you to the actual location on Google Maps! You don’t even have to copy the address and do the search yourself. If you switch to street view you can even get an idea of what the place looks like which helps alot when you are looking for a place.
Awesome isn’t it? Now let’s have a sneak peek inside the book.
The book divides the shopping areas into 6 main areas. Each section starts with an introduction, followed by a map showing the locations of the shop listings within that area. Very handy for planning your shopping route. I like how major landmarks are included because it helps you identify that you are at least on the right track or around the correct neighbourhood.
Within each area, there are detailed listings and photographs of the shops you can find there….
Note how both the English address and Japanese address are both included? This is extremely useful because if you need to ask someone, you need to know how to pronounce it. But you will realize when you are walking around the streets, that the road names and building names are mostly in Japanese, so you really need to have an idea of what the Japanese name looks like. In any case if you really get lost, you could ask a local for help by showing them the Japanese address.
You know you can’t cover the area in one day, so there are even recommendations for good eats and for a little rest & relax.
There are even suggestions for other activities to do around the area at the end of every section. Interesting places to walk around, and more shopping places that may not necessarily be craft shops but still worth checking out.
The last bit of the book covers some useful tips on shopping in Japan, most of the time when you are buying pre-packaged items it is easy enough to get by without saying a word. But for items like fabric, ribbons, etc. anything that requires cutting or measurement, you will need this guide. I’m just showing an excerpt here without giving the whole page away, but this is just part of a very good guide for buying different lengths of fabric and how to communicate that to the shop assistant. If all else fails, just whip this page out and point to the number you want! 😛
So thanks to the Tokyo Craft Guide, I finally know where to buy things that I have seen so much of in books and magazines.
I end with my favourite quote from the book.