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Guide to shopping online and offline for Japanese Sewing Books and Fabrics

Buying Guide Japanese Fabrics

Fabric Shopping in Tokyo – Nippori Fabric Town

December 24, 2015

Christmas is around the corner and very soon it will be the New Year! I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone by. Being busy with the baby has made me lose count of days (and nights) and it’s no wonder how fast the days flew by. I think this will be the last post for the year, since I would really like to spend Christmas spending more time with the family during this festive period. Next year will be a really challenging one for me so I have to make the best of the last bit of the school holidays as well!

Since it’s the last post of the year, what better way to recap the year than to finally get around to posting the pictures from my unforgettable trip to Nippori Fabric/Textile Town. I posted some when I was there on my Instagram account, but not everyone follows me on that so bear with me if you have seen some of these pictures before. I thought about taking a video/series of pictures to show you how to get there, but there are already many many blogs on this topic, so I didn’t. In any case, it was not difficult to locate despite the fact it was my first time there. So here are just a few key points to remember.


Get on the Yamanote Line towards Ueno & Ikebukuro and head for Nippori station. I got on from Tokyo station and it was only 6 stops away. If you have not been to Japan before, you will be pleased to know that the subway announcements are in English & Japanese, so you won’t miss your stop! If you are travelling with a hubby/guy/man who prefers NOT to be shopping for fabrics but loves his tech gadgets, you can even drop him off at Akihabara which is 2 stops away from Tokyo station and along the way to Nippori. You can compete to see who who will take the longer time to finish shopping. 😛


I took the South exit which brought be across this Momiji Bridge.  Just follow the signs that are everywhere, starting from the exit of the subway station.


Keep going….


Very soon you will start seeing these flags along the street.


and then of course the fabric shops.




I didn’t go into this one because it was across the street and I didn’t have time, but it is a fabric store specializing in Costumes and Stage fabrics.


A shop selling pieces of leather for sewing


and of course the very famous Tomato Fabric shop. This is just ONE of their many branches on the same street. Each branch stocks different fabrics.  Ask any staff if you are looking for something in particular, they will whip out a map of Nippori Fabric Town and show you which building to look for.


Across the street (from the building above), is a Tomato branch full of discounted fabrics! 100yen per m!


In one of the Tomato shops, on the 4th (or was it 5th?) floor, I found the naniIRO fabrics. Most of the other design fabrics are on the same floor as well. Kayo Horaguchi, Echino, as well as all the cute character prints, panel prints, laminates. Well, all my favourites. I skipped lunch to shop this floor.


While I was fabric shopping, my SO found this little supermarket and bought this melon at like 400yen! Which is a great deal if you know how much melons cost in Japan.

I did not have time or manage to finish the whole street. I pretty much shopped in Tomato first, because everyone says it is a must go. By the time I ended, everyone else was tired (but me) and it was starting to get dark and baby was getting fussy. So that was pretty much it. I still returned with a heavy bag of fabrics though. One whole duffel bag full. Here’s what I got.


Laminates, and the last Hanauta one is a nylon fabric.


The quilted fabrics (actually the top two are from Pandora house)


My 100 yen fabrics. Should have bought more 🙂


These took up the bulk of my purchase. Knits! It’s so hard to find nice knits here. Even plain simple ones like polka dots, which will be great for making basics like skirts/shorts for the kids.


and some cute ones like this – I think these are llamas? This has already been made into a cute tshirt for my boy 🙂


I find it really hard to resist panda prints.


Here’s one on skis! This is a double gauze, and I must think of something to make with it that will go well with skiing? Any ideas?


More soft double gauze that I will use to make the baby some shirts with.


and I have a soft spot for Puti de pome fabric. It was hard narrowing it down to these two choices.


Oh, and I almost forgot to share with you all the notions I bought. This loot is from both Tomato and Pandora house, and they were mainly Zips, acrylic color tape for making bags, knit bias tape (which wasn’t cheap but it’s hard to find these here). I stocked up on lots of combination/free style zips which allows me to mix and match the different zips and zipper pulls. I used up the last batch and found them really useful for making jackets and bags.

It doesn’t look like much, but with a minimum of 1m per design, it came up to quite a heavy load. I brought a big foldable travel duffel along and it was filled up! Despite not being able to visit all the shops, I still had a great time in Nippori fabric town and now I’m plotting how to go back next year, or sometime soon! I will definitely bring something larger, and preferably with wheels, to carry my purchases.

Well, that’s the end of my little report on my trip. I’ll be signing off for this year, so here’s wishing everyone a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Buying Guide Japanese Fabrics

Fabric Shopping in Japan – Pandora House in Narita Aeon Mall

December 3, 2015

Every time I go to Tokyo, it is almost without fail that I end up at Narita the night before my flight. Why Narita? Someone asked me once. There is nothing much to do there, in terms of sightseeing, but anyone who has travelled with young children will understand how difficult it is to wake up really early, lug the kids+luggage to the train station,  challenged by mutliple flights of stairs just to get to the Narita Express train platform, and feel completely exhausted by the time it is time to board a 7hr flight back home.

But that is only part of the reason, the other reason being a chance to visit Narita Aeon Mall for some last minute shopping! If you ever find yourself on a short stopover, transit, or just a couple of hours to spare at Narita Airport, this activity is highly recommended 🙂 There is a shuttle bus service from Narita Airport to Aeon Mall. The timetable is here ,although it seems like a very badly translated one, hope it will help!

I’ve actually blogged about Panodra House before, 3 years ago, when it was just a little corner of the main store in Aeon Mall.

This time round, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there were lots of new shops at the mall, and a new upsized stand alone Pandora House store!


It is on the second floor near the escalators, and was quite easy to find.


I was immediately drawn to the Character fabrics at the front of the store. Look! A Frozen theme sewing machine on display.


Sewing machines on display. Unfortunately due to voltage differences I can’t just bring one home with me. There was a larger display with more machines on the left hand side of the shop with a gentlemen doing a demo on a machine.


More fabrics and sample sewing items..


Cut pieces of faux leather. 580yen each if I remember correctly.


Fabric sold in multiples of 10cm at 51yen per 10cm (after tax). Not a huge selection, but pretty varied in types and colors. Here you can see some basics like stripes and dots, but also traditional Japanese prints.


A little corner for sewing books and patterns. Spotted some M patterns on the side shelf on the left as well. It is not a huge selection, but I also discovered a large bookshop 未来屋書店 Miraiya Shoten right next to Pandora House. I had no time to explore it though, as my time was running out 😛


Sewing notions


lots of colors to choose from!


I had never come across this before, so I had to take a photo of this. These are plastic encased bells and specially designed for use in baby toys. I wished I chanced upon this earlier, as I made a fabric ball toy for my boy recently, and used 2 metal bells. Now I worry about how it will hold up in the wash. These come in a few different shapes for making different baby toys.


Other than sewing supplies, there are also lots of craft supplies, like yarn, wool felting, and this one in particular looks like it’s trending at the moment. I don’t know if it is a brand new thing but its my first time seeing it. It’s called Silicon Motif. Here’s an example I found on Rakuten. I forgot to take photos of the finished products on display, but they were really pretty. Basically you set jewels and charms in a silicon mold. It’s quite similar to the idea of UV resin but I think the results are much prettier.

siliconmotifsImage from ABC Craft on Rakuten

Here are some photos of my loot… Not much, as I had limited luggage space left on the last day.


Quilted fabric. Already made a new pot holder from the hedgehog fabric.


Knits at 780 yen each. 140cm wide x 1m long.


Pre-cut fabrics. Thick and canvas like for making bags.


More blue fabrics 🙂 , and a small piece of double gauze with a cute cars print.


Stocking up on zips! Knit bias tape for making quick Ts for my little boy. Not cheap, but I hate cutting knit bias tape.

The fabric selection at this shop is not as comprehensive as a full size fabric store of course. If you are looking for designer fabrics like nani IRO, Kayo Horaguchi or Echino, you won’t find any. However, there was a decent selection of Kokka character prints, the classic Sanrio ones plus the trending ones like Star Wars. There were also other Kokka fabrics, lots of ready cut fabrics (0.5m/1m), double gauze fabrics, bag fabrics, kids and baby double gauze fabrics, pre-cut leather, fleece, quilted fabrics and some knits. I picked up a few knit remnants for cheap! Oh there is also Laura Ashley and another brand that was displayed quite prominently. I’ve seen it in one of the magazines but I just can’t recall the name right now. pretty floral prints mostly based on darker and sombre colored fabrics. It starts with a ‘So…’ but I just can’t remember it somehow. Do you know it? Please tell me if you do!

I will be posting photos of my trip to Nippori fabric town soon, once I’ve taken photos of my loot from there. I chose to post this first because it’s the holiday season and time for travel, so it may  benefit some of you who are doing a a few hours stopover in Tokyo.

Buying Guide

Buying Guide – Buying Japanese Fabrics from – Part 2

October 3, 2015

Today I will share with you, other shopping tips for Rakuten. I will also share with you some search terms you might need to get you started.


I think I have mentioned in my previous post, that some Rakuten shops ship worldwide. Unfortunately, the shipping fees are usually NOT calculated in the checkout process as it depends on the size of your order. I can’t say if that is the case for all items on Rakuten but at least for fabric shops this is the most common problem encountered when opting to ship international. They will usually email you after determining the shipping costs. You will need to confirm it before they will process your order.

Here’s how to filter out these shops that will deliver worldwide.



If you are opting for domestic shipping (like the method I used previously), look out for the free shipping requirement which differs for each shop.


The words to look out for “送料無料”. Within the same banner you will see the minimum amount required to qualify for free shipping. Sometimes it says 5000円 (where 円 is the Japanese word for Yen) and a 5400 in brackets which actually means 5400 after tax as Sales tax is 8%. This free shipping is only meant for domestic shipping. Other shipping charges are usually detailed under the Payment お支払い / Shipping page 送料. Sometimes there is a flat fee, and sometimes it is tiered so it really varies. 

I have also encountered a few shops that specify that they will NOT ship even to mailing agents. I had my order cancelled from one of these shops. You may not find this info on the homepage of the shop though, it is usually buried in the shipping conditions. This may be a little tricky to spot so it will be easier if you have the browser translator enabled. However, it is not that common, I have stumbled across 2 such shops while browsing through maybe at least 10 or more shops? If you are not sure, just go ahead and place your order, at the most you will get your order cancelled. You will probably be able to find the same fabric elsewhere though, since many of the shops carry the same items.


Search Terms

To help you get started on searching for fabrics, here are some keywords you can use.

Category Keywords to use in search(just cut and paste into search bar) Translation
Knits ニット生地プリントニット



フリース ニット生地


Knit fabric (any type of knit fabric)Print knits (with prints)

Plain knits (solid colors, no prints)

Rib knits

Fleece knits

Smooth knits (smooth knit fabric great for baby sewing projects)

Cotton fabric コットン 生地

無地コットン 生地

ガーゼ 生地

ダブルガーゼ 生地

プリントコットン 生地

綿麻 生地

Cotton fabric

Solids (no prints)

Cotton fabric

Gauze fabric

Double gauze fabric

Print Cotton fabric

Cotton Linen fabric

Linen リネン 生地


Linen fabric

Color linen fabric

Bag sewing ナイロン生地



キャンバス 生地

Nylon fabric

Laminate fabric

Waterproof fabric

Canvas fabric

Other keywords キャラクター生地







Character fabrics (All the cutesy character prints)

Polka Dotted Fabric

Check fabric

Striped fabric

Floral fabric

Border prints (stripes fabric)

Animal prints

Obviously, the list above is not exhaustive. It is meant to get you started on the search, and once you get to a fabric shop with that search keyword, you will notice that there are usually a lot of banners and links and categories to look through. Here’s when you go crazy browsing 🙂


Screenshot of banners from one of the Rakuten fabric shops. There are banners for the different fabric categories, as well as banners for types of prints, special sale events and featured fabrics.


The other way to browse fabrics of the same type is to look at the breadcrumb navigation. This shows you the different categories that this particular fabric is in. You will need to turn on your browser translator for this to make sense. From the above example, say you were shopping for Back to school sewing fabric and came across this Hello Kitty fabric, you  might want to look at other Girls fabric, or other Quilted fabrics. Just click on the links. Usually one fabric is listed under multiple categories.


Common Japanese Terms used to describe Fabric

Ok, you’ve found a fabric that you think you like, but how can you tell the thickness and softness of the fabric by looking at the picture? Here are the Japanese terms you will need to know.

生地のかたさ Hardness of Fabric 柔らかめ Soft / 普通  Normal / かため Stiff
生地の厚み Thickness of fabric 薄手 Thin / 中肉  Medium / 厚手 Thick

I hope this will make your shopping experience on Rakuten much easier! If you come across any other term you need help with that cannot be translated on the browser, as some shops do embed information in graphics rather than text, just take a screenshot of the term and email me. If you have any other search keywords or type of fabric you need translation help, check out my free Dictionary of Japanese Sewing Terms first, there is a longer list of translated fabric names on it. It’s not on the list? Leave a comment below and I’ll reply as soon as I can.

Have a great weekend and happy shopping! 🙂


Buying Guide Guides

Buying Guide – Buying Japanese Fabrics from – Part 1

September 26, 2015

As promised, here is the updated guide to how I buy Japanese fabrics from Rakuten’s Japanese site – Why the rewrite? Firstly, at least half of the original post is no longer valid. The interface of the global Rakuten has changed such that you can’t see your last viewed items from on the homepage (although I have discovered you can actually see your last viewed list from the search results page) In any case, even if you manage to view the Japanese product page on the global site, the English site only has a truncated version of the Japanese page and leaves out important information. So the best way is still to shop on the Japanese site. This, by the way, is not a sponsored post for either Rakuten or Tenso. Just sharing my personal shopping experience. Once you get the hang of it, you can buy almost anything, not just fabrics, from Rakuten!

There are lots of online shops selling Japanese designer fabrics like nani IRO, echino, Kokka fabrics etc. If you are looking for those it might be cheaper to purchase them from one of the many available online shops since they absorb the bulk shipping cost for you. Rakuten is my only fall back when I want to purchase fabrics that are made in Japan and are not readily available outside of Japan. For example, my recent order was for knit fabrics. The variety of knit fabrics in Japan is just mind boggling. There are jacquard knits, reversible knits, fleece knits, double layer knits, organic, bamboo, smooth knits….. the list goes on. Most of these shops on Rakuten will only ship domestic, but some will ship worldwide. I choose to use a shipping forwarder so that I can shop from all the shops without worrying if they will ship overseas. Note that there are some shops that specifically refuse to ship even to shipping forwarders.

A little about how Rakuten functions

Rakuten is essentially a giant marketplace offering goods from different stores. It is probably closer to gmarket (from korea) than amazon. So when you purchase different items from different stores, you can choose to checkout individually from each store. This also means that there are different limits that will qualify for free shipping which you have to check on each store’s shipping policy.

As I am writing this I realize that, in order to cover the entire process of how to actually shop from Rakuten, it will take more than 1 blog post. So in this post I will go through the main process of buying (assuming you already know what you want), checking out and getting it shipped to you. In Part 2 – I will show you how I search and browse for items, with keywords and shop recommendations, as well as looking out for free shipping limits, shops that ship worldwide and any other things to look out for.

Before I start, here is a quick breakdown of the costs and the timeline.

14th September – Placed order at 9.18am
14th September – Received email from shop at 4.05pm saying that items have been shipped, tracking number provided.
15th September – Shipment arrives at Tenso’s office at 2pm
16th September – Recieved email from Tenso saying they have received my parcel. I paid for shipping on the same day.
17th September – Tenso ships out parcel

Fabric Cost
3.5m of knits – 3350yen

Shipping Costs
Domestic to Tenso = 0 (for this shop it is free for orders above 3000 yen)
International from Tenso to Singapore
Weight     : 1260 g
Shipping Method : EMS
International shipping fee: 2400 yen
Handling fee   : 800 yen
Insurance fee : 0 yen (insured)
Total fee     : 3200 yen

Total = 3350 + 3200 = 6550 yen which is approximately SGD 78 / USD55
which works out to SGD22/m or USD15/m

So is it worth it? I know many of you now may be taken aback by the shipping cost from Tenso. But the package was quite thick, as two of the knits were wider than normal. Also, Japanese knit fabrics are hard to come by in Singapore. There are some Japanese imported knits in Spotlight, some geometric and floral prints, but these usually start at SGD16.99/m. If you ask me, the quality and prints can’t be beat, so yes it was worth it! And regards to the choice of using Tenso, I have only used another mail forwarder which is VPost Japan, a service from our local post company. They pretty much do the same thing but I feel that it is slightly slower and more expensive so I stick to Tenso and I’m pretty happy with their quick service!

Those of you who are still keen, let’s move along and start shopping!

A quick overflow of the process

1. Register for Tenso Account (or the forwarder of your choice) to get your Japanese mailing address and phone number
(Do note that you have to verify your identity the first time you use their service. Read more about this here. Apparently this is a Japanese legal requirement for all forwarding agents. If you are uncomfortable with this then I guess there will be no Panda knits for you >.< )
2. Shop for Fabric
3. Register for account with Rakuten, checkout and ship to Tenso’s warehouse in Japan.
4. Tenso will email you for payment for processing and international.
5. Once you have paid for shipping, they will ship it to you!


Register for a free account with Tenso or your mailing agent

Login and get your personalized address from. Basically all the Tenso addresses are the same (it ships to their warehouse). The only difference is your account number which is what they will use to identify your packages and mail them to you.


Keep this window open as you will need the information later on checkout.

Now it’s time to shop!

So let’s say I am buying the panda fabric today. Things I need to know
1. how wide the fabric is so I can decide how much to buy for my project
2. How to select the correct color
3. How to input the correct quantity

Let’s go!


Yes the product page is super long! The first part includes pictures of the fabric, descriptive text mainly about the fabric, suggested types of projects etc. Important points to note under this section (see red text in pictures below)

productaddtocartYes I know.. the ADD TO CART button is sooo obscure, it breaks all the rules in good web designing for ecommerce.

Anyway, just for example,if I would like to buy 1.5m of the grey fabric, I should do the following.


So it’s not that difficult eh? Match the color names (or use the color codes), select color, enter quantity and add to cart. The most important thing here is to note the width (巾) and the fabric units. This particular fabric is quite narrow – 85cm, while other knits can be extra wide like 140cm/175cm. As for the fabric units, I have seen some fabrics sold in 10cm units, and some 1m units. These are some of the more common ones. Just look for the “XXcm单位”.

Sometimes you may look high and low and can’t find out where to select the color and enter the quantity. Like this one


That’s because it is sold out, so the quantity box and Add to cart button doesn’t display anymore.

Or, if you see an ‘x’ for some of the color options (see below), it also means that it is sold out.


If that happens, you can select the name of the fabric and try to search again across the entire Rakuten site. This is because the same fabric can be sold in many different stores. This also means that you can do some price comparisons for the best deal.

After you click on Add to Cart, the shopping cart page looks like this.  Check your color option, and quantity. If it is correct, click on the red button to checkout the shopping cart.


Once you have decided what to purchase, it is time to checkout!

After clicking the checkout button, it will bring you to this page.


I shall assume that since you are reading this guide, you have not created an account yet. So let’s focus on the second form for registration. This is where you will enter your Japanese (Tenso or other mailing agent’s) shipping address so make sure you are logged in to Tenso and have the address ready to copy over.

If your browser has a built in translator, use it! It will stop your throbbing headache immediately 🙂


See how everything makes more sense? But if you don’t have a translator, this is how to fill it in.


Copy all the values from your own Tenso page. Note! The TSXXXXXX is your own Tenso number which you can copy from your address. You can also follow the guide from Tenso on how to fill up the Rakuten form. It’s pretty much the same thing except that they left out the bottom part of the form.

Wait, I’m stuck at the first field. What is my  name in kanji???

As for the kanji name, it is a little bit tricky, you can generate it from one of the many online kanji generators but at your own risk! There are so many kanji characters with the same sounds that you can end up with a really funny name or even worse, a name with a bad meaning. If it matters to you what the characters are, you can try a site like this where they have already converted common English names to kanji, using characters with more positive meanings (although I can’t say that they all make sense). Just pick one that sounds like your name and split up the characters into the boxes. Usually there are 1-3 characters for the first name or last name. Another option is this site where they give you a lot of characters to choose from that give the same phonetic sounds as your name, you can view the meaning of each character and choose a combination you like.

Moving on to the next page after filling up this form

You will see the following. The page is really long so I am just showing you the overview here.


For the payment details, this is the translated form.
We can only choose credit card transaction since we can’t do Bank transfer or COD from overseas.


For the second part -delivery details, there are two options. Courier/Mail service. I’m not sure which is the better of the two, but I just stick to the default option ‘Courier’ (as long as it shows up as free domestic shipping in the end I’m happy). I think kuroneko is their speed delivery service? Anyway, I leave all the other options untouched, since it doesn’t matter to me which day the package gets shipped to the warehouse. Same for delivery time, I leave it untouched.

Click on the next button to move on to the next step – confirming your order


The last page summarizes everything, uncheck the options below if you don’t want to receive any emails from Rakuten. Check everything and click on the red button to submit!

All done on Rakuten, now to Tenso

Once you have submitted your order, you will receive an automatic email from Rakuten. Subsequently, you will receive the following emails.


and now you just sit back and wait for your package to arrive!


top right photo : free gift from the fabric shop

Phew, that was a long post! Forgive me if I took longer than expected to complete! There are still lots more to say about the actual shopping so I will post up part 2 about how to actually browse and shop, and any other tips I have about shopping on Rakuten, so stay tuned! If you still have any questions about the above process, or you see something that you don’t understand, just leave me a comment below and I will answer you as soon as I can.

Click here for Part 2 of Buying Fabrics from Rakuten

Buying Guide Guides

Where to buy – online sources for Japanese Sewing Books

October 3, 2013

I get a lot of questions about where to buy Japanese sewing books and magazines, so I decided to compile a list here.  This list is only for online shops as I think it will be more useful for now compared to a list of physical stores.

Kodomo Boutique CUCITO / Boutique Sha
FEMALE / Boutique Sha
Cotton Friend / Boutique Sha

Click on the above images to buy these Autumn magazines from CDJapan

I have grouped them by country but all of them offer international shipping, with some of them offering free domestic shipping above a certain purchase amount. I have chosen these few because they have a pretty good selection of books. I did come across many shops that sold a small collection of books but I decided not to list them all since I figured it might be more useful to list larger and more established bookstores with a wider selection.

Disclaimer : Other than CDJapan (of which I am an affiilate member), I am not linked or paid for any of the other links. I have not personally purchased from any of them (other than CDJapan) so I cannot vouch for their service or shipping time, nor did I compare their prices so it is up to you to check other customers reviews of the store’s service and do your homework in comparing item prices/shipping rates.

Etsy and eBay stores have an advantage because you can see their store ratings and tell if the stores are established and legitimate, but beware if you come across some ebook listings with really low prices. These are usually PDF scans of the actual books, but if you are buying a sewing book you definitely need the physical copy because you need the patterns!

So here goes is my list for now, and if you have more to add please email me at

Online Stores selling Japanese Books and/or Magazines that ship internationally





United States

Kinokuniya’s BookWeb Global Service(Online Shopping)

The following are online shopping websites of Kinokuniya. They only provide domestic shipping or self collection from the local stores (locations for each country are listed in the respective website). Free domestic shipping is provided above a certain amount. Since Kinokuniya is based in Japan, you can be sure to find every book that I have reviewed here, available for purchase unless it has become out of print and not even available in Japan. The books that are stocked in the local stores can be shipped out quickly, but if it is not in stock, you may have to wait for 2 weeks while they order the book from their main headquarters in Japan. The only problem is that Magazines are not listed in the database. Only books. I am pretty sure the physical stores stock the Magazines, but I do not know if it is possible to email them to add the Magazines to your orders. If any of you have tried, do let me know because I would love to find out!

If you are an online retailer of Japanese sewing books and magazines and would like to be listed here, email me at