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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 Firstly, at least half of the original post is no longer valid.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


Using Japanese Sewing Books

October 4, 2013

I stumbled upon a few archived pages from the early months of and I realized that they are not linked anywhere else in the blog and are in fact buried deep in the archives. So I decided to consolidate all the links to guide you in using Japanese sewing and pattern books. From browsing, choosing, buying to the actual making of the clothes. The links are all here and will be updated as and when I have new content added to the site.

Step 1. Buying a Japanese Sewing Book

  • Browse before you buy – You can browse through the books from certain publishers. Nihon-vogue , Bunka Publishing Bureau (how to browse on Bunka’s site will be posted soon!)
  • Pick one that has already  been translated – Japanese Sewing Books translated to English – Constantly updated list of Japanese Sewing Books that have been translated to English, and where to buy them.
  • Japanese Sewing Books in Japanese  – There are many sources for buying Japanese sewing books online. All the books I have reviewed include their ISBN numbers so you can search with that rather than having to key in Japanese. I have also included affiliate links on my right sidebar to for Japanese sewing books. It is an English site that sells books, cds and more, and best of all, ships worldwide from Japan.
  • Buying a Japanese sewing book in singapore . If you are located in or visiting Singapore, you might want to check out where to buy books and fabrics from physical stores in Singapore- Fabric and Book shopping in Singapore (and other cute Japanese stuff)

Step 2. Buy Fabrics

Step 3. Making

Additional Resources

This page will be updated whenever I add something new, so do bookmark this page and check it often!

If you have any questions or special requests for something you would like to see featured on my site, leave a comment below! Thank you!


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

Guides Translations and Help with Patterns

How to make – Quantity of fabric and materials

June 17, 2013

In order to locate the fabric quantity, you have to first locate the how-to-make page of the garment you are making. Refer to this page –

Next, right under the title of the garment, you will see this.

Here’s a close up view

I’ve broken down the above material list to show you how to identify quantities of fabrics to purchase for size 110.

So basically the measurements are given in a sequence, so just select the correct size and use the corresponding number for each material on the list. For a full list of sewing terms, refer to my Dictionary of Japanese Sewing Terms.


Browse Japanese Craft Books online

April 16, 2012

Today’s link is not for a free pattern, but an amazing discovery. It’s not a new thing but I had no idea it existed till last week! It’s a really useful website for me because firstly, it is from my favourite Japanese sewing books publisher Nihon Vogue. Secondly, it allows me to browse through the pictures in the book! In our local Kinokuniya, there is an online purchase option with free delivery above $50. Which is pretty handy if I know what books I want to get. But I will have to go down to the bookstore if I wanted to look through it first. However, in the bookstore, the books are always wrapped up to prevent people from browsing. So if I wanted to look through a book to see what designs are included, I will have to lug the entire stack to the counter and ask them to unwrap them for me.

So why do I say Nihon Vogue is my favourite publisher?

Just a view of the shelf right above my sewing space. These are the books that contain patterns that I’m working on at the moment, or the ones I refer to or use the most. The ones with the yellow labels are from Nihon Vogue.

Here is a screenshot of the website. (note on the upper right hand corner there is a link to English. There are some books available for browsing on the English version but it’s only a small selection compared to the Japanese version.

In the top picture, under each of the book thumbnails, there are two buttons. The one with orange text brings you to a flash actionbrowser which allows you to browse through the book. The button below with pink text brings you to the book details page with the publication dates, author, ISBN, etc.

In the bottom picture, I did a close up of the search box on the right. You can only enter keywords in the box. ISBN search doesn’t work here. So if you have the ISBN number, click on the link below and it will bring you to an advanced search form where you can key it in.

At the bottom of the home page, you can browse through new publications, books sorted by genres (I’ve translated the text incase the icons are not clear), as well as periodicals. Look! My favourite Pochee magazine is there!

So when you click on the individual book details, this is what you get. This goes to an online shopping bookstore. You can browse by hitting the orange button (on some pages it is grey) to launch the browser from this page.

And a new window opens with a flash browser. You navigate it either with the tool bar below or just click on the pages to flip back and forth. The quality is not fantastic because I think they restrict the page zoom feature to prevent people from copying the pictures. But you can clearly browse through the pages. Note that the how-to-make sections and patterns are not available for browsing, only the finished projects are available. Which is fair because they just want you to see the pretty clothes and buy the books 🙂 This is a great help and makes shopping so much easier! What I will do now is to browse through these books, note down the ISBN number and order them from Kinokuniya. Even if the books are not listed, I can email them to request them to order from Japan without extra charges.

For other books not by Nihon Vogue, you can search for them under There are many books that include quite a fair number of pages for browsing. I might compile a list based on the books I have to recommend and link them up from another post.

Happy browsing!