So, yes, I bought a little fabric in Japan. (I know you're all surprised by that.) Last Tuesday morning I went to Nippori Textile Town.
Small digression: I know it seems scary, the idea of running around a strange city, by yourself, not knowing a word of the language (okay, I can say "sugoy" which I *think* means "awesome!") — but, really: it's okay. It's exhilarating, even. When you're traveling somewhere familiar you don't notice even a tenth of what's going on, because you don't have to. But when everything's strange, everything is important, and you notice every detail. The colors matter, and the expressions on people's faces, and even the flow of the air around you — they're all clues as to where you are and what you should do. If traveling somewhere so different doesn't make you feel incredibly awake and alive, you're doing it wrong.
But: back to the fabric:
When you walk into Tomato in Nippori, the first thing you see is the half-wall of 100-yen fabrics, presided over by the winking Tomato. It's pretty crowded around that wall, as you might imagine. When I was there on a Tuesday morning, the crowd was split pretty evenly between younger, student-y looking women, and sweet-tiny-grandma-type women. (I was the only non-Japanese in the store that morning, as far as I could tell.)
There's a lot of other stuff on the first floor which I neglected to take pictures of; mostly linen-y things.
The second or third floor (I forget which) has silk:
Hilariously, each floor plays different music. The ground/first floor plays upbeat J-pop; the knits floor (which I also neglected to photograph) was playing some Justin Timberlake; but the silks floor was playing classic big-band jazz. Talk about setting the atmosphere!
I spent most of my time (and money) on the cotton-prints floor:
You have to pay for your purchases on each floor separately. It seemed to me as if they did take credit cards, but I had brought a lot of cash with me, so I used that, instead. (I like to leave a country with less than $20 of that country's currency on me. My bureau drawer is not an effective foreign-currency hedge.)
One nice touch was the display of completed projects and patterns that lined the stairwells and landings at each floor:
The store staff were very friendly, and, even though (as I said) I don't speak any Japanese, I managed to get by just fine with hand gestures and lots of smiling — even when I was trying to express tricky things like "I want all that's left on this bolt, please." (However, if you need more than ten fingers to express how many meters you want, I'm not sure I can help you — although I'm really impressed!)
So enough of the travelogue: what did I buy?
I finally found the elusive orange bandanna print; I think this was 300 yen/meter:
And some brown/red/teal heavier cotton, which will almost certainly become a skirt:
Some black floral/dot fabric, which is probably going to be a :
And this orange leaf-and-stripe fabric, which is also going to be a Duro Jr. (Sorry, I'm obsessed.):
Lastly, I picked up about 8 meters of this stripey fabric for my friend Jilli, aka the "Lady of the Manners" at . Wondering why anyone would need 8 meters of black and white striped fabric? Go check out that site and not only will you know, you'll want some for yourself …
Tomorrow: directions and photographs of the store in Nippori that sells LIBERTY.