When I was in Japan a while ago, I met up with my friend Aya. I met Aya when she came to my quilting classes in Manhattan and she's returned to live in Tokyo now. Having the opportunity to see Tokyo with Aya was definitely a highlight of my trip.
Exploring Japan - Tokyo's Ginza, Okachimachi and Ueno
Today, I'm walking you through one of our day trips from Tokyo's Ginza to Okachimachi and Ueno. I'm sharing links to several Japanese websites and many have no English translation option. I get around this by hovering my mouse pointer over the web page, right clicking and choosing the 'translate to English' option. It doesn't work perfectly but is better than not being able to read anything.
We started our day in Ginza - an upmarket area of Tokyo with many department stores and restaurants.
The first store we visited was Itoya's flagship store on Ginza Dori - a 9 storey paper/stationery store and I may have bought a small selection of goodies there!
Crossing the street we then had lunch at Ginza Rangetsu
renowned for being one of the best Sukiyaki restaurants in Japan.
The restaurant was authentic, each party dining in a private, screened room,
and the food was incredible.
The food was cooked for us at the table and the service was impeccable. In fact, I talked about it so much that my husband took some clients for dinner later in the week, and I went along too, that's twice in three days! At the restaurant, they were so delightful and remembered me and Aya from our visit.
After lunch, we strolled further along Ginza Dori to visit Tokyo Kyukyodo, a stationery and incense store dating back to 1663 and I made more gift purchases.
From Kyukyodo it's an 8-minute walk back to Yurakucho Station.
We took the Yamanote line to Okachimachi Station - an 8-minute train ride.
Right across the street from Okachimachi Station is Yuzawaya, one of the largest crafting stores in Japan, since 1955. It really is right across the street - I took the photo above from the restaurant inside the store and you can see the train track and station platform in the bottom right of the pic.
Here is the web page for the Okachimachi Yoshiike branch I visited and this link details all the stores across Japan.
Feeling peckish - quite honestly, I have no idea how we could be hungry again after our huge and amazing lunch at Ginza Rangetsu - and unable to pass on the incredible range of sweet delights on offer in all department stores throughout Japan, we headed straight up to the 'all you can eat' dessert buffet - I can't remember what floor it was on but you can't go wrong once you're in the building!
I was incredibly restrained - probably because I wasn't actually hungry!!! but I can attest to it being absolutely delicious.
Snack time over, we were on to the real purpose of the day - you've guessed it - FABRIC SHOPPING.
Look at the prices in the pics above. That price is per metre and currently, converts on the left to $3.49/£2.85 per metre and on the right, to $6.85/£5.60 per metre - the nearest US measurement to that is 1-1/8 yard. We're talking crazy cheap prices for top quality quilting weight cotton.
The Japanese Echino fabrics in the pic below are more expensive at ¥1,500 converting to $13.17/£10.76 per metre but still far cheaper than you'll pay once they've been imported into the West.
I'm hardly skimming the surface with these pics - the fabric just went on and on and on.
Row after row of notions too.
The staff were wonderful and Aya bagged me a discount, a discount on rock bottom prices?!!! Everyone was delighted to meet me and found it most amusing that I teach sewing and quilting and wanted to bring fabric back to America with me.
And my purchases - yes, I can get those fabrics at home but never so cheaply and that allows you to be more extravagant than you would normally be when fabric shopping.
I've used a couple of these fabrics recently for making cushions - click images to read more.
Walking out of the store, we headed straight across the street to Ameya-Yokocho, Ameyoko Market Street that dates back to the end of WWII.
The street runs alongside the railway line between Okachimachi and Ueno stations - you can see it best in this photo that I took in Yuzawaya.
I think you could buy pretty much anything on this street. When I was there, it was so busy it was impossible to take meaningful pictures to share and we were being jostled along the street quite quickly. Writing this post, I've realised how sorry I am that I don't have anything to share from that experience, I wish I could share the sights, sounds and smells of that market street.
Arriving at Ueno station we took our separate trains home - well, I went back to my hotel, the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa close to Shinagawa Station. It's worth mentioning, that I don't speak any Japanese but, despite my initial fears, I had no problems at all negotiating the train system alone - don't let the language barrier put you off visiting this amazing country 😊
Added on 7 March 2017
How I Get My Fabric Home
I get my fabric home from my travels by taking an extra empty case - due to my husband's excessive business air travel we're lucky to be allowed many bags at no charge on our flights, so this is the easiest and cheapest method for me.
In Japan, there is a fabulous hotel luggage service that delivers luggage to your next hotel destination for you, I talk about this in this post about Japan, and I made use of this service during my stay.
It is indeed possible to mail fabric home. Still, mailing fabric can prove pricey - Japan differs to many countries because of the reasonably priced postal service, if you're happy to accept a long delivery time. However, bear in mind that you may be charged customs duty when your parcel arrives back in your home country and this may change the value of making a bargain purchase.
Another point to consider is the cost of fabric, which in most countries is far higher than in the US or in Japan - I don't purchase American brand fabrics when I travel, I'm always on the lookout for fabrics that are native to the country I'm visiting or something a little unusual. Many countries are selling imported US or Japanese fabrics and the imported price and conversion rate makes it a more pricey buy than it would be at home.
Permission granted by a staff member to take and blog all store photos.
Visiting Japan? Read my previous Exploring posts by clicking the images below:
Additional posts about Tokyo Shopping, Kurashiki and more coming soon!
Exploring Japan - Tokyo's Ginza, Okachimachi and Ueno
For details of other fabric, yarn, trim and notion stores I've visited around the world along with the NYC stores I love, exhibitions and events I've attended and wonderful people I've been lucky to meet click the links below or on my sidebar :D
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Linky Parties This post may be linked to some great Linky Parties, always a great source of inspiration too. If you click through to my 'Fave Linky Parties' page you can see where I like to share my work.