teaching sewing confidence, tip by tip

Friday 27 May 2016

Exploring Japan - Kyoto's Handmade Needle Man

Most sewists researching for a trip to Japan come across stories of Kyoto's Handmade Needle Man.  Almost legendary, his location is reportedly hard to locate with only a few lucky souls finding success at the end of their journey.

Confusingly known by several names Fukui Misuyabari/hari also known as Sanjohonke Misuyabari/Misuyahari (bari/hari is Japanese for needle ) is a specialty needle store dating back to 1651, the Edo era over more than 17 generations.  The Emperor gave the family, who worked in his court, the Misuya name and their needles were given as gifts throughout Japan

I am delighted to report that when I visited Kyoto last November my search was well rewarded and I'm going to give you a glimpse inside the store and of the treasures I brought home with me and at the end I'll share with you exactly how to find your way there too.

Introducing Kyoto's Handmade Needle Man.  No English is spoken in the store but he is so lovely and through hand gestures and shared language words such as sashiko, embroidery, etc, he helps you make your purchases.  Everything's marked with a price too so you can make all your budget calculations without having to keep asking.

The store is tiny and there's only room for a handful of customers comfortably at a time.

Packs of machine-made needles (432Y/$4/£3)

 and tiny sewing kit boxes.

See what's inside the sewing kit (Y3600/$32/£23).

Beautiful pins (Y206-Y309/$2-$3/£1-£2).

So what did I buy?

I bought needles - the bottom two piles are all machine made. The handmade needles were expensive and not knowing which type I wanted I didn't feel I could make an informed choice so I just got the one handmade - the one on its own at the top.

I haven't used my handmade needle yet, I know how bad I am at losing needles which makes me nervous!  Pricewise the handmade vary depending on the type of needle but range from $5-$20/£4-£15+ per needle - this is a Koisho needle and was around $7

I just had to have that little travel sewing kit in a handmade wooden box.  

Turns out my dogs felt like they just had to have it too and while they were helping me unpack my case they sniffed out this gem and smuggled it away to their bed.  Fortunately, I realised pretty quickly that they were way too quiet for anyone's good and investigated just in time before they'd totally ruined it. 

 I couldn't bring myself to look at it for several months but what's the point of having it if I don't use it so I've finally photographed it to share with you.

Inside is still beautifully intact - everything is super tiny, the box itself is only 3-1/4" x 1-1/2" x 1-1/4"

and how adorable are these pins?

and this tiny plant pot pincushion.

If you're visiting Kyoto do make time to visit, you really feel like you've found hidden treasure.  
Here are my directions to help you on your way:

Finding Fukui Misuyabari - Kyoto's Handmade Needle Man

I actually found my way to the store totally by accident. I was staying at the Okura Hotel just 3 or 4 minutes walk from the Cupola Sanjo Meiten-gai, one of Kyoto's oldest shopping arcades and out for an evening walk I entered the arcade from Kawaramachi Dori (Dori pretty much translates as street) where it crosses with Sanjo Dori.  Taking me quite by surprise the entrance to the Handmade Needleman's store was right there on my right.  I recognised it from photos I'd seen on Patricia Belyea's Okan Arts blog and immediately knew I'd stumbled on the right place.  The sewing gods were definitely smiling on me that day!

My advice is to make your way to the entrance to the Cupola Sanjo Meiten-gai by taking a cab to the entrance on Kawaramachi Dori/Sanjo Dori or by taking the subway to Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station and taking the 3 or 4-minute walk along Kawaramachi Dori - you'll want to be on the west side of the street heading south.

The shopping arcade entrance is on your right and when you get there you'll see two street maps outside and I took a pic of them in case they'll be helpful for you.

So you're finally standing at the entrance to the shopping arcade and it looks like this.

Walk into the arcade and pass about 4 shops on both sides of you.  Approximately the fifth shop on your left is this one - Tanaka Bag Shop

and immediately opposite the Tanaka store, on your right, you'll see this Fortune Teller's palm sign and notice there's an arrow on the base of that stand.  Turning to your right follow the arrow.

The first time I visited the store it was closed so I took a pic of how the closed entrance looked so you'll know you're in the right place if this happens to you too.

If the store is open the entrance looks quite different - off you go down that corridor, you'll feel like you're trespassing but don't worry you're okay :D

At the end of the corridor, you won't believe your eyes, step into a beautiful, tranquil oasis a world away from the shopping arcade you've just left behind.

You're here, you've found the shop, take a deep, relaxing breath and enjoy :D

Fukui Misuyabari
(Kyoto's Handmade Needle Man)
Address: Yubinbango604-8036, Kyoto Nakagyo-ku Sanjo Kawaramachi Nishiiri
Phone: 075-221-2825

Major Credit Cards Accepted
Business Hours: 10 am to 6 pm (closed Thursday)

Official website - in Japanese only with no translation option
Shopping Arcade website page for Handmade Needle Man with google right click translation option

Permission granted by a staff member to take and blog all photos.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be adding more 'Exploring Japan' posts, sign up for my newsletter so you don't miss any of them :D

Visiting Japan?  Read my previous Exploring posts by clicking the images below:

Exploring Japan - Tokyo's Ginza, Okachimachi and Ueno by www.madebyChrissieD.com Exploring Japan - Tokyo's Ginza, Okachimachi and Ueno by www.madebyChrissieD.com Exploring Japan - Tokyo's Ginza, Okachimachi and Ueno by www.madebyChrissieD.com Exploring Japan - Tokyo's Ginza, Okachimachi and Ueno by www.madebyChrissieD.com

Additional posts about Tokyo Shopping, Kurashiki and more coming soon!

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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  1. What a fabulous find Chris, definitely one to add to the bucket list!

  2. Lovely little shop !! Thanks for sharing !

  3. Thank you for sharing so much info, what a fabulous place.

  4. His shop was closed (sad face) when I was there a year ago. Thank you for posting.

  5. I'd recognize destruction by Havanese even if you hadn't informed us! Thank you so much for the insider info!

  6. What a brilliant and lucky find. Gorgeous treasures - I especially love the sewing box and the pins are so cute. xx

  7. What a lovely blog (or newsletter)...how exciting this must have been for you. I love all your 'goodies', the sewing kit & needles are really sweet. Thank you for sharing so much of your experiences. Have followed you for over a year & you never disappoint the
    creative side of me.

  8. I loved reading this post. I would love to visit Japan but that will never happen, so I'll experience it through your travels :)

  9. What a lovely shop. Thanks for sharing, too bad I did not know about it when I was there last April.

  10. What a wonderful trip. Not sure I would have been as reserved with my purchases. I love small shops as often they have more beautiful things than the larger ones.

  11. This brought back so many memories of our trip to Japan last year. I'm so bummed I didn't know the existence of the Needle Man! Japan is our favorite place to travel to, so I'm sure we'll be back to check out this store soon.

  12. Oh my goodness - such beautiful things in his shop! Those little pins are just gorgeous!!

  13. What an amazing store! Thank you for sharing at The Really Crafty Link Party this week!

  14. Such a great find!! Love those cute pins. Thank you for sharing with us at #HomeMattersParty. We hope to see you again next week on Friday, 12.00AM EST


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Chris Dodsley

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