We wanted to have a really chilled day on Man's birthday so after a long lie in we took a stroll in the sunshine through Nippori, Tokyo's main fabric district. There is a street full of shops selling fabrics and associated goods and this becomes very popular during the Tokyo Quilt Festival (which is due to start later this week), as quilting tours from all over the world descend on Tokyo to see the amazing quilts on display, then head to Nippori to add to their fabric stash.
Today was the calm before the storm and Nippori Fabric Town was peaceful and quiet. We weren't on a buying mission, but I wanted to check out one shop in particular which sells the same fabrics as Japan Crafts, to see whether they had any different designs in stock which I could then ask my supplier for.
Mihama Cloth is right next door to the famous Tomato store, about half way down fabric street. They sell all of their fabrics in 2m lengths after being inspired by Burmese customers who wanted to make traditional 'longyi' skirts from Japanese fabric. Over the years I have built a good working relationship with the owners to the point where they gave me the nickname Kei-chan.
Unfortunately, today's visit was very short as the shop was extremely low on stock and there were only about 3 designs that I don't already have in stock. It was quite a sad sight and I do hope they will be able to fill their shelves in time for the quilt tours to arrive at the end of the week.
We took the Yamanote line train 2 stops to Ueno for lunch at one of my favourite spots. Ueno is famous for its huge park which houses some major museums and art galleries and also a zoo. Since the zoo has pandas, the panda is the symbol of Ueno and you can buy panda goods at every turn. On the way to the lunch place, Man spotted some panda custard buns, so of course being her birthday she had to try one.
T's TanTan is completely vegan and serves ramen in various flavours. We chose black sesame and tonkotsu, and shared both dishes, making sure to slurp the noodles as loudly as possible to show our appreciation! Coffee was served with the dinkiest little jugs of soy milk and syrup.
They have different menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as takeaway 'pork' cutlet sandwiches and even pots of instant noodles. I often fill my suitcases with these if there is any space at the end of a trip!
The ramen fuelled us for the main event of the day - the Ghibli Museum. Man had wanted to go for such a long time, so what better day to make her wish come true? You have to book tickets in advance and it can be very busy, so I'd secretly arranged the tickets weeks ago with the help of Naoko.
There is no photography allowed inside the museum and I wouldn't want to spoil any of the magic for anyone, but suffice to say if you like Ghibli films and quirky museums you should definitely put this one on your list.
Photography was allowed outside, where there are several garden areas to explore.
We stopped for iced coffee and custard ice cream (can you tell Man likes custard?!) in the cafe before hitting the gift shop to fulfill several requests from Man's friends as well as some gifts. We both had our eye on a really cool bag, so I bought it as a birthday gift for us to share.
We walked back to Kichijoji station and found Harmonica Alley - a group of tiny side streets full of bars. Many places had open walls so you could walk straight in from the street, and most were only big enough for a handful of customers. Some were standing bars where you stand at the counter to eat. Man tried the fresh taiyaki which we watched being made, although there was no custard flavour so she had to settle for red bean paste.
Most places had no English menu, so I deciphered what I could and realised there were little to no vegan options. Everything smelled delicious, though, so I'm sure it's a great place to eat if you can! We found a branch of chain izakaya Seiryu on an adjacent street instead.
Although mostly meat and fish, we managed to cobble a meal from their menu. Edamame, tofu (I asked for no katsuo flakes), grilled rice ball, roasted garlic cloves, pickles and a plate of chips, while Man had meat skewers, too.
What a lovely, relaxing day. Tomorrow is set to be a corker, too. Can't wait!x
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I started Japan Crafts in 2006 and have been bringing wonderful fabrics and techniques to people in the UK ever since.