Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tokyo Yarn Crawl 2007!

The morning began, inauspiciously, with an snarly little argument. Harry crouched grumpily on top of my suitcase, demanding that I take him with us. I pointed out that Japanese trains are exceptionally crowded and he didn't have much of an exoskeleton to prevent, erm, squishing. After some insults were exchanged (Leg-Challenged Biped, Flies for Brains, etc.) we compromised by having Harry travel in a super-sized Altoids tin.

It crossed my mind, as we stood for two solid hours in over-crowded trains, that I could clear the car quickly if I released Harry from his pet carrier. But Kyoko-san, my travelling companion, pointed out that Harry was still relatively small, even if he is a Kurenai Kai Giant Spider. I spent some minutes squashed between two Sumo wrestlers on the way to a tournament, mentally designing a spider-sized Samurai outfit, complete with eight swords, chain mail, and one of those wicked-looking helmets. Perhaps the sight of a spider fit to kill, as it were, might send everyone screaming into the next car.

After eleventeen train transfers, we finally arrived at Kichijoji, a trendy area with many redeeming qualities such as this:

On the way to Avril, we stopped at a store that sold nothing (be still my heart!) but frogware--boots, napkins, earrings, towels, incense burners, and watering cans.

I didn't buy anything, although if the boots had been in grownup sizes, I would have snatched a pair for the rainy season. Mud is shin-deep at Kurenai Kai when it rains.

Harry fell asleep inside one of these flower pots.

And, still on the way to Avril, I took a picture of some cool Japanese wall graffiti.

Finally, we found Avril.

Avril is a tiny shop, into which they pack enough yarn to keep most of Tokyo supplied forever. There was yarn on the walls, the ceiling, under the tables, and in small baskets such as this one, full of paper yarns.


It was a bit difficult to maneuver around, but I plonked down in front of the section holding lace yarns and spent a good thirty minutes poking, prodding, fondling, and so on. Eat your hearts out, everybody.

Harry insisted I purchase this skein of hand-painted laceweight cashmere, then he promptly fell asleep on it (he's at the back of the skein).

Yarn is sold by the gram (there are 28 grams in an ounce), but the prices were not outrageous. I didn't buy wads of stuff, but at Harry's insistence, I purchased 10 grams of 2/48 merino to swatch for the Princess shawl. The clerk wound it on a cone! Wow!

I hope he has a grand time with it--it's almost invisible. Here's a comparison. At the top is the black Gentle that I am currently using for the Spider King shawl. Good luck, Harry!

Of course, this being Japan, 2007, there was a basket of felted fruit on the counter.

Harry took a nap on the grapes. I was beginning to get worried at all the snoozing. Harry reminded me that he's been keeping a night schedule as mutually agreed upon years ago, so I could hardly complain.

And what would a Japanese yarn store be without felted tortes?

I bought one hilarious knitting book, which will feature in another post, and a bit of two delicious mohairs. This is 75% mohair, 25% nylon.

And this is 40% silk, 60% mohair. It feels like clouds.

We ate at a Thai place awash in frogs--one holding the sign, one on top of same, and a frog plate to place your payment in front of the register. Frogs are everywhere in Japan, apparently. My knitting get nervous here.

From Kichijoji, we took several more trains to Puppy Yarns--a big disappointment. About the same size as Avril, the store had more Rowan than Puppy. There was a decent selection of books, but I have all of the masterpiece publications and nothing there caught my eye. We did, however, determine that Richmore magazine subscriptions are not available outside Japan. Sigh.

Finally, we trained to Ikebukaro, where our hotel and a Mexican dinner awaited. The Grand City Hotel is not terribly grand, but reasonably priced and quite comfortable if you happen to be about Harry's size. The room was slightly larger than an Altoids tin, but somehow the designers managed to shoehorn all the amenities inside it, including a teensy refrigerator, desk,TV, pink powder puff, and, of course, a foot-massaging machine. Harry spent most of the night giving the gizmo a real workout, even though he didn't do any walking.

The floor we stayed on was for ladies only ( I didn't mention Harry when we checked in), thus our bathrooms were equipped with appropriate amenities, such as a teddy bear spongelet:

The only complaint about the room was the, ah, scenery. I opened the window, only to discover that the room overlooked a large batting dreams were punctuated by the constant Pock, Pock, Pock of baseballs being whacked into the netting six feet from the window. Between the the baseballs and the floopity-floop of the foot massager, I didn't have the most restful night.

The next morning we trained (surprise!) to Okadaya, a large store specializing in fabric and yarn. The basement, for some reason, is given over to ladies' lingerie, all of it over-garnished with lace, frills, rhinestones, and in one case, printed apples.

The yarn selection is decent, although not as extensive as Yuzawaya's. It is, however, better presented--it's right there on the shelf to touch without having to open plastic bags. Some of the yarn is oddly named, as you can see from this picture:

High-quality mole yarn? Chenille, in Japan, is called mole. I guess that's no worse than the bookstore chain here called Wonder Goo.

I found a new Count 10 colorway--lovely mauves and beiges.

We spent a couple of hours on Okadaya's phenomenal book floor--all about fabric crafts. here is one wall of the store...

At this point, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the knitting section was awash in crochet books. Nothing much for me. And alas, there were no chairs, so when our feet started to hurt, we left and went to Kinokuniya, which doesn't have chairs either. Japan has much to learn about browse-friendly bookstores.

A wonderful time was had by all, and we got to sit down on the bus ride back home.


Jenn said...

Oh! The roving wall! I'm taking notes for my trip next year. Thank you for all the pics!

janet said...

Really enjoyed the cyber shopping yarn crawl - thanks for all the pics.

yarnlot said...

Thank you for the information about the Richmore Magazine.
The picture of the Okadaya's phenomenal book floor made me a bit jealous!

Klaudia said...

I really enjoyed the yarn crawl pictures and the way you write. Greetings to Harry.

Wendy said...

Thanks for inviting me on the virtual yarn crawl. I'm exhausted from looking at all that yarn and imagining all the japanese knitting craft books! Does Harry kniw how lucky he is!!!

Nurhanne said...

That was fun! :-)

Jane said...

Dear fleegle,

Beutiful photos. Not as good as being there with you to shop but very very nice all the same. You were nice to bring Harry along, not that he would have let you go without him. Your yarn selections were awesome! I e-mailed the Heirloom Knitting site to see if I can get on a wait list for Princess Shawl. I'll let you know what the response is. The lovely 2/48 yarn you are interviewing for Princess is wonderful. Can't wait for a swatch. Thank you again for the great pictures and the frogg-a-licious stores :-)

Muki Muki said...

Great trip. Glad you had fun. I enjoy reading and seeing that you are having a good time. rs

fleegle said...

Muki muki indeed!

missalicefaye said...

ooh--I also can't wait to see that merino swatched up! It seems that you had a lovely frog-filled crawl--I am vicariously delighted. :)

Batty said...

That roving wall! All that yarn! I think I'm going to lie down in a yarn-induced stupor and dream of pretty fiber.

Droelma said...

For a couple of hours I have been surfing to find a way to have Japanese Knitting books sent to Mexico, where I live and work....and found Yesasia to be the best source. I would like to knit the sweater of the #8 book of the Japanese Knitting series.....
I stumbled upon your blog and became very nostalgic.
I lived for almost eleven years in the Musashi Sakai area ( ICU ) of Mitaka and Kitchijoji was my Saturday morning place for shopping ( by bike of course ) usually finishing with Sushi ( on Sun Road ) or Thai food and going many times over my yarn purchases.
Now I live in the knitting knitting culture in Mexico, hence no yarn......and miss Japan a lot.....especially knitting in the park in Kitchijoji....and of course Kinokuniya; the bookstore as well as the food store in Kitchijoji.....

Greetings from rather cool (71F) Mexico City


SpinalCat said...

I want a roving wall of my own! Amazing!

Deborah said...

what is the price comparison to the states i wonder?? what no noro???

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Shereen said...

Could you post addresses so I can add them to my Google map of shopping in Japan? I am going in Nov., Any pointers?