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What do you do when you’re a crafting enthusiast in Japan and want to find an independent, authentic shop that sells unique artisan products? Team up with a determined Japanese-speaking resident! Keen shopper, Charlea made it her mission to find Kyoto’s best-kept secret shop.
Crafting in Japan
Regardless of hobbies, in Kyoto, you can snap up just about anything. So when a member of my Japan Enchantment small group tour wanted to pick up unique quilting and crafting accessories, I made it our mission to find a hidden local store: Misuya. Misuya is a haven for quilters and crafters, specialising in needles and pins that are handcrafted by a local artisan; a wonderful example of time-honoured traditions, becoming ever more elusive.
We took off to the centre of Kyoto, near the covered shopping arcade in northernmost area of Teramachi. “What could possibly be special at a covered shopping arcade?” Well, as a self-confessed Japan shopping expert, finding this shop was one of my greatest accomplishments. Armed with internet instructions, Google maps and Japanese reading skills, it still took three loops around the block to find the entrance. Once there, it was truly a magical experience.
The shop is an intact traditional building with a gorgeous little garden, squeezed between tall modern buildings on three sides, and a temple wall on the fourth. I dare say it’s even more charming now than its opening almost 400 years ago. It’s as though time had forgotten to move forward in this small space of Kyoto.
Two gentlemen, who we later discovered are the 7th and 8th generation shop owners, warmly greeted us. They started by expertly guiding us through beautiful quality Japanese and French embroidery needles. After choosing a set, their signature decorative dress-pins were uncovered; an incredible choice of animals, flowers and cute creations laid out in front of us. The skill to create such tiny, detailed pieces making them worth more than their weight in gold.
The owners were also kind enough to pull out old photos of the shop and talk to us (in a mixture of English and Japanese) about their family’s history, as well as that of the shop. It was such a wonderful experience, and one that could not be found in your average commercial districts in Tokyo.
So, if you’re on pins and needles in search of the perfect, lightweight gift to take home to your crafting friends, Misuya is the place to fill a pin cushion in style.
Dreaming of a niche discovery? Our determined, Japanese-speaking tour leaders will always go out of their way to help. Find out more about our small group tours here.