I started my yarn shopping research for Osaka with very low expectations of finding anything in kanji letters.. But lo and behold! I stumbled upon a blog post written by someone who described in minute detail how to find Masuzakiya's store in a subway station.
I thank that person dearly, because first day upon arrival that lil yarn hunt was the perfect intro to the Osaka subway system, which turned out totally manageable even with zero proficiency in japanese. So if the writer of that blogpost ever reads this, thank you! May the yarn gods be good to you this year.
This pic is actually from the Umeda store which I found later, much closer to where I was living.
Anyway, apart from the looming yarngasm ahead, I was also dying to know if Japanese yarn shops would be much different from those we have here. From what I've seen in European towns it's usually the same brands, in varying prices, so on the agenda was of course acquiring a brand new stash of Noro Yarns!
And did I hit the motherload!? YEEEESSS!!!! I barely noticed the quarter of a wall of Rowan Yarns next to me, because they had Noro's seasons 2015-2016 colors which I had not even seen before and types of fiber blends I haven't encountered ever in Europe and oh my god...
I think it's safe to say by now I have become as much a fan of yarnshops as I am a yarn nut, because shops like these are often located away from the regular tourist streets, so when I travel, I always make a point of finding yarn shops. Even if the selection is pretty much the same everywhere, it's a great way to go off the beaten track and knitters tend to be highly talkative (really, have you ever met a silent knitter? Me? NO!) so its also a great opportunity to shoot the breeze with locals that have similar interests. And there's always a coffee shop nearby, so if Husband is with, he can sit there and enjoy his tea while I'm yarnhunting.
Well, chatting with the staff at Masuzakiya was limited due to me not speaky japanese, except for survival words like amimono/ito (knit/yarn) and the usual pleasantries but they had a delightful amount of knitted garments in both locations I visited. That was the major difference to Europe I was able to spot. And of course due to smaller vat% the prices were a pleasant surprise indeed.
Now for the other great find.
AVRIL Yarns. Ever heard? I hadn't until now, but this is a yarn brand any weaver and knitter must know. Why?
I'll show you:
First impression is: ok, this shop has potential for carrying a decent amount of yarn.
Then you step inside and you see one wall. (And from the qaulity of the photos you can see my hands might have been shaking with excitement ;)
You walk up to that wall, and the you turn around and I swear I could hear my brain go "snap!" I lost it.
I think I spent three hours in there. Heaven on earth, I tell you.
And it's not just the yarn, it's located in such an adorably rustic building, all tucked away on the 2nd floor where you would never find it if you weren't looking.
These pics are from Avril's Kyoto store, also located totally off the beaten track but very near the Royal Imperial Palace and Garden.
When I got back to Osaka that night I also went to see Avril's selection at the Hanshin department store which was equally impressive even if not set in such a romantic atmosphere.
Online and in its stores Avril sells yarn by the gram and meter, and it's all presented in glorious cones hung on any and all available wall space. They have everything from really great basic spun yarns from 1 to 8-ply, natural fibers, sparkle, beads, tweeds, chunkies and multicolored. And you can also make new yarns by combining 2 or more of the already existing ones.
This was just a blissful visit and such an inspiration for what a yarnshop can be. They also organize courses in different fiber design and of course publish their own pattern books. I WILL GO BACK! It is fate, I feel it.
At Avril I ended up buying some superchunky yarn which I knit up over the Christmas holidays into a cowl. Inspired by Japanese Matcha Soft Icecream!
I ended up really needing it too, cos the temperature has dropped to -30C. Til next time!!