In my attempts to research where I should go in Kyoto, I found an intriguing blog post about visiting a needle shop. A needle shop? I was fascinated, sitting at my computer at home and reading about this place.
There was more than one blog post about this place. And how hard it was to find. I attempted the search after a few days in Kyoto in which I had begun to understand the several pedestrian malls in the downtown area and had become, frankly, quite fascinated by the Nishiki Food Markets, which is set on a pedestrian mall. I walked there every day for about five days in a row at one stage, progressively decoding what some of the things for sale were, trying more of them and always returning to a particular mochi stall. But I digress. In my first few days I discovered that Google Maps is quite helpful in Japan, where the conventions for explaining how to find a place or building are different to those I am familiar with. Google maps made light work of finding the secret needle shop of Kyoto. But it was still amazing to walk down a bustling pedestrian mall, find a walkway down the side of a very pink shop (like a dollar shop really), walk down it, through a doorway, and out into a courtyard.
Surely there are prosaic, weedy courtyards somewhere in Kyoto. This wasn’t one of them.
Nestled into it was a small wooden building dwarfed by its bigger modern surroundings.
Stepping stones led up to the door of the Misuyabari needle shop.
It was tiny! Most of the room was taken up by this display of needles, snips, scissors, and all kinds of notions with miniature objects modelled onto them– tiny sculptures, literally on pinheads. (This is the reason for the magnifying glass you see on the counter).
There was also a selection of sewing boxes and mending kits, all exquisitely crafted.
In the end I bought one of these small mending kits… I feel sure it will be the perfect gift at some future moment. And a pack of needles, of course. They came with a brochure about the needle shop and the history of needles in Japan. I spent a lot of time poring over it later with Google translate, which renders Japanese into English in a most poetic way but does allow some insight!
I feel it isn’t every day that a tourist can have an experience that is part magical mystery tour, part practical implement acquisition, and part whimsical cuteness. Highly recommended, and especially as you really must visit the food markets nearby!