the secret needle shop
By Patricia Belyea
KYOTO JP It’s been four years since I first visited Misuyabari, the hard-to-find shop filled with handmade needles and cherished sewing supplies. With Google Maps app in hand and a remembrance of where to turn, it was still not easy to find again.
The key is turning between the right two shops in the Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcade and heading down a long passageway to the pristine Japanese garden and immaculate machiya that houses a micro-shop filled with micro delights. (See end of post for a photo tutorial.)
Misuyabari (bari or hari means needle in Japanese) is a 360+ year old family business that once supplied needles to the imperial court of ancient Kyoto. Travelers also bought needles as gifts to take to Edo (old Tokyo) as the paper-wrapped packs of needles were precious and lightweight to carry.
The super-sharp needles are still made one at a time. Like little samurai swords, the points are uber-sharp and the eyes are round for easy threading.
The store also specializes in novelty pins. Topped with little handmade animals and flowers, the pins rank as coveted souvenirs for sewing girlfriends. The always-smiling shop attendant (owner?) places your choice of pins in a matchbook-like package for an adorable presentation. And yes, there’s a magnifying glass for picking your favorites!
Also available at Misuyabari are specialty scissors, beautiful sewing boxes made of kiri or paulownia wood, colorful chirimen silk pincushions, and sweet notions.
Me? I bought 38 packages of sashiko needles (10 per pack); the same needles I used to hand-stitch the quilts in my book. Of course, I procured a few more than I will personally need so the needle packs will be available in the Okan Arts Seattle Shop and at my workshops (while supplies last).
Located on Sanjo Dori between Teramachi Dori and Kawaramachi Dori
Open Friday – Wednesday, 10am to 6pm
Here is a photo tutorial for finding the shop:
The shopping arcade
Turn at the purple fortune teller’s sidewalk sign
Walk down the passageway and keep walking
You made it!