When I figured out a few months ago that I was going to go to Otakon while visiting family and friends this summer, I wondered if I would be able to make a costume. Back when I moved to Ono last August, I threw out the idea of ever making a costume, because of the equipment I would need to buy–the biggest being a sewing machine–and because I figured, like everything else in Japan, making a costume would be expensive.
Then I went to Osaka for the first time a couple of months ago. While walking towards from Shinsaibashi towards Namba, I came across a store filled with fabric, called Toraya.
At the time I was shopping for items to decorate my apartment, specifically looking for black and white striped fabric. I couldn’t find the right fabric anywhere else, but when I looked in Toraya I found the perfect pattern; it was exactly what I wanted. A little more browsing helped me discover all kinds of fabric to use for various projects, from linen to Chinese patterns to spandex to faux leather.
The prices for these fabrics aren’t too different compared to the States, but you do have to keep in mind that, unlike the US, fabric is purchased in meters, not yards.
At Toraya, buying fabric is very simple. After you’ve found a sample of what you need, you just get the attention of an employee, ask how many meters (or even centimeters) you want, and they’ll cut out a swatch and staple it to a tag for you to present to the cashier. It takes about 5 minutes, as they have to submit your order upstairs to the person who cuts the fabric. After your order comes down, just hand your tag to the cashier and pay.
Toraya is definitely your best bet for a wide variety of fabric, but there is also a strip of fabric stores in Sannomiya (Kobe) near the JR Sannomiya station. You can go here if you’re looking for basic fabric without any special patterns.
When it comes to other materials such as thread, fabric glue, and needles, you can go to your nearest department store (like AEON) or even Daiso, the most famous chain of 100 yen shops. Daiso only has a limited selection of colored thread to choose from, but they carry other items like needles, snap buttons, velcro, fabric glue, and glue guns. They also have a small hardware section, as well as other items like styrofoam shapes and plastic sheets for making cosplay armor and the like.
As for fabric paint, you’ll have to go to a store like Tokyu Hands to find it. I had the hardest time figuring out where to go to find the paint I needed–my area doesn’t really have a huge store like Wal-Mart or Target, and even when I visited a craft store in the city I still couldn’t find anything other than acrylic paint. I ended up finding 4 oz. bottles of Tulip Fabric Paint at the Tokyu Hands in Sannomiya. It’s significantly more expensive here compared to in the US, so if you’re coming to Japan sometime soon and plan on working with fabric paint, I would recommend buying it back home; you can get an 8 oz. bottle for under $3, which is about the same as what I paid for the 4 oz. paint here in Japan.
As for that sewing machine, you’re probably better off searching online on Amazon.co.jp or Rakuten for one. Many of the sewing machines I’ve seen in stores cost $300 and up, and I was only expecting to pay a little over $100. I found a basic Singer sewing machine for about $120, which has been working pretty well for me. If you’re looking for something more advanced, I can’t give you too much information, since I don’t even know what everything means, English or Japanese.
As Japan is the home of some of the most amazing cosplay, it isn’t impossible to find what you need here. You just have to figure out where to look. And once you do, you can get started on (or finish up) your own costume. 🙂