Monday, October 4, 2010

Japanese Seed Beads, In Japan!

For our honeymoon a few months ago my husband and I traveled to Japan. Why Japan, you might ask? Well, we had always wanted to go there, my sister is currently living in Osaka so we could visit with her while we were there, and we wanted an adventurous trip to a place different from what we were used to.

But my visit would not have been complete without...

...A visit to a Miyuki bead store! 

My favorite Japanese seed bead manufacturer, Miyuki Co., ltd, operates three retail stores in Japan. The employees at their Tokyo branch kindly allowed me to take pictures after I asked them (in Japanese! For the curious, it's "Shashin o totemo ii desu ka?" Props to my sister for the survival Japanese lessons!), however the Osaka branch was decorated with "no photography" signs so I didn't even try to take photos there. 

The Tokyo store is three stories tall, with the first floor taken up entirely by Miyuki seed beads:

A big difference between these stores and the Californian bead stores that I've been to is the storage and display of the seed beads. While their Delica beads are sold in 5- and 20-gram boxes, the rest of their seed beads are displayed in rows and rows of individual jars and are sold from these jars in carefully-weighed out 8-gram increments. This display makes the whole place look like a candy store:

Here are some fringe drop beads in their respective jars, in one of my favorite cobalt blue colors:

While this display was quite impressive, I think that it actually made it easier to stay within my shopping budget. Language barriers aside, it's easy to pick a pre-packaged tube of seed beads off the shelf in a Western store and take it up to the counter to have the sales clerk ring it up. While the three young women helping me at this shop were quite efficient in weighing, packaging, and labeling my bead purchase, I would have felt somewhat uncomfortable to ask them to weigh out 30 different kinds of seed beads. 

This store must sell over 100 different kinds of kits:

They even have some geometric kits!

I loved the different kinds of beadwork that they had on display. Check out this loomed lamp cover and the purses in the background:

But the cutest display was definitely this little French-beaded flower garden right next to the register:

So, did I break the bank? Actually, I was able to restrain myself :). I was mostly looking for seed beads which I haven't been able to find here in the States, and I found that this selection was quite small; 99.9% of their stock is also readily available at retail bead stores the USA. In fact, I was surprised to find that both the Tokyo and Osaka stores were not yet carrying the new Tila and small 2.8 mm drop beads which had just started to appear here in the US.

I did manage to find some dichroic-lined seed beads in shapes and sizes that I haven't previously seen. Here they are in the 10° triangle size:

Finally, just to show that we visited other places in Japan besides bead stores, here we are at the Shitennoji temple in Osaka:

And at the Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto:

So, in conclusion, it's relatively easy to go bead shopping at Miyuki's Japanese retail stores without spending your entire vacation budget. Just... Don't ask about my washi shopping spree...

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