My Pillow List: Yays and Nays of Knitting in Tokyo

Things I love about knitting in Japan:

  • Being Asia, bamboo needles are super cheap, even circs. I get them at 100 yen shops (about a dollar) and have lots of them. OK, yes, I mostly use my Knit Picks Harmony needles but I use my bamboo needles a lot every day as well. The yarn from 100 yen shops sucks but I have used some for theatre productions . . .
  • Japan is the home of Mitsuharu Hirose-sama, the Knitting Prince! the-knitting-prince
  • a little-known fact: tatami (rice straw flooring found in every Japanese home) is perfect for blocking. Imagine having a room-sized blocking mat to push pins into. Great for those big honkin’ lace shawls and crazy-long Dr. Who scarves! 
  • Japan is the home of Noro * drool* and Habu yarns. Also, Habu’s talented designer Setsuko Torii.
  • Japan has four very distinct seasons, with very strict divisions between them and appropriate activities for each. Knitting is Winter activity. Period. In that period, Japanese knitters knit like maniacs. Intense!
  • Japanese knitting means chart knitting. Fun and Interesting. 
  • Lots of indigo and natural dyed yarns.
  • Popular Japanese spiral paper clips (these shown are a German make but we have super cheap ones just like them here) make great stitch markers.
  • My job (university professor at Japanese university) gives me lots of time, both during the school term at school and off for months of vacation, to knit. 
  • I can knit anywhere or anytime I want. Since I’m a foreigner, I’m expected to do strange things anyway, so no one bats an eye when I knit on the train or in a cafe :).  

Things I Don’t Love About Knitting in Japan:

  • Not many yarn shops. Most yarns and knitting goods very expensive (like most things here).
  • Sock yarn nonexistent. Has to be ordered online. The sock-knitting craze, indeed the knitting boom, never hit here. Knitting is essentially the domain of middle-aged women (blouses) and love-struck teen girls (boyfriend scarves).
  • Knitting is strictly seen as A Winter Activity. (See seasonal comment above). Lots of craft stores put away their yarns in the spring and summer!