Misuyabari - Needles deluxe

Needles lined up on a piece of fabric on top of a glass table

Misuyabari – 400 years of needle-making experience

Misuyabari みすや針 is a family-run needle business. The name means "Misuya needles," but by itself, the part 針 is pronounced "hari," not "bari."

Misuyabari has been known for making excellent needles since more than 400 years ago. They started out making mainly 和裁針 wasaihari, needles made especially for the Japanese way of sewing.

But somewhere during their 400-year-long tradition, they added 洋裁針 yōsaihari, which are the common sewing needles you're probably familiar with. These are often referred to as メリケン針 merikenhari, and if you ask for them at Misuyabari, they'll probably have them in stock.

A fabric noren in beige with kanji saying "misuyabari" and a line of thread sewn in marking a needle shop's entrance
Misuyabari's noren, with a bit of thread sewn in

Misuyabari's location

The beautiful shop is located in Kyōto, at the starting point of the "East Sea Road," Tōkaidō, which used to be Japan's liveliest and most important trading route for a long time.

The entrance is accessible from an arcade in downtown Kyōto and unless you read Japanese, the needle on the noren is the only hint that there's a needle shop behind the beautifully tended garden.

If you're planning a trip, copy and paste this address into your favorite map app to not get lost on the way:

京都市中京区三条通河原町西入石橋町26

They're closed Thursdays and Sundays at the time of this writing, but I recommend you check Misuyabari's homepage just in case before you go.

A lit up sign with Japanese writing saying "Misuyabari" in front of an open door leading to a small garden
A signboard lights the way, the noren means that Misuyabari is open

As the only needle shop in the country, it's well worth seeking out the somewhat hidden store. Of course, you can buy needles all across the country, but this is the only specialized needle shop.

Misuyabari's sashiko needles

The shop owner gave me the following recommendation when I asked for sashiko needles:

From left to right:

Japanese Romaji English
刺し子(短) sashiko (tan) sashiko (short)
刺し子(長) sashiko (chō) sashiko (long)
刺し子針 特長 sashikohari tokuchō sashiko needle extra long
中くけ nakakuke middle hem-needle
大くけ ookuke long hem-needle

The owner pointed out that some needles' eyes were too small for some of the thicker sashiko thread available.

Usage Japanese Romaji English
For quilting 四ノ二 shi no ni No. 4.2
For appliqué 四ノ二 shi no ni No. 4.2
For basting つむぎくけ tsumugikuke pongee hem-needle

The first number of the quilting and appliqué needle addresses the needle's thickness, and the second number its length. The numbers range from 1~12 and the smaller the numbers, the thicker and longer the needle is.

Other supplies at Misuyabari

Last time I went, needless to say that I bought needles. Excellent sashiko needles.

I also bought scissors, a wooden box to store my needles in, and a palm thimble.

I admired the beautifully crafted pins with glass figures on top, enjoyed the store's atmosphere, and was in awe of the owner's skilled tending to the customers.

Japanese scissors lying on a cloth
The scissors I bought
Scissors packaged in fabric, with thread and a storage box lying in the background out of focus
Storage for needles, scissors, and thread with a pin-cushion inside the lid
A wooden box with a pin cushion inside
Bigger box for more treasures to storage

Sadly, Misuyabari doesn't ship abroad, so unless you can buy their needles from your trusted supplier, the only way to get hold of these wonderful needles is, alas, to go visit the shop.

What a wonderful excuse for a trip to Japan! If you're in the vicinity, drop me a line and we can go for a coffee together and chat about sashiko!

My treat!

A wooden shrine where wooden fox statues can be seen behind a door with mesh
Outside the store is a little shrine with foxes