Just got back from a 10 day trip to Japan - six days in Kyoto, three days in Takayama and two in Osaka.
While our schedule was full of various tourist related site seeing spots I was able to pop into a couple of knitting related shops in hopes of getting a full set of Japanese knitting needles.
The first stop was Masuzakiya in the Porta shopping mall under Kyoto station. It wasn't too hard to find once I asked for directions from the information booth and was given a map. It's closest to the central entrance to Kyoto Station.
I did a double take when I first saw the shop because from the outside. The racks of sweaters in front make it look like any other clothing store in the mall. Once inside I could clearly see yarn along the walls and in bins on the floor.
I showed up in the late afternoon and was the only customer. Several clerks were ready to help but a bit perplexed when I walked in. I quickly scanned the shop and noticed all of the knitting supplies were behind the register. My first thought was that it wasn't going to be easy to ask for needles but I did come prepared with a picture of a set of Clover needles I had found on the internet. I pointed to the picture and at first the clerk didn't quite understand but eventually caught on and said "setto?" I nodded and said "Hi, setto". A set of clover needles appeared - exactly as shown in the photo. Success! I then tried asking for smaller sized needles that weren't in the set. She didn't seem to have any. I also popped around the register to check out the Clover gadgets they carry. It all look pretty familiar to what was available back home - needles, stitch counters and etc.
Next stop was a craft store in the basement of Kyoto Tower called Yoshikawa. I thought I might have a hard time finding it but no, it's quite easy to find. Just enter Kyoto Tower at the corner near Starbucks, go down the escalator and there it is. It takes up nearly the whole basement with no real store front to speak of.
Really this was the place I should have visited first. The set of needles I had bought at Masuzakiya were about $10 cheeper there! Also they had a much better selection of needles and gadgets. Not only did I find smaller sized needles but also picked up a few rulers including another Nihon Vogue gauge ruler. Not only did they have knitting supplies but also things for many other crafts. Everything was out in easy to reach displays. No need to ask for help.
Since I had gone to both shops for needles I can't really comment on the yarn at both shops but did have the impression that the yarn selection/quality was better at Masuzakiya.
Later that night when pulled out the set of knitting needles I noticed that the set only included even numbered needles (4 - 14). How crazy is that! I really wanted a whole set including the odd sized needles. Darn it! The next evening I returned to pick up all the odd sized needles.
In case you're wondering, the reason I wanted a full set of needles from Japan is that they come in a different size range than what is available in North America or Europe. Check out this gauge that came with the set. The needle number is on the left side of the hole and corresponding millimeters on the right side. These needles increase every .3 mm in size.
I'm not sure how much I'll use these needles because the quality isn't as good as my Addi Turbo needles. While the cords aren't quite as bad as the ones on the Clover Bamboo needles they're not as flexible as Addi Turbo or Knit Picks. Also they're aluminum with no nickel plated finish.