On one evening in late May, 11 women worked industriously at a workshop called "Embroidery cafe," which was held at J.S. Pancake Cafe Aoyama store in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. Most of the women came to the workshop that started at 7 p.m. after their work.
The participants received a handkerchief or other material that bore the printed outline of a teacup or other motifs. The women then intently stitched along the outline.
Embroidery is becoming more popular, particularly among young women. The traditional handicraft seems fresh to them, and the ways in which to appreciate it are diversifying. In addition to workshops at cafes, accessories with distinctive motifs and colors made by embroidery artists are on sale nowadays.
The J.S. Pancake Cafe Aoyama store has held about 100 embroidery workshops since its first one two years ago. Those taking part are mainly women in their 20s to 40s. It costs ¥3,990, including food and materials, according to the store.
"I'm happy I can make something original just by embroidering on a small item sold at a store," said a 31-year-old company employee of Minato Ward, Tokyo.
Another company employee, 33, who participated in the workshop with a colleague, said, "For me, embroidery looks classical and fashionable."
The workshop is organised by Junko Yazaki, who has published books and held events themed on embroidery.
"It seems people feel calmer and less stressful by concentrating on stitching by hand," Yazaki said. "Needles, thread and cloth are all you need. It's popular partly because you can start work so easily."
Embroidery was considered unfashionable about 10 years ago, according to Yazaki. Recently, some embroidery artists have begun making products with unconventional designs, which look fashionable to young people.
The roomsShop in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, sells products from four embroidery brands.
Brooches from tamao, a female artist's brand, are distinct in that the motifs are based on main characters of children's tales, such as Snow White and Red Riding Hood, depicted in vivid colors such as red and pink.
The pokefasu brand by a male artist also presents brooches that are popular due to their humorous motifs such as a bear carrying shopping bags.
The prices of the brooches start from ¥2,000 (S$22).
"They look somewhat unrefined, but their warm touches suggesting they are handmade products are popular," shop manager Kanae Murakami said.
The Daikanyama Tsutaya bookstore in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, has about 70 embroidery-themed books. Popular among them are those featuring motifs by young artists. They are bought by men, too.
Many artists today have studied at art colleges, so their works often include intriguing motifs such as insects and skulls, according to Misako Sugawara, who is in charge of the handicraft book section at the bookstore. Some of them post their creations on their own websites and Facebook, increasing their fanbase, she said.
"As motifs and colors are becoming more diversified, embroidery seems to be becoming more accessible for young people," Sugawara said.