Skip to main content

Traveling Sewing Machine Shop, Nanase Ueki’s Thoughts on the Name of the Shop



A circle of friends connected by goof-touch! The “FIST BUMP” corner of the radio program “GRAND MARQUEE” features people who live and enjoy Tokyo in a relay format.

On July 5, Tsuyohiro Hino, manager of the Tokiwa Shobo Shizu Station Building store, introduced Nase Ueki, illustrator and owner of “Tabisuru Sewing Machine Shop”. Nase Ueki, an illustrator and owner of the “Traveling Sewing Machine Shop,” appeared on the stage. We interviewed Ms. Ueki, whose handmade book covers are also popular, about how she got started making and selling handmade bags, the origin of her store name, and the charm of Yanaka, the town where her studio is located.

Designing Loose Cute Animals for Everyday Life

Celeina (MC): Mr. Ueki, you started making and selling handmade bags featuring animal illustrations in August 2003.

Ueki: I guess it all started when I decided to exhibit my products at a handmade market. The first time I exhibited was at a place called “Art Flea Market” at the Itabashi Art Museum.

Takano (MC): Yes, I did.

Ueki: I sold handmade items there, but since people come to the museum, many of them were interested in that kind of thing. It was fun to see them sell right in front of my eyes, so I started to sell my products at the weekend handmade markets.

Celeina: Were you good at sewing to begin with? Or did you want to open a store?

Ueki: I like to make things. It just happened to be cloth. My father owns a sewing machine shop, so I used a sewing machine at home, and my family and relatives also make a lot of things, so I guess I was good at making things.

Celeina: I see. From there, you started making handmade book covers and opened an actual store.

Ueki: I didn’t start out thinking, “I’m going to make book covers! Ueki: I didn’t start out thinking “I’m going to make book covers! I was reading a book and happened to find instructions on how to make book covers, so I made one. When I put them out at another handmade craft fair, they were rather well received, so I thought there was a demand for them, so I continued to make them, and here we are today.

Takano: I see. You are bringing your books today, aren’t you? They are really nice.

Celeina: The pictures are super cute.

Ueki: It’s an eraser stamp.

Celeina: That’s amazing! You have a talent for sewing, but you also do eraser stamps.

Takano: Your illustrations are so cute, aren’t they?

Celeina: It’s more like loose and cute.

Ueki: The lining is reversible, so you can use it in a variety of ways.

Takano: The lining is also very nice. There are various patterns. Some are floral, some have lots of cats, etc.

Celeina: Koalas are so cute! I love koalas. A koala folding a T-shirt (laughs).

Takano: How do you come up with these situations and poses?

Ueki: I thought everyday life would be good. Washing clothes, ironing, washing pots and pans, and so on. I thought it would be interesting to have animals do such things.

Takano: The expressions on their faces are really good.

Ueki: It’s not very popular (laughs).

Celeina: I don’t know! But it depends on what you like.

Ueki: Yes, it does.

Celeina: There are various sizes of book covers, and they can be used not only for books but also for textbooks.

Takano: Notebooks are also good.

Ueki: We started with paperback books. Originally, the paperback size was the most in demand. Then, while we were selling the paperback size, customers asked us, “Do you have a larger size? Then we started making larger and larger sizes. Then we started making larger and larger sizes, and recently we have been making Western book sizes. The largest one is B5 size, which is for how-to books or how to use Illustrator, for example.

Takano: The A5 size has “Globe-Trotter” written on it. (Laughs)

Ueki: It’s a maniacal one (laughs).

Takano: I want to put this book cover on “Globe-Trotter” and travel together (laughs).

Celeina: That’s very nice.

Ueki: Thank you very much. I received a request for this one as well. Recently, I also made one in the size of “Rurubu” and “Mapuru”.

Celeina: That’s wonderful. When you travel, you sometimes feel lonely, don’t you? At times like that, having a book cover with a heartwarming illustration that you use all the time by your side would warm you up. I want one!

Takano: Also, it would be a great conversation starter. When you are on a trip, you might ask, “What’s this? when you are traveling.

A workshop in Yanaka, a town where people who love books gather

Celeina: I heard that you have an actual store “Yanaka Studio, a traveling sewing machine store” where many book covers like this are sold. It is located in Yanaka, right?

Ueki: Yes, it is. We call it a workshop, but we make them at home.

Takano: What do you mean by “traveling”?

Ueki: It also means to travel with a book.

Takano: It’s a way to walk the globe.

Ueki: That’s right. We are thinking mainly of something that will accompany you on your trip, but also something more practical. The book can be read without the book cover, but there are still people who want to read it with something, so it is very rewarding. People say that books don’t sell well, and Mr. Hino said yesterday that it is tough, but I don’t really feel that way when I am in Yanaka. It is a town where people who love books gather, and there are many used bookstores, so there are many people who are looking for something a little more niche, and the clientele is a bit similar to those at the handmade goods market. If the location were different, I don’t know if we would be able to run the store. Maybe it is because we are in Yanaka.

Takano: It would be fun to stroll around Yanaka with this book cover on your back.

Celeina: Yanaka has been attracting a lot of foreign tourists lately, hasn’t it?

Ueki: Yes, there are. There were many before Corona, but after Corona, there were fewer, but recently the number has been increasing again. If you listen to the language, many of them are of European descent. Not groups, but backpackers, families, and individual travelers. After all, they are a bit core.

Takano: I haven’t been able to visit recently, so I want to go back.

Ueki: I think it will be fun.

Celeina: I would like to go. Now, I asked Mr. Ueki to choose one song that he would like to play on the radio at this time. What is it?

Ueki: Yes, “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles. I chose it because it is a song I listen to in the evening. It translates to “Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring,” but anyway, it made me feel like an ordinary person. It is a song that makes me feel strange when I listen to it, and I thought it would be a good song for the evening.

Four Brothers of Abbey Road and Four Brothers of Liverpool

Celeina: Mr. Ueki, now, do you like the Beatles?

Ueki: My father used to listen to them, so I remember hearing many of their songs since I was a child, and my husband also likes the Beatles in a rather maniacal way, so I was trained by that (laughs).

Celeina: Because, look at this traveling sewing machine store’s Twitter header.

Takano: It’s “Abbey Road. Abbey Road, the cat. Because the cat in the very front, I wonder if cats have pockets (laughs). He’s got his hands in his pockets. It’s John Lennon, that’s totally it.

Celeina: Cute. Are these characters the “Four Liverpool Brothers”?

Ueki: It’s the “Four Abbey Road Brothers”.

Celeina: I see (laughs).

Takano: Do the Four Abbey Road Brothers also have book covers?

Ueki: We used to make book covers a while ago. The four Liverpool brothers also don’t make them now, but we have other cats instead. Like Sherlock the cat. And then there are the ones with the name of the city as the name of the character.

Celeina: What is my guess on the koala?

Ueki: Cairns.

Celeina: Cairns! Australia! It’s so cute!

Takano: So that’s how it is.

Celeina: By the way, Mr. Ueki, you will be exhibiting at an event in July.

Ueki: That’s right. We will be holding an event on the theme of biology and chemistry in the gallery space on the 9th floor of the Junkudo Ikebukuro bookstore from July 19 this month to August 17 next month, so please come and visit us if you like.

Takano: What kind of contents are you going to show?

Ueki: Like drawing pictures using the structural formula as a motif. For example, if there is a structural formula of a lemon, a frog is lying on the lemon, or something like that. Also, I can make a picture of photosynthesis and so on. It’s a high hurdle, but right now, that’s what I’m on the verge of doing (laughs).

Takano: We are working on it to rave reviews (laughs).

Ueki: That’s what it looks like.

Takano: Do you mean an exhibition of illustrations?

Ueki: Goods for sale. We will be selling mainly book covers, but also eco bags and other one-of-a-kind hand-drawn items.

Takano: Once again, I would like to mention the “Traveling Sewing Machine Shop: Time for Biology and Science” which will be held at the Junkudo Bookstore Ikebukuro from July 19, 2012. Please come and visit us!

Celeina: Now, “FIST BUMP,” we are asking you to introduce your friends to us through the “circle of friends” connected by the “Goo Touch.

Ueki: He is a bit of an interesting person who is a member of the Kodo Research Department, who observes, takes pictures of ancient paths, also takes pictures of cats, and has all kinds of knowledge, and he is Kei Ogikubo.

Takano: What do you mean by “ancient paths”?

Ueki: It is an old road. He told me that the street in front of our store is an old road, but in short, it is a culvert or something like that. It was a lot of fun to take a walk with him, telling him that this used to be a river, or that the mountain was cut down and turned into a road. We also tamed the cats (laughs).

Celeina: You are involved in a wide variety of activities.

Takano: In a word, what kind of person are you?

Ueki: A person who looks great playing catnip on the porch.

Celeina: That’s nice. Thank you very much. Tomorrow, we will connect with Kei Ogikubo, a freelance writer. Today we have Nase Ueki, an illustrator and owner of a traveling sewing machine store. Thank you very much.

Ueki: Thank you very much.


J-WAVE (81.3FM) Mon-Thu 16:00 – 18:50
Navigator: Shinya Takano, Celeina Ann



NiEW recommends alternative music🆕

NiEW Best Music is a playlist featuring artists leading the music scene and offering alternative styles in our rapidly evolving society. Hailing from Tokyo, the NiEW editorial team proudly curates outstanding music that transcends size, genre, and nationality.