I alight at Ome Station in western Tokyo on a scorching summer's day; the pavement is like a pizza stone underfoot as I head east from the station and walk past umbrella shop Hoteiya.

There, last month, I took refuge from a downpour, and ended up buying a fancy umbrella from owner Ryotaro Arai, 77. As Arai kindly etched my name into the handle, he told me about the fabric used in the umbrella's canopy. "It's called yaguji, and Ome was once famous for it," he explained.

I'm now in search of Gallery Cafe Hakoya, the place Arai suggested I might learn more about the historical fabric. The cafe is right on the main street and inside I find two delights: air conditioning and gregarious shop owner Kaneko Shizue, 70. I order an ice coffee, and as Shizue prepares it, I peruse the gallery's merchandise. Hakoya's offerings — notebooks, bags and wall hangings — all feature the same fabric as Hoteiya's best umbrellas.