Design Festa is a huge weekend event in Tokyo for art, craft and design that I’ve been lucky enough to attend twice. It’s crammed full of hundreds of stalls with local artists and designer makers selling their wares and showing off their talents.
It takes place bi-annually (usually May and October/November) on Odaiba in a massive convention space with rooms loosely designated for art, illustration, crafts, fashion, lighting and more over two floors. There’s also a stage area for bands and fashion shows, and maybe you’ll even meet a mascot like Mochi Usagi!
It’s difficult to get across quite how enormous and inspirational Design Festa is – you’ll definitely need to make a day of it to see everything and you’ll be exhausted by the end of it. The rows of stalls seem endless and you’re certain to miss something, however hard you try. But whatever you do see, it’s sure to be unexpected and exciting.
(photo by Design Festa)
Anyone can apply for a stall and prices are cheap so it’s a cross between a trade show, a craft fair and an impromptu art event. In one aisle you could have an illustrator selling postcards and while-you-wait original sketches, a display for a new product prototype, someone sitting on a blanket on the floor selling their handmade accessories and a couple of people who are just painting on the walls. And lots of people dressed up in outrageous fashions and cosplay.
It’s that mix that makes Design Festa unmissable – there’s really nothing like it in the UK and nowhere else will you get the chance to see such a range of independent art and crafts in one place. Plus, it’s all so kawaii! Most stalls have things for sale and it’s definitely a case of buy when you see as you might never find your way back again.
If you’re on a budget, I recommend collecting postcards – there will be lots of free ones and artists selling them for a few hundred Yen apiece. I’m sure you’ll be tempted into something bigger though – I’ve come home with an amazing illustrated book of bunny sushi, a wood-burned spoon, a teeny weeny sculpture on a pin head and a felted snowman!
Most of the stallholders will only speak Japanese but everyone was really friendly. It’s polite to ask before you take photos or a business card, but the international language of miming will get you by. Do take business cards as well – it’s easy to forget what you saw and many artists are on Instagram or Tumblr so you can continue to follow their work back home.
It’s definitely worth planning your Tokyo trip to coincide with Design Festa, but if you can’t manage that, there’s also a Design Festa gallery in Harajuku. It’s open all year round and artists can book a space to display and sell their work, plus there’s a nice cafe too.
How to get there
Design Festa takes place at Tokyo Big Sight on Odaiba, and can be reached by monorail, train, boat or bus. Here’s a location map with full directions. It costs ¥1000 for a day ticket or ¥1800 for a weekend ticket, with discounts for children.
The Design Festa gallery is in Harajuku, near to Omotesando subway and JR Harajuku stations. Full map and details here.
Design Festa Links
Last updated: 21 August 2016