Design Festa

#39 - 20 years of Design in Japan!

Twice a year, since the early-90s, Design Festa has rocked Japan. Arts, crafts, performance, music, and the entire breadth and depth of design is featured in this extravaganza using most of the west exhibition area of Tokyo Big Sight, the largest convention and exhibition space in Tokyo.

With more than 11,000 exhibitors in 3300 booths, and over 50,000 visitors, DesignFesta is no doubt the biggest celebration of arts and design in Asia. Critical to its popularity is its encouragement of freedom of expression for all: "Design Festa is a celebration of the arts at which anyone regardless of age, nationality, talents or language can exhibit."

The official YouTube Trailer is linked below:

Everyone, Anyone

You kind find virtually every kind of person you could imagine in Japan at DesignFesta. Of course, the concept of freedom that the organizers espouse encourages this. But the extent to which people of all ages, colors, fashion, and background converge upon Big Sight for the exposition is fascinating.

Although one might get somewhat of a glimpse of this kaleidoscope of people in Harajuku or Akihabara, the scale here is breathtaking. Whether it is on the exhibition floor, during performances, at the food stalls, or in the main lobby, the people milling about include people wearing a variety of costumes and fashions worthy of a Halloween party, but without any pretense or concern for the eyes of others. This, in Japan, is rather intoxicating.

Alive and Well

Although there are a great many arts and crafts exhibitions throughout Japan, many of which may feature artists of greater renown and talent, for me, what makes Design Festa particularly compelling is its emphasis on live craft-making and performance. Of course, there are many performances of music and drama on stage. But there are also many live artistic performances.

It is not just on the stages or in the live painting areas, though, where exhibitors are making their wares. You can see people painting the walls of their booths, making jewelry, carving wood, and sewing throughout the exhibition area. This shortens the distance between the artist and audience. Instead of just being a consumer, buyer, and customer, the audience becomes a participant in this festival. Artists who have exhibited for years get a chance to see each other twice a year, share their stories, buy each other's works, and, perhaps, reignite the fire that burns within that lights their art.

I've been to more than a dozen Deign Festa events over the past 15 years. It remains the one large arts and crafts event held in Japan that is crazy, delightful, and exhausting. If you enjoy art and design, make plans to attend. Wear comfortable shoes. Bring water. And be prepared to be entertained. Enjoy!

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