Tokyo Design Time


The design spotlight is currently on Japan’s capital city.

Tokyo Designers Week 2009 starts this weekend with a flourish of events and parties scattered around the metropolis. Last year, I was lucky enough to go to one of the exclusive after-parties for the annual 100% Design event. At the intimate venue–a tiny Japanese restaurant in the posh Omotesando district–a row of chefs prepared sushi for us, piece-by-piece. It was exquisite to look at and delicious.

100% Design follows last week’s Design Festa, which took place on Tokyo’s man-made island, Odaiba. This bi-annual art and design festival is low-key compared to Designers Week, but still packs some impressive numbers–15 years after it was started it has grown to 2700 exhibitor booths and more than 8,500 artists.

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Spread across three floors of the vast Tokyo Big Sight exhibition hall, the featured designers and artists specialize in everything from performance to graffiti to textile art. Their work is also often up for sale.


Design Festa consistently draws many young Japanese art and design fans and a notable number of international visitors as well. And attendees need not be design aficionados; perhaps the best part about Design Festa is that it has a something-for-everyone feel to it.

As one previous exhibitor and veteran attendee, a Tokyo-based graphic designer, told me, ‘Design Festa is not for cutting-edge or high-end glossy design, it’s a great opportunity for artists in Japan to simply share their talent.’ On his own reasons for continuing to attend, he added, ‘I go as an artist, to be inspired. In Tokyo, artistic passion seems to get hidden behind the grey landscape and black-suits. I like to see colour and passion and it’s there at Design Festa.’

The next Design Festa is scheduled for May 2010. But in the meantime I’m looking forward next week to some updates from inside Tokyo Designers Week by regular Wallpaper magazine contributor Gordon Kanki-Knight, who’ll be sharing some insights with me.

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