Usually hosted annually at Tokyo Big Sight, the Summer Design Festa is a no-holds-barred artistic free for all, in which an eclectic mix of creative types battle to wow the crowds. It’s a great opportunity to meet artists, appreciate their work and, if you’re so inclined, support them directly by purchasing their wares. The event will be held at Odaiba’s Aomi Exhibition Halls on August 3–4, 2019.
The Summer Design Festa is a spin-off of the Spring and Fall Design Festas—which has become Asia’s biggest art festival. But just because it’s a little smaller doesn’t mean there isn’t an awful lot to see and do. Aimed more at families and students, the Summer Design Festa is a still a mammoth event, with about 6,000 artists covering 2,000 booths in attendance every year.
Whether you’re an art enthusiast, you’re looking for a unique souvenir of Japan or you just want to stare at some crazy stuff, the Summer Design Festa has something for you.
Finding your bearings
The Festa is divided into zones for ease of reference. The first thing you’re going to want to do is grab a program—the halls are pretty big! Once you’ve absorbed the map and figured out where you are, you’re going to want to pretty much forget about it. While the designated areas are a great guide, and can help you if you get turned around, there’s a real mix of stuff in every area—so it’s well worth looking around even if you don’t think you’re interested in a particular area.
Live painting and illustration
For many, the main attraction is the live painting element, in which more than 60 artists will throw their creations onto canvas over the course of the festival in real time. If this is your jam, you might want to consider coming at the start of the second day of the festival. That way, the paintings are underway enough that you can admire them and see where they’re going, while still getting to see the artists at work.
The performance area is a constant barrage of art and culture—be sure to check the main program for the schedule for anything you don’t want to miss. Here you’ll see bands and musicians of all stripes, as well as fashion shows, acrobatics, interpretive dancing, sword dancing, ballet dancing, belly dancing and regular ol’ dancing.
The booths are mostly aimed at sales, and cover a broad range of styles, genres and media. Whether it’s illustration, character art, sculpture or crafts, there’s a good chance you’ll find something you love.
You’re sure to see some pretty outrageous looks too—both for sale and on your fellow visitors. Thanks to the huge numbers of indie designers and producers, the event sees a big turnout from the fringes of fashion, especially from cosplayers, as well as steampunk, lolita and decora fashion enthusiasts. If you can wear it, it’s probably there, from clothing and accessories to props, shoes, masks, replica weapons and costumes.
For as little as ¥500, you can take home your own craft masterpiece. Historically the family-friendly workshops have ranged from puppets and keychains to pottery, or sculpting one of Japan’s famously realistic fake-food models. Depending on your choice of activity you’ll want to set aside anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours to bring your creation to life. As with everything in Japan, the level of English for each course will probably vary. Consider sticking to the simpler classes if you’re not feeling too confident in your Japanese.
There are two food areas with ten mini cafés offering light snacks and beverages.
Prices and tickets
Advance tickets for one day are a bargain at only ¥800, or ¥1,000 at the door. One day should be enough to see everything (except perhaps some performances), but if you’re really feeling it, signing up for both days will save you the princely sum of ¥100. Find out more and purchase tickets here.
The event is held in the Aomi Exhibition Hall at Tokyo Big Sight, 2 minutess from Tokyo Teleport Rinkai line, or 4 minutes from Aomi Station Yorikamome line.
Big Sight is well signposted from both stations, but it’s a wild looking building, so you’re going to know pretty quickly if you’re moving in the right direction even if you miss the signs.
Check out our past visit to Design Festa below: