Sunday, 16 May 2010

Design Festa Vol. 31 - TKO

This weekend, Ed and I took a fleeting trip to Tokyo for Design Festa. Design Festa is the biggest art and design event in Asia, and I had been dreaming about going to it ever since I decided to move to Japan. Anyone and everyone can contribute and participate in the Festa; the venue was teeming with arty, crafty stalls, booths, installations and live performance, showcasing art and design not only from Asia, but from all over the world. The event was so much fun, and I was in crafty heaven, to the point that on arriving at the venue, the row upon row of little stalls, oozing with colour,handmade treasures and all kinds of funny, interesting things, truly took my breath away. The artists and designers were so friendly and willing to talk about and have their work photographed. My future back in London is still so uncertain and has been the point of such anxiety for me recently. I found the event to be very inspiring and it has really motivated me to pursue and hatch more plans for little projects, which up until this point, I had only really envisioned as silly, trivial things.

I collected so many little cards over the course of the day, and have spent this morning trying to match them them up to my photographs. I will link wherever possible if you want to take a looky :-)

These colourful vintage fabric, cute little 'lady purses' were made by an equally cute elderly lady called Kitsch Mama. I bought one for my pens and pencils. I love Kitsch Mama!

Friends and loved ones, expect lots of post in the coming weeks - beautiful postcards were my number one purchase of the day.

Having seen this stall, I am determined to make my own kaleidoscopes. They were mesmerising. The picture below is what I saw when I looked inside the big purple one - nice eh? :-)

I bought postcards a-plenty from the cute little chicken man.

This cardboard city was so beautiful. There were even parts of it that moved - amazing.


This was a really endearing piece of work about the different prefectures of Japan. The Kagawa (my home) character even has udon (Kagawa's famous dish) hair eee! I actually felt an unexpected pang of pride for my home prefecture. Udon this week Vivian?

The photograph is not so clear, but one of my favourite booths of the day was manned by a lovely husband and wife, who took very funny mugshot pictures of their very smiley cat. It made me laugh so much. Please have a look at the website, it's so much fun. I wonder if I could get my Alfie to do something similar...

Some booths sold very little in the way of handicrafts, but were entertaining all the same....

I loved this mother and son duo. They held the event's monopoly on paper chain making...

the paper girls.

cosy little woodland hideaway.

It was a long day for this boy.

I had the best time ever at Design Festa and saw so many interesting things. I want to come back to Japan for it next year, perhaps even having a stall of my own... I wonder if London Design Week this October will be as impressive.

Having treated our eyes to all of the treasures at the Festa, Ed and I headed to Koenji (the cutest little part of Tokyo) where my friend Nathalie lives. Nathalie and I both went to university in Leeds and share a few friends in common. In our third year, one of my good friends, Simon, lived in the same house as Nathalie, just two roads back from the one I lived in. Despite this, our first time to meet was not in lovely Yorkshire, where we had walked the same cobbled streets, studied in the same libraries and danced in the same clubs, but on the other side of the world in Tokyo. We had a hearty okonomiyaki dinner and headed to Shibuya, where Nathalie took us to this amazing labyrinth of very narrow streets, lined with cosy little bars that fit about eight people in at most. Drinking in these streets would make for a fun game of surprise (and a test of courage too perhaps!); it was funny to reach the top of the staircase, before finding yourself squeezed into a very tiny room with six strangers. Apparently, these were the popular Shibuya drinking dens of post-war Japan.

This bar was at the top of a very narrow staircase. It was cosy, cosy, and there were cat things everywhere; I was a happy girl.

After that, we danced until the morning. Here we are on our way home, Sunday morning :-)

I have fallen in love with Koenji; it reminded me somewhat of East London with its abundance of arty little cafes and twee shops. This is a cutesy little Koenji cafe called Hattifnatt, the interior of which has been made to look like a treehouse. Unfortunately, there was a long queue, so I have added it to the top of my list for my return jaunt.

Lovely Nathalie was the best guide to Tokyo ever (thank you, thank you, and check your posty post soon!). We headed to another cute area called Shimokitazawa in the afternoon, where we picked up some vintage treasures, and visited what have fast become one of my favourite idiosyncrasies of Japan's burgeoning cafe culture - the cat cafe! This one was called Maneki Neko. The cats were so beautiful, healthy and clean looking. I miss my Alfie so much.

My favourite one; Nathalie observed that he looks like Bill Bailey - can you see the resemblance?

This cat leads the perfect life - he lives in Shimokitazawa, has loads of adoring cat lovers cooing at him, gets to wear a strawberry hat and sleep in a bowl every day!

With a couple of hours to spare before the dreaded eleven hour night bus journey (which incidentally,was horrific) we went to a Thai Festival in Yoyogi Park, stopping to see the Elvis' on the way;

It was then back to Shibuya for one last look at the surge of human activity at Shibuya crossing and a sushi dinner, before taking the bus back to sleepy little Kagawa.

I had the best weekend; Tokyo endeared itself a lot more to me on my second visit, both because of Design Festa and my super guide, who was not only the best fun, but showed me a side to Tokyo that I had been looking for. I will be back for a final vist in August :-)
The night bus was hellish;I spent the entire night having to endure my body coiled into the foetal position, my face crushed against the window and fish fumes seeping into my pores - many thanks to the man sitting next to me and his super sized bag of dried squid. Today, I am relaxing and recovering by drinking jasmine tea, listening to new music,finding space in my room for all of my new treasures and making a nice salad lunch;an extortionately priced, miniscule can (oh, the paradox!) of mixed pulses was my personal reward for the completion of the bus journey...yes, it really was that bad!

It's funny, but even though I am nine months into my time here in Japan, I continue to experience these strange moments that creep up on me unexpectedly; when I'm out walking in the evenings, when I am teaching a class, just before I go to sleep. They cannot be described other than moments of disbelief and a curious sense of pride - I'm here in Japan. Actually here. The shakey days are still a permenant fixture of my life here and what I am gaining or hope to gain from this experience remains unclear to me. But I did it. I did this all by myself. I hope that is something that I can take with me when I return to London to begin figuring out what to do next...



  1. Izzy this sounds so fun! I am jealous! I get the strange moments here too. It really is incredible how possible these things are, I remember last year when it seemed unimaginable that I could be here...yet here we are, miles from home, on opposite sides of the world!

  2. I know! Speaking of which Rosie...can you message me your address please?