Saturday, 28 November 2015

Design Festa!

On any given day in Tokyo there are a ton of events for every kind of taste and hobby. One of the most diverse and anticipated events is none other than "Design  Festa" held in Odaiba bi-annually. The building itself is known as "Tokyo Big site" and is more well known for holding manga events such as "Comic Market" and epic car shows, the floor plan is absolutely huge and the building itself is immense and worth travelling too just to see the architecture.
Design festa is an event purely for Indie artists and designers, who come to Tokyo big site to showcase and sell their wares. If its handmade, you can probably buy it at design festa, there are stals for absolutely everything; from the strikingly kawaii down to the completely obscure and ridiculous.
The best part is you can often pick up a one-of-a-kind item that no-one in the world has, or just knowing that each item was made lovingly by the artists hands.

The products themselves range from 100yen (about 50p) all the way up to 500,000yen (2,500 pound) and beyond, as a lot of items are made painstakingly from scratch over a course of weeks. One such example was a dragon head made completely out of wood and mounted on a plaque that was going for 100,000 yen.

 Even though there were a lot of unique stalls, some of them did sell similar items, so it was easy to see what is on trend this year. Strawberries, fox masks, cake themed accessories and magical girl themed items proved quite popular amongst the sellers. I was happy to find so many wonderful magical girl themed accessories. I purchased a ring from my friends brand and sister brand "Caramel Ribbon" and "Starmii", the design is based around old magical girl anime and it sparkles so brilliantly in the light.

One of my favourite things about Design Festa was that there were many huge murals erected around the building and you could watch artists paint or draw wonderful creations from scratch. It was interesting passing by hours later and seeing this man go from a few paint splatters into a wonderful masterpiece.

The floor plan was so huge, with an upstairs too, even though we were there for about 5 hours, we probably didn't see every stall.  There was also a stage with alternative dance and other artistic performances, there was so much to see and do. Thankfully the event is over two days so you can see everything. The stalls are slightly different on both days though, so make sure you go on the day of your favourite stalls!

There were a lot of manga-style artists who drew in many different kinds of styles, it was really inspiring for me to see how diverse these medium could be. There were also artists who would, for a small fee, take a picture of you on their camera and draw your face! I didn't do it myself as we didn't have a lot of time but I saw the results of other customers and they were incredible.


There was a lot of old European Lord of the Rings inspired artwork, with dragons, elves and fairies being in abundance at design fest this year, maybe due to  the popularity of The Hobbit last year.

Of course there was no lack of creepy dolls laying around, as well as a lot of stalls who specifically made clothing for ball-jointed-dolls which was very charming. There were so many gorgeous, tiny outfits I wish that the designer would make in my size!

I also ended up buying a poster from "Dreamland" from the stall pictured at the top of this post. The owners of the store were an adorable couple who drew themselves as little Chibi fairies and sold various dreamy, pastel goods. You can find them on intagram as @imyoko724 and @ryosuke.dl

Design Festa is held twice a year in summer and winter in Japan, if you are planning a trip I totally recommend visiting this event. The ticket is only 800yen, and it opens from 11-7pm.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Bakeneko Matsuri in Kaguarazaka

Ghost cats seem to be popular in Japan right now with the super-popular character "Jibanyan" from the Youkai Watch franchise, so of course a festival based around the story of ghost cats would attract hundreds of participants in the lesser known area of Tokyo named Kagurazaka.
Bakeneko is a mixture of the words "Bakemono" which means monster, and "Neko" which means cat in Japanese and Japan famously loves spooky tales. Close to Iidabashi, Kagurazaka boasts a long traditional style street called Kaugurazaka dori which is famous for kimono, Japanese sweets and tea. Such a traditional place was a perfect setting for a festival honoring a creature from many Japanese folklore tales. The story of bakeneko is very ambiguous; some stories say that bakeneko are cats that were killed by humans and turned into vengeful spirits, others say that bakeneko can shapeshift into humans and others say they can raise the dead.
The festival runs annually on the 10th of October, so if you have a penchant for ghost animals, or even just a cat lover, make sure to head to Kagurazaka dori next year.

This festival is a tribute to bakeneko and features a parade down Kagurazaka dori, where hundreds of people cosplay as different versions of cats. Some people chose a very classic "monster cat" cosplay, while others went for cute cat-eared maids, Cheshire cats and famous Anime characters.
The street was chock-full of people, all wearing cat ears, it was all very obscure and Japanese. With the old-style setting I did feel as though I was living in an actual anime. There were many spectators in normal clothes who came to watch the parade, and some oblivious bystanders wondering why everyone was dressed up!

There was also music being played through the street speakers and somehow their choice of tunes were all Michael Jackson and Queen, which added to the obscurity. At first people were just waiting around for the parade to start so there were many opportunities to make friends and take pictures.

One man was seemingly dressed up as Freddie Mercury, shaking maracas and giving out candy, I am not sure what his connection with bakeneko was but it was pretty entertaining. I didn't take any candy though.

Some of the outfits were very intricate and a lot of time and effort went into crafting them. A lot of them used clay masks and paired them with traditional Japanese kimono or samurai armor, which was very reminiscent of kabuki theater. There were even some original characters that people had created, which made it a real once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Parade itself was wonderful, there were so many participants and everyone was smiling. The age range of participants went from little koneko children and babies, right up to elderly neko samurais, the parade ran though Kagurazaka dori down to the local shrine. Then finally as the crowd dispersed, the youngsters went to the local game center and took Purikura (Japanese photobooth) photos.

The festival itself didn't have many stalls, which is what is expected of a normal matsuri in Japan. Usually there would be market style food vendors serving up huge helpings of yakisoba and takoyaki. There were a couple of tables serving some hot food but that is definitely something that could have been improved upon next year. Luckily, Kagurazaka has a fantastic selection of both Japanese and French food so there were plenty of places to get something to eat, we decided upon a restaurant/cafe that is actually on the river running through Kagurazaka and Iidabashi. You can sit on the decking and enjoy a selection of Italian food, sweets and cofefe and even go for a row on the river! It was so romantic.

Eventhough it was a festival about cats, I ended up falling in love with a beautiful cosplaying sheepdog! (@potedazo on instagram). Being so close to Halloween, meant that everyone was in the cosplay spirit!