Design Festa is so much more than the kawaii culture I focused on in the first part our coverage (here if you missed it), it is more accurately the best representation there is of the fantastic range that all of Japanese pop-culture represents, and in particular the vast number of niche tastes that the outsider’s eye (and documentary makers) tends to be drawn to. In this part we are going to look at the rest of the key trends to come out of the event, and pick up some personal highlights along the way, it is a sad reality that even this coverage won’t really scratch the surface of all the culture to come out of Design Festa, the only way to see it all is to pay it a visit yourself – which I advise you do.
First a foremost Design Festa is a celebration of art and illustration, along with Comiket (which is held in the same Big Sight venue and actually attracts more visitors – it is still the largest public gathering in Japan of any kind), it is probably your best chance to get a sense of modern Japanese aesthetics beyond the totality of Tokyo art museums. Yes, you might have to wade through a whole lot of art that you might struggle with, although the adult content of Comiket is mercifully (almost) entirely absent, but I challenge anyone to not find something that inspires them.
Criticism of pop-culture was a big theme in the art scene, the above from the Sekaomu team is a parody of western perceptions of manga drawing styles and I recommend you check out their site here, but not from work.
Beyond the pop, more traditional Japanese arts and crafts were out in force, without a doubt early 60s Showa aesthetics seem to be in vogue at the moment – something I am definitely seeing a parallel with in the fashion world.
I was particularly glad to find work like the bags above that encapsulate Showa-era kawaii culture in easy to implement fashion.
Elsewhere I managed to find turn of the century taxidermy techniques alive and well – Japan actually has a really long history of taxidermy with novelty taxidermy never being far away!
Taking their calls from further back in early Meiji I found these great hand-dyed aprons,
and iPad cases made from old Japanese parchment. I thought the latter was particularly good as this form of papier mache is the same that used to be used in Japanese leather craft to stiffen leather , which I thought had a nice parallel to the function of the cases above.
You couldn’t move for handmade watches at Design Festa, but these Meiji-era industrial inspired ones got my vote.
Back in Showa with an artist called “Tom Sawyer Koubou” – you can see more here.
More Meiji-era inspired steel and silver work, this time from Koji Harasawa who produced the stunning briefcase you can see in the top right.
Elsewhere in the craft world I found a leather carving working with Pagan imagery – something I for one have never seen before to this standard.
Design Festa would not be complete without a host of creative eccentrics, this is a guro caricaturist who can give you a good idea of what you might look like on the inside.
The broadly baffling.
The perfectly executed.
The outright adorable – look beyond the cat at the frog broach!
And the engagingly foppish.
The world of dolls baffled as ever – I have always preferred to dress myself.
And I must say that the world of Furry Fandom does look like it might have finally arrived in Japan, it will be interesting to see if it creates its own culture or if like steampunk it remains a largely imported culture – we shall see…
Finally a special mention has to go to this chap who was the subject of a rather intense and very public rope bondage session by the ladies pictured – I have never seen a man blush a darker shade of red!
Well there you have it, hopefully I have shown you enough to enjoy and enough to take seriously to pay it a visit yourself this coming November – I might just see you there.