Cliff Cardona Art Director
Tokyo is often hailed as one of the most creatively inspiring cities in the world, and it’s not hard to see why. From the minute you arrive, the city is an assault on the senses, with its neon-lit suburbs, unique style, and unashamed love of pop culture. You could spend a month here and still not see all the galleries, museums and general creativity on offer.
Luckily, there are a few websites (such as Tokyo Art Beat) and printed guides available to help people find popular and interesting events and exhibitions, but here is a handpicked selection of current or upcoming events that I consider worth checking out.
Started in 2003, PechaKucha is a creative presentation event where speakers are allowed to show 20 photos of their choosing and explain each within a strict 20 second timeframe. Devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, the format was created as a tongue-in-cheek protest against architects’ insistence on talking too much about their work. The interesting thing about PechaKucha is that anyone can present anything – from holiday snaps to a recent creative project – so you get a real eclectic mix of personalities talking about the things they love. Having said that, the quality of the event does largely depend on the quality of its speakers, so the barrier to entry being low means that events can be a little hit and miss. Make sure you check out who’s speaking at the next one before marking it in your calendar.
When: Usually held on the last Wednesday of every month
Where: Super Deluxe, Nishi-Azabu
Design Festa vol.46
Design Festa is a two day event held twice a year at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba, and is probably the biggest display of creative talent in Japan. The event has very few restrictions for entry and includes artists, designers, crafts people, performance artists and musicians of every imaginable genre. The first Design Festa took place in 1994 and featured 830 booths, but recent events have featured over 10,000. Booths are mostly assigned randomly, so there’s a chance you’ll see a fashion designer, a performance artist, a logo designer and a musician all next to each other. Most participants are recent art/design graduates, so a lot of the work is pretty eccentric. You won’t love all of it, but you will find yourself being at least fascinated by most of it!
When: 11 November – 12 November, 2017
Where: Tokyo Big Sight
Ginza Graphic Gallery
Opened in 1986 by Japan’s largest printing company, Dai Nippon Printing, GGG is a gallery space that specializes in contemporary graphic art by designers from Japan and abroad. The Tokyo Art Directors Club regularly organizes exhibits here and the work is always of very high quality. If you’re into graphic design and typography, a visit to GGG will never disappoint!
Where: DNP Ginza Building, Ginza
Design Touch 2017
Design Touch is on a much smaller scale to concurrent events like Tokyo Designers Week, but it’s definitely worth a look if you’re in the area. The main attraction is usually an interactive design installation in the “grass square” area behind Tokyo Midtown, but there will also be other peripheral events and exhibits organised by partner companies. SoftBank and Askul have participated in previous years.
When: Mid October – Early November, 2017
Where: Tokyo Midtown
The Art of Disney — The Magic of Animation
Featuring nearly 500 pieces of original art, sketches and concepts – from Steamboat Willie and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to Frozen and Moana – this event at the Miraikan celebrates the process behind the creation of Disney movies, old and new. The exhibition’s main aim is to share “the moment when life is given to characters.” Well worth checking out, especially if you have young Disney fans in the family!
When: Now – September 24, 2017
Where: National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan)
For firms looking to enter the Japanese market, Design Tokyo claims to be Japan’s leading trade fair for “marketable” design products. All items are screened by a committee, and only those deemed good enough are showcased. The event provides firms looking to enter the Japanese market an opportunity to promote their design-conscious products to buyers and dealers.
When: July 5 – July 7, 2017
Where: Tokyo Big Sight (Tokyo International Exhibition Center)
Footnote: Tokyo Design Week would be an obvious candidate for the list, but this year’s event has been cancelled due to a tragedy in 2016 when one of the exhibits caught fire, resulting in a young boy losing his life.