I was traveling in Japan over the past few weeks and one of my destinations was to visit an open-air craft show in Sakai, a suburb of Osaka, called Tomoshibito-no-tsudoi. This well-curated show, held in a quiet park, features 100 artists from all over Japan and takes place annually at the end of October.
The Sakai show attracted large crowds of people from the surrounding areas. The atmosphere was festive and family-friendly. Besides the many rows of artist booths, there were also plenty of delicious food stalls to feed the hungry masses.
Helped by the excellent weather (at least for the day I was there), the show was packed. Some artist booths had long lines of people waiting to get their hands on the creations of their favorite artists. It is hard to believe that this show was only in its fourth year.
Craft shows are fun occasions for the artists too. These venues are opportunities for the artists to get out of their studio, meet their fans and the general public, other artists, and people like me who want to spread the word about them outside of Japan. Few if any of them are known or sell their wares outside of the country.
When I go to these shows and meet the artists, I always think about how tough an occupation it is to be an artist. They spend the vast majority of their working hours in solitude, and we have the privilege to enjoy the results of their hard endeavors.
There are more than 300 craft shows held around Japan every year. To put this in perspective, imagine 300 of these shows taking place within the state of California, which is roughly the same size as Japan, in one year!
You might also be surprised to find out that these very popular shows only began in Japan in 1985 with Craft Fair Matsumoto. The artists who organized the Matsumoto show saw some outdoor craft shows in the U.S. and Britain and wanted to start something similar in Japan. So these shows have their origins from the West.
Before these shows became popular in Japan, artists were limited to showing their work at galleries and department stores. It appears that there has been a renaissance in the popularity of handmade craft and tradition in the last 5 years in Japan that has been helped by these shows that provide venue for artists, especially promising younger artists, an outlet to show their work.
In the coming months, I will update information about Japanese craft shows on our “links” page that will be accessible from the navigation button at the bottom of our homepage. If you are visiting Japan, there is an excellent chance that one of these shows is taking place during your stay. If so, I highly recommend that you visit the show if you can.