Design Festa Gallery

Tucked away in the tangle of backstreets in trendy Harajuku lies the Design Festa gallery. Even with detailed maps I managed to miss it, circling it twice until I caught the colourful building from the corner of my eye. I always find it awkward walking around Harajuku, prowling grounds for the young and trendy, making an old and decidedly unhip crusty like myself stand out like a sore thumb. Especially on lovely hot days like today when the crowds wear clothes so insubstantial they barely leave anything to my already overactive imagination, and with photomodels on every corner being snapped by a variety of still and film cameras, it’s very hard not to appear a Humbert Humbert, always afraid to end up on the business end of a police baton for disorderly lascivious leering. But walking at a brisk pace and keeping my head up, eyes above neck-level, I managed to do some art sight-seeing without being arrested.

Design Festa gallery occupies two brightly painted buildings, divided by a little terrace café, and boasts a variety of room types where young artist can rent spaces to exhibit their works. Rooms vary from small to actual bathrooms and garage-style open areas, so hence the costs to exhibit, though still very competitive, also differ from area to area. On the one hand this free-market attitude towards exhibiting is a great thing, offering unknown artists a place to show off their works, but it also means there is no real bar for quality.

As spaces are rented out for days to months one never quite knows what you’ll see when you go there, though if you check the website (here) there is a schedule. When I visited I enjoyed some of the wall paintings outside and in the stairwell and the cool one room exhibit by Venom Palette, who was kind enough to explain his work and was selling T-shirts ridiculously cheaply. Other exhibits were less impressive, including the large space occupied by a woman with a very tenuous grasp of anime-painting. At first I thought it might have been ironic, but judging by the subject matter of women in various cute poses, it was pretty clear that her skills were somewhat outrun by her enthusiasm. Another exhibit was being prepared as I visited; a young Japanese man was hanging up a thousand little sketches which looked pretty cool, but sadly I didn’t wait around. The café, just a few scattered tables, was nice for a sit down and a drink, the sun beating down and a cool breeze sweeping through the buildings.

Harajuku is usually a destination for visitors and tourists, mostly for the weird fashion and loli-goths, as well as some trendy shopping streets, but while you’re there I can recommend making a slight detour off the beaten track, though it must be said not that far off the beaten track, and visit Design Festa to see what the young artists of Japan are up to.


  1. Unless I'm confusing buildings, there's also a really great okonomiyaki at the back of the Festa.

  2. No, you're not and yes, there is.

  3. 千葉 不動産なら神奈川県の不動産会社シティネット。不動産 東京はお任せ下さい!マンスリーマンションを初めて借りる方へ蒙古火鍋 しゃぶしゃぶ 食べ放題 銀座 ハウスクリーニング 練馬区

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