The Japan Hobby Show has been running for 42 years, attracting everyone from professional artisans, retailers scouting for new trends, to the home hobbyist getting supplies and joining a workshop. It’s organised by the Hobby Association of Japan with support from national government ministries, the Tokyo Government and industry associations such as the Craft & Hobby Association of Japan (The full list of supporters is below*). That extent of organisational involvement indicates that it’s more than just retailers selling their wares to passionate crafters. It’s a showcase of the professions which make up the craft and artisan sector in Japan. For an outsider, the breadth of support shows how deep the culture of making and crafting runs in Japanese society. All good news if you’re a crafter visiting Japan.
The hall of exhibitors houses mainstream brands of sewing machines, art supplies, fabric and needlework supplies, and jewellery, with a featured collection of fashion designers and small makers. A central stage and catwalk provides entertainment during the event. The students from the design colleges have their work strutted down the catwalk, alongside established designers and makers. It must be a thrilling experience for young fashion design students.
The number of people is just phenomenal. Thousands pour through the doors for every day of the three day event at Tokyo’s Big Sight convention centre. During two days of the Hobby Show , a second event is open in the hall next door – the Minne handmade market. Minne, is the online shop selling handmade wares. It’s very much Japan’s version of Etsy.
Stall holders from the online platform, Minne, are given the opportunity to have their own “pop up” stall (which is a small trestle table). Minne’s Handmade Market attracts the small sellers and younger crafters.(Surprisingly Etsy is not that popular in Japan, Minne really is the preferred favourite destination for buying and selling handmade items online).
Note the use of the word “small” for the small sellers. Jewellery is overwhelmingly the product of choice for sellers. I’m sure it has something to do with people living in small spaces and needing a small workspace to produce their goods. The “look” of the Minne Handmade Market is unmistakably youthful, urban new-wave crafting, proving that the world really is getting smaller with social media – the plywood workshop zone construction and signage, concrete floor and food trucks follow the trademark branding of artisan markets. I could be at Finders Keepers or Big Design Market in Australia!
Whether you are a traditional crafter who is keen on the Hobby Show or newbie crafter visting Minne for a workshop, both halls provide the full breadth of crafts to explore and buy. The workshop schedule is extensive because both halls (Hobby Show & Minne) are running sessions by exhibitors all day in designated areas. In the Hobby Show, many exhibitors also run workshops at their stands, so it’s really easy to try out a new product or learn a skill.
There seemed to be a couple of trends I noticed:
- Traditional crafts: minature flowers encased in something (bottles, resin, glass containers)
- Chunky knitting with stretchy jersey thread on oversized needles.
- Younger/edgier: mini brooches with quirky embroidery; earrings with any type of detail.
If you get a chance to visit, it’s well worth the trip in late April. It will provide that adrenalin rush when you see all the stuff that you love to play with in one massive space.
A note for the non-Japanese speakers, you can get buy with the basic words for buying things, and getting to and from the venue by train, but don’t expect stallholders or workshop presenters to speak English. Cash is still very popular so don’t rely on credit card for all your purchases.
Here’s a map. You’ll need to get on the monorail on the Yurikamome line, heading in the direction of Daiba/Ariake. It’s the newer part of Tokyo where there are lots of big shopping malls, hotels, the Science Museum and Big Sight, the Hobby Show venue, a huge Exhibition Centre.
* Support for the Japan Hobby Show comes from:
National ministries: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; Ministry of Education Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
Tokyo Government bodies: Tokyo Metropolitan Government and The Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Industry bodies: National Congress of Parents and Teachers Association of Japan; Japan Interior Industry Association