The International Quilt Festival - Tokyo 2012

Notes on The Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival 2012

Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival - 2012I am just back from the largest quilt show in the world Рalmost 300,000 people over 8 days РThe Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival.  Kenny, my husband was there with me. It is astonishing to be at this Festival because it is held in the Tokyo Dome where baseball and rock concerts and other events are staged.  It seats more then 55,000 people, so to see the long lines of Japanese women waiting to buy tickets and get into the show was not the norm there.  This is the 11th year for the Festival.  I have been invited 5 times to curate an exhibition of antique quilts there, all on different themes.  This year it was Antique Hexagon quilts from America.  The exhibit was designed with hexagon shaped rooms for the quilts-quite amazing.  Quilts were borrowed from Laura Fisher at Fisher Heritage in New York, The Charleston Museum, The Schwenkenfelder Center, Andy Hirsch, Eleanor Bingham Miller, and The New England Quilt Museum.  The exhibition was a big hit! I did three walking tours of the exhibition and people had lots of comments and questions

This year the earthquake had a big impact on the show.  Many quilts were being made for the people who suffered in the quake.  Princess Kiko opened the festival, walked around the show, talked with me at the exhibition and she wanted her picture taken where the quilts being made for the quake victims were exhibited.  People seemed to be in a solemn mood and many of the people I know had gone to the quake areas to volunteer to help the people there within the past few months.  A lot of help is needed.  The newspaper Yomiuri Daily in English talked a lot about a serious quake potential for the Tokyo area within the next 4 years.  This news certainly impacted the attitudes of Tokyo residents.  It is also affecting their pocketbooks and their minds about spending, more frugal and less optimistic about the future.

Tabe-san, Junko-san and Shelly at Hexagon exhibit

Junko Sasaki, our interpreter, was wonderful as always and we were able to take some day trips with her (Kita-Kamakura being one) and have some meals where we didn’t have to guess or point to the plastic food replicas to make menu selections. ¬†Akemi Narita always finds some guides to help us get around and this year was no exception. ¬†She is a textile scholar and I always learn something when I walk the show with her and visit some of the antique textile dealers. ¬†Boro (or Japanese work clothes quilts) will be a major topic and a major exhibition next year. ¬†One dealer showed us some Boro and Sashiko women’s pants, both rare and expensive. ¬†The NHK people are always gracious and welcoming and really professional to work with. ¬†We had amazing dinners with Tate-san, Matsuo-san and Tabe-san (who oversaw the organization of my exhibition).

Junko Sasaki (interpreter), Fumie and Kanji Ono

Junko Sasaki, Fumie and Kanji Ono

It was good to visit and dine with Fumie and Kanji Ono from L.A. and Japan.  We figured out that I have known them now for 30 years.  They came to Kentucky to see the original Kentucky Quilt Project exhibition in 1982.  Fumie is a major collector of American quilts and an author and scholar who is well respected in Japan for her work with American quilts.  We all had dinner together one night and did major catch-up in between servings of some of the most delicious Japanese food.

Yukako Fukushi journalist from Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper

Junko Sasaki and Yukako Fukushi

Yomiuri Shimbun, probably the largest circulation paper in the world is also a sponsor of the Festival and had a large 2 page spread in the paper the week before with an entire page about my exhibition, quilts in Kentucky and the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society.  Their journalist Yukako Fukushi had come to Louisville some weeks before writing the article and interviewed and visited everyone.  She got a great taste of Kentucky and then she also took us out to a delightful dinner in Tokyo.

So, lots of quilts and lots of good food and an easy but long trip made this another wonderful Japanese experience for both of us.

– Shelly Zegart


More photos from The Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival in 2012:

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