Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival

I read online that this week was the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival, and I thought it might be interesting to check out.  And oh my gosh, were my expectations exceeded!  I walked around gaping at all the amazing handwork–this was better than many museums that I’ve been to!   The show runs through this Wednesday, so Tokyo people, you still have a chance to check it out if you’re interested–what’s pictured below is seriously only a fraction of what is on display!

This post will mostly be pictures, because that’s what’s most impressive.  I didn’t know much about what was going on–the signage was in Japanese, and although most quilts had titles in English as well as Japanese all the other information was not in English.  First of all, you should know that this is the biggest quilt festival in the world!  If I had realized that, I probably would have planned for more time there, but I went for an hour and a half, and I did see everything (I think!)

I got my first glimpse of what this festival was like when I entered Tokyo Dome, looking for the quilt exhibit entrance:

That's a lot of quilt enthusiasts.

That’s a lot of quilt enthusiasts.

Luckily, most of them were tiny Japanese ladies, so I could see right over their heads.  I loved watching these groups of women examining the quilts!

Taking a close look at the quilting

Taking a close look at the quilting

There were several sections of displays–the traditional quilts, the free design quilts, something called “Wa” quilts which Colby said means Harmony (and which makes sense–many of them were tonal designs), a junior quilting display, and this year’s theme area, which was Little House on the Prairie–the TV show, not the books!

I started with the free design quilts.  Everything I saw was such a work of art, but I just love the creativity of the free design pieces.  Here are a few examples:


Look at the details in the quilting!


This one blew me away.


I love the textures in this one.


I don’t know what’s going on here, but it’s cool!


So pretty…


I just had to show the detail on that one–look at that cutwork!


I love the colors in this one!


This one is gourds!


I mean, come on now with the detail. Every cornice of every building, intricately embroidered and quilted.


This one was very popular for up-close viewing, so I couldn’t get a photo without spectators in it. I can see why–it’s so unusual!



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Can I pause for a moment to note how amazing it was that I managed to get so many pictures of just quilts in that crowd?  People were so polite, stepping back if they saw that you were trying to take a photo.

The traditional quilts were just as amazing.  And what qualified as traditional seemed to have a lot of wiggle room, which was cool–there were some very modern takes on traditional designs.

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The Wa section had some really interesting quilts too–many were a completely different style than I was used to!


No, it’s not underexposed–this was a very dark and subtle quilt!

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And here are several more that I honestly can’t remember which category they fit into!  There were several quilts displayed around the edges that were maybe featured, or some other unknown category, or I just wasn’t paying attention–but still worth a look!


This one features a traditional Japanese style of embroidery.


This one had screen printed photos quilted into it, which were then embellished with embroidery.


I’d believe you if you told me I was looking at a tile mosaic.

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Oh, there was a whole section of these little framed quilts as well, but I didn’t spend much time in there:


And a massive display for the Japanese winners:


First prize! This is where it came in handy to be tall–I couldn’t get in any closer!


The 2nd place quilt.

Oh, and here’s a look at the Little House on the Prairie display.  This part of the arena was crazy crowded, with lines to get up close.  SO you’ll have to trust me that there was a covered wagon and a log cabin, as well as a general store.  You can kind of see them in the lower right corner of the photo at the top of this post.  And don’t forget the TV screen playing old episodes, dubbed into Japanese!  Here’s the best pic I got of the log cabin:


There were quilts all over the inside and draped on the fence and walls all around the outside as well.

I think I read somewhere that there were a dozen quilts inspired by episodes of the show.  I didn’t count, but that sounds about right.  Here were a few I could get photos of:

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I walked through as many of the vendor areas as I could before I had to leave, but didn’t buy anything–I was too overwhelmed! Plus, nobody was selling anything that was actually quilted–it was all quilting supplies.  So I’d see a beautiful handbag, but it would turn out to be a sample for a quilting kit!

I’m getting ready to attempt my first quilt, and I thought this visit might be inspirational, but really I’d prefer to just stick with appreciation at this point.  If I try to be inspired by anything I saw here today, I might just give up before I even begin!  But I think I will have fun trying my hand at a very, very simplified version of the amazing artwork I saw today.


6 thoughts on “Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival

  1. WOW! I would be so overwhelmed by all the beauty…can’t even imagine the hours, days, weeks, months and years those artists put into those quilts!! I’m a beginner and have just started making my first quilt…I can’t even imagine the skill and patience it would take to do one of these quilts 😉
    Thanks for posting pics…they’re simply AMAZING!

  2. Oh my goodness, the detail and work in some of those quilts is unbelievable! (And how you got to see so much in just and hour and a half is just as amazing, LOL!) Have to say I was a little puzzled by the one that won first prize, which (to me) looked kind of … blah compared with the second place-getter; I guess there must have been more to it than I can see from your photographs. Thank you so much for sharing all these, which I found both inspirational and also just a little overwhelming, because I know I will never, EVER come anywhere near this level of quilting … But, I’m (mostly) happy with what I achieve, and have a lot of fun getting there, so that’s what’s important for me 🙂

  3. Those quilts are AMAZING! So many works of art in one place! I think it’s so great that you guys are taking advantage of seeing and doing so many things, especially when getting out and doing those things can feel overwhelming!

  4. Great photos! Thank you so much. Every year I search for photos of the show because I just love to see the work of the Japanese quilters. I really had been disappointed with the photos many people posted so far until I saw yours–nice and big on my screen. Everyone photographs a different mix so its fun to see what people post. Don’t let the show discourage you–making a quilt can be a satisfying journey

    • Thanks, Heidi–I actually started out with smaller photo files but didn’t think they showed off enough of the amazing detail of these quilts! So I apologize if it takes forever to load, but I think it’s worth it!

  5. Thank you for sharing. Quilts made by the Japanese have so much work in them how do they find th time.absolutely fantastic . I wouldn,t have the patience to complete a quilt to this standard

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