2016 Tokyo Quilt Festival

tokyo quilt festival 2016

By Patricia Belyea

TOKYO, JP  The reason so many quilters travel to Tokyo during the third week of January is to attend the largest quilt show in the world. Open a full week, this bonanza of stitch, color and design typically attracts 235,000 visitors to the show floor.

The International Great Quilt Festival celebrates quilts and quilters with umpteen exhibits, competitions and displays. I started my journey through the galleries of quilts with the WA Quilts exhibit—all about the spirit of Japan.

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, WA exhibit

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, WA exhbiti

Right next door were the Traditional Quilts with symmetrical masterpieces:

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, Traditional Categoy

And some asymmetrical ones:

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, Traditional Category

The Original Quilts exhibit showed a huge range of styles and personalities, including these exciting compositions with lots of curves:

Tokyo Great Quilt Festival 2016, Original Category

Who would have thought a Japanese quilter would be so enthralled with Halloween to make this delightfully detailed quilt. Look at all the micro yoyos!

Tokyo Great Quilt Festival 2016, Original Category

Move over Luke Haynes. Last year, 64 top Japanese quilters innovated the American log cabin design in the Log Cabin Sensations exhibit:

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, Log Cabin

The BIG winners at the Festival are featured in their own section. The Grand Prix-First Place was awarded to Miwako Mogami for her audacious quilt entitled “Wow, Bananas!” (detail shown). The Friendship Award was given to Hiromi Tanaka for her fun composition with the 3D tail.

Tokyo Great Quilt Festival 2016, Winners

Bags, bags and bags. Here’s a taste of what Japanese quilters and hand-stitchers created for this year’s stunning judged Bag exhibit:

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, Bags

Special exhibits abounded. There were "designer garrets," the complete works of Reiko Washizawa and more.

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, Special Exhibits

William Morris, once known as the "father of modern design," was featured in an exhibit entitled Paradise on Earth—with a historical home vignette, actual wallpaper books, fabric swatches from 150 years ago, and quilts made with contemporary versions of his patterns.

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, William Morris Exhibit

What might have pleased Will the most was eyeing young ladies wearing his designs in a mod fashion show.

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, William Morris

Every year quilters from around Japan participate in the Partnership Quilts. This year the theme was Music. With the thousands of blocks contributed, a team of volunteer quilters under the supervision of Suzuko Koseki made 74 huge quilts.

Charts beside the quilts show the names of the individuals who made the blocks. You can buy a raffle ticket to win a quilt, with all the money going to charity.

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, Community Quilts

Aisles of vendors with kits, fabrics, supplies, accessories and clothing teemed with shoppers. I spent my money at the Clover booth, buying three thimbles. A love of hand-stitching in Japan makes thimbles an important quilting tool so there are lots of styles and sizes.

Tokyo Quilt Festival 2016, Clover Booth

As Opening Day came to a close, I found the exit sign and climbed up through the bleachers at the Tokyo Dome. Looking back down at the Quilt Festival, I mused about the immensity of quilting—not just with this stupendous show but how it touches lives here in Japan, in America and around the globe.

Tokyo Great Quilt Festival 2016


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16 comments


  • Teresa ranson
    Thank you for sharing

  • CMoellers
    Thank you Patricia for sharing this extraordinary quilt show with us. It was delightful to see pictures of some of the quilts, including the detailed work that went into them. I would have spend hours enjoying the log cabin exhibit and at the William Morris exhibit. Seeing these gives me inspiration to get back to one I started a few years ago.

  • Patricia Belyea
    Michal—Oh, there were so many great ones that I didn’t show here as I wanted to give readers a sense of all the exhibits. I bought the Festival catalog so I can remember the quilts I saw this year. Best, PB

  • Patricia Belyea
    Ann—We are both so blessed to be able to travel to faraway places and have such incredible textile adventures. PB

  • Patricia Belyea
    Judi—It’s very easy to visit Japan. Just buy a plane ticket to Tokyo and get on your way. I remember being in the south of France and the French disdaining my imperfect grammar school French. In Japan, we just laugh as we all try to communicate with one another. Please check out the Okan Arts Resources page for lots of tips of where to visit. Pack your bags and do come, PB

  • Patricia Belyea
    Sue—How did you enjoy the Festival? What was your favorite part? PB

  • Patricia Belyea
    Mrs. Plum—I believe the Houston Fest has about 85,000 visitors annually. This show goes for twice as long because quilting (or “kilting” as they say here) is so big in Japan. PB

  • Patricia Belyea
    Allison—I took hundreds of photos at the Quilt Festival. This is my edited version as I could go on and on. Thanks for your enthusiasm. PB

  • Michal Erika
    Thank you for posting. I wasn’t able to attend this year and have been waiting with baited breath for this year’s quilts! I just love Japanese quilts!

  • Patricia Belyea
    Kim—I do enjoy being a reporter of good news! PB

  • Judi Bushby
    A dream – to visit the Tokyo quilt show just once. Thanks for sharing your view. Love the post about William Morris and Beatrix Potter too

  • Ann Darling
    does that (do these faces) spell visual overload!!! Ah-mazing. Thanks for sharing and have a fresh okonomiyaki for me!!! Cancel that it’s got gluten, but have a grand time.

  • Sue Hunt
    Thanks for the great pictures, a good preview for me as I’m going this year!

  • Mrs. Plum
    Loved your shot from the bleachers. And I thought International Quilt Fest in Houston was huge! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. If you have more to share, I’d love to read/see it.

  • kjvarnell@yahoo.com
    And in your next life you will be a reporter! What a great article Patricia.

  • Allison CB
    Thank you for the awesome photos and commentary! Wonderful! Please share more!

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