Design Festa Gallery

Hipster art gallery come cafe

14 October, 2011 by

Despite having been to Harajuku as many times by now, the streets still hide many interesting sights to be discovered with each repeated visit. One of the buildings here that caught our more recent attention was this quirky artsy type place along the back alleys of Harajuku Street called the Design Festa Gallery.

It’s hard exactly to tell what kind of establishment is the Design Festa Gallery or what to expect from just the exterior. The building front wasn’t so much decorated, as it was vandalized in a mix-match of different art styles and mediums. But the juxtaposed  images did make for a rather interesting sight. The only signs advertised a cafe upstairs and we ended up entering the building through a mix of curiosity and hunger.

Design Festa Gallery

There's a cafe/bar and a okonomiyaki restaurant within.

Even the vending machines outside were painted.

The Design Festa Gallery (DFG) is an international art gallery with a twist. Instead of the typical plain halls associated with most museum galleries, DFG takes the form of a two houses at the residential area in Harajuku.

A different kind of art gallery.

Here, every inch of the gallery can be rented, including the buildings’ toilets or storerooms. Prices are based on size and visibility. Artists are able to rent spaces from as small as a single square on a wall (525 yen/day) to entire halls (up to 52,900 yen/day) for their exhibits.

Rent spaces of different sizes.

Digital paintings.

Classical medium.

Artists are free to mold the rooms to their imagination, decorating or in some cases actually reshaping them into a living exhibit. Compared to traditional art galleries, having a showcase here is definitely more impactful and impressionable.

There’s also the location. Harajuku as a trendy teen spot, attracts many more visitors than your typical exhibition. Having a showcase here could help you reach out to the public quite effectively. Design Festa Gallery’s proximity to a number of art colleges would also explain its survival

You can also rent entire rooms.

Free to decorate it to your liking.

Even if you’re not one for art, visiting DFG can be an enjoyable experience. All of the designs here are contemporary enough for anyone to appreciate, perhaps due to the heavy pop culture influences among Japanese youths who make up the gallery’s regular patrons.


Ever inch of the place had been covered.

To complete the artsy image, the Design Festa Gallery is also home to a budget cafe and bar. No idea how the food is like here but it would be fun to try it out some time. Exhibitors are given a discount. Artists aren’t exactly the richest people.

Okonomiyaki restaurant out back.

Aspiring artists come here to show off their talents and creativity in ways that a traditional gallery wouldn’t allow for. Many of the exhibitors put up items and pieces for sale too. It can help to cover some of the rental costs, especially if you’re displaying attractive pop art merchandise that can resound with the Harajuku populace.

Amusing exhibits.

Life sized cushion cat.

Some use the opportunity to show off their interests.

More information and an online system to check and reserve available spaces (just in case anyone is interested) can be found at the Design Festa Gallery home page.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.

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Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.