Matsumoto Craft Fair 2011, part 2

Here are my thoughts.

If you are thinking about participating in the fair, first, there are some things you should know about.

The “RULES” on how to get your space are firm, unbending and clearly written out on the Matsumoto web site. The reality is much different. You are supposed to come to the fair ground at NO earlier than 6:00 AM and pick a spot. (We arrived at 5:57 and were told to go around the block one time.) If you are like me you arrive at 2:00 AM and need to use the bathroom so do so, using the one located on the grounds. Looking around you will see many spaces already staked out with signs saying ‘jikoiinkai’ which means something like organizing committee. If you arrive at 6:01 AM you will find that exhibitors who are in their second year or later will have already taken all the best spaces, even though the rules clearly state that anyone caught staking out spots before 6 will be ejected from the fair. We found out the hard way that getting a space isn’t as easy as it sounds. Our first space was colonized by the person next to us when they told us they would be using our space for an entrance way to their tent and a rain run-off area. After some discussion we decided to move to a space next to the registration tent. We then lugged all our stuff, 6 boxes 20 kilos or more into place only to be informed by ‘staff’ that that space was not to be had. Luckily someone had pity on us and let us set our tent up next to theirs. If you are planning on attending I suggest you physically occupy the place you decide is good between 5:00 and 5:30 AM and then when 6:00 AM rolls around stick 4 tent spikes in the ground and string your space off. The spaces marked jikoinkai you will find will be used by exhibitors based in Matsumoto who amble in about 8:00 AM or so. None of this unwashed masses grubbing for them.

Second point to remember if you are thinking about going.

The staff are all volunteers. That means 1), they for the most part don’t have a clue about what they are supposed to be doing. 2) They don’t know how to do what they are supposed to be doing. 3) They are completely unmotivated to help you solve problems.

I won’t be going back to Matsumoto to exhibit even though my sales were Ok so what follows are some observations which are my impressions.

It seems to me that Matsumoto has gotten its reputation because it has been around the longest, or that is the popular wisdom. It is a couple hours outside of Tokyo so it gets a lot of traffic from there. I did see a lot of gallery owners running around which helps the reputation of as a place you must get into.

Geography won’t change, i.e., Tokyo won’t move so will bring a lot of attendees, but the level of indifference on the part of the staff is something that surprised me. People exhibiting go the extra mile to have great work and displays. They get there and find out it is a connections based system. I heard from a number of first time exhibitors the same.

There are a couple of craft shows that are really working hard to build out into great shows, Yamaguchi and Tomoshibito are 2 I know of first hand. Both of these have post-fair questionnaires for the exhibitors. The staff is highly motivated, organized AND volunteer.  Matsumoto has staff that leaves at 2:00 PM because the rain is too strong, leaving the exhibitors to fend for themselves.  I think if having a level of motivation to make the craft experience positive for both exhibitors and attendees is worth anything, the Matsumoto organizer should stop resting on his laurels and get a clue.

One last note.

I came to Japan 17 years ago to study Butoh. I am not a professional butoh person but I am still interested in it. Matsumoto has ‘happenings’ and this year’s happening was a “butoh” performance, I think they were trying to do Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. A number of people took videos so you might be able to find it on the net.. It was so amateurish it was painful to watch. It also sent a couple of children into crying fits.

 

Where to stay.

We stayed at the エースイン松本 or Ace Inn Matsumoto. 6,300 yen including breakfast for 2. It is next to Matsumoto train station. The hotel is good but it took 40 minutes to go from the craft grounds to the hotel parking lot, a distance of about 750 meters. Very bad traffic. Better to walk.

Next to the craft fair grounds is the Smile Hotel Matsumoto. We didn’t stay there but I think it is about 5,000 yen a night for a double, big parking lot. It is about a 20 minute walk from the train station, 3 minute walk from the craft grounds.

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