Report on the free stitch 'Papillon Festival Rooted in France' 2021 Meetup Event at Yamanakako Communication Plaza


As part of the ‘2021 Spring / Summer Meetup Festival’ schedule, on Sunday 18th April 2021 free stitch was proud to present the ‘2021 Papillon Festival Rooted in France’ Meetup held at Yamanakako Communication Plaza ‘Kirara’ here in Japan. 

More than 150 participants came down to Yamanakako at the foot of Mt. Fuji to enjoy the great weather, splendid views, communicating with other owners, and fostering the papillon community spirit; all while taking care to observe COVID-19 social distancing and sanitation protocols. 

As usual, free stitch organized a variety of events ranging from behavioral seminars to photoshoots for our participants to enjoy, and even though the wind was particularly cold on the morning of the event, everyone made a great effort to enjoy the day.  

At this event, we offered training and obedience sessions provided by our regular trainer, Ms. Asuka Tomitsuka, a lecture on the papillon breed and history by Mr. Yamada, a charity tombola, a charity photoshoot, free stitch original food sampling, a 30-meter dash competition, and other prize draw events that took place on our main stage. 

For a full list and explanation of the day’s events, please see below: 

On-the-day Events and Notifications:

    1. Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Prevention Measures
    2. Ambassador Dog Recruitment
    3. Advance Reservation Benefits / Set Plan
    4. Customer's Dog Photo Gallery: Showcase of Papillons Who Attended Past Events
    5. Venue [About the Venue
    6. Shop Stalls [Introduction] [Kitchen Car]
    7. Lecturer Introduction [Mr. Yamada]
    8. Trainer Introduction [Ms. Tomitsuka
    9. Training Sessions and Seminars [Introduction]
    10. Charity Photo Session [Introduction] [Reservation]
    11. 30m Dash [Introduction] [Reservation]
    12. Family Photo Shoot
    13. Group Photo Shoot
    14. Dog Longevity Award
    15. Charity Tombola
    16. Photo Contest
    17. Illustrator Introduction
    18. Illustration Introduction
    19. Talk on the History of the Breed
    20. Volunteer Recruitment for Professional and Apprentice Trimmers, and Other Roles
    21. Q&A


After the poor weather conditions on 17th April which resulted in the regrettable cancellation of the ‘2021 Retriever Rooted in Great Britain’ Meetup up, everyone was pleasantly surprised when the morning of 18th gave way to incredible sunshine. Even though a brisk wind was blowing down the nearby slopes of Mt. Fuji, many participants lined up excitedly at the reception gates eager to start the day’s events at 10:00 a.m. 

The free stitch team was hard at work before opening by checking everyone’s temperatures, sanitizing hands, and confirming the installation of the COCOA application on smartphones in line with our coronavirus safety protocol. Despite being outside in the fresh air, everyone politely observed social distancing to keep themselves and others safe.

As standard with free stitch events, we offer two types of check-in for the event. Those who had pre-registered online in advance received a welcome pack with a map and details of the event, plus a free sample of our latest line of original delicious treats. Our staff members were careful to confirm if the dogs had any allergies before selecting a suitable treat sample as a gift. We also offered the opportunity for on-the-day attendees to join. While they were unfortunately unable to receive the free samples, the attendees were excited to be able to join in the day’s festivities. 


Our in-house photography team was at reception waiting to take beautiful family portrait shots of participants with their papillons (and other breeds!) backed by a cherry-blossom-framed Mt. Fuji. As the weather and sky were crystal clear on the day of the event, it was the perfect chance to capture the picturesque atmosphere of the occasion. The photos are made available to participants for download after the event.   

Once the event opened officially at 10:00 a.m., things kicked off with a strong start. Everyone found a comfortable spot to spread out a mat and sit down in the grassy field with their drinks and picnic. The free stitch MC welcomed everyone to the Meetup and walked everyone through the day’s events. 

Many of the participants were regular and familiar faces who had attended past papillon Meetups, however, a lot of people were new faces. It was great to see both old and new groups coming together to share their love of the papillon breed. Since the primary goal of holding the Meetup events is to foster communication between owners of a certain dog breed, we certainly felt the 2021 Papillon Meetup event succeeded in bringing people (and their dogs) together.   

Double Dog Run

As is standard with all free stitch Meetup events, we set up and provided a spacious dog run for dogs to stretch their legs and play - this time we extended it to two separate and generously spaced out dog runs so that everyone could enjoy a good bit of exercise without fear of overcrowding. Many owners had the chance to enjoy conversation at a safe distance with their fellow participants while watching their dogs play. 

Charity Photo Shoot

We opened many events to participants on the day. One of the most popular activities was the free stitch charity photoshoot. Our professional photographer took photos of attendees' dogs to download online and for creating original goods such as key rings, mugs, and T-shirts, etc. While there was a small entry fee to participate in the event, all proceeds go towards our free stitch charity work. As part of our ongoing charity work to raise awareness of and support families who adopt foster dogs, we regularly hold charity photoshoots at our Meetup events and at selected locations around Tokyo. To apply for the charity photoshoot, we ask participants to make a reservation online in advance. 

Training, Obedience and Information Sessions

Free stitch regularly collaborates with trainers that work in and around the Tokyo area, and on the day of our Papillon Festival, we had the pleasure of being joined by our regular experienced trainer Ms. Asuka Tomitsuka from Bande Dog Training. On the day, participants were able to join for free if they had booked in advance or for a small entry fee if they arrived on the day. All attendees enjoyed the informative session on lead control and barking behavior delivered by Ms. Tomitsuka and her trusty border collie companion Emma. 

After the sessions, there was also an information lecture delivered by renowned kennel owner and training specialist, Mr. Yamada, who delivered a rousing and enjoyable speech about his passion for the papillon breed. 

‘Papi-one’ Game Competition

In the afternoon, we held a competition game comprised of three mini-games that focused on the papillons’ speed, command comprehension, and agility. Led by Ms. Tomitsuka, attendees were split into two teams: red and blue, and the dogs could run, jump and dodge their way through the obstacle course to compete for the fastest time and win a selection of free stitch Original Treats. In the end, the red team came out as the winners, however, prizes were shared equally and enjoyed by all. 

30 Metre Dash 

The 30-meter dash is always a popular activity and sees many people queuing in advance to test their dog’s speed against the clock to win original free stitch goods. Two sensors were set up at the start and the goal of the 30-meter fenced-off run and they measured the complete speed of papillons running to their owners. Some of the dogs couldn’t wait to tear down the lane to the opening arms of their owners, while others became just too distracted by the exciting smells and sounds! Nevertheless, a lot of fun was had by all who joined in. Our free stitch team members diligently kept time and recorded all speeds for judgment in the 30-meter dash competition later in the day. 

Group Photo

While carefully maintaining social distancing and coronavirus countermeasures, all participants gathered for a group photo in the center of the event field. It was great to see so many different kinds of papillons gathered together for a commemorative photo of the event. The photo is available online on our free stitch Facebook and Instagram accounts.  


Later in the day, we opened up the tombola fair for everyone to take part in. For a ¥500 donation to the free stitch charity for foster dogs, participants could win a variety of prizes including free stitch original food and treats. Many prizes were won and everyone enjoyed the activity. 

free stitch Original Food

After the launch of the free stitch original food for dogs and cats in September 2020, many attendees were interested in trying the sample food we had on display at our food stall. We offered samples from the dog food range in Salmon, Beef, and Duck flavors. All three flavors were enjoyed and we received a lot of positive feedback. We hope that all our customers have a chance to sample the delicious range of food for cats and dogs now on sale on the free stitch Japanese store.

Original Event Illustration

This year, we welcomed back our regular guest collaboration artist Ms. Fumi Koike to craft a beautiful design for the 2021 Papillon Meetup as part of her 2021 Spring / Summer Meetup illustration collection. The illustration was available for sale on postcards, T-shirts, and other products. Again, the T-shirts were sold at the event in a variety of sizes and were very popular.   


As the day drew to a close, things were wrapped up with an award ceremony. The ambassador dogs and their owners joined the free stitch staff on stage to present awards for the fastest 30-meter dash, photo contest, and a lucky prize draw. Attendees put their attendance number into one of four boxes to enter a chance to win some free stitch original treats and a free stitch Stylish Dog Playpen. Among the prizes won for the 30-meter dash top winners were 2 kg of free stitch original food.

The 2021 Papillon Festival ended with a wrap-up and congratulations for all of the attendees who took part in the range of activities throughout the day.      

free stitch would like to extend our special thanks to everyone who attended with their dogs and families on the day and we look forward to seeing everyone again next time!