Report on the free stitch 'Shih Tzu Festival Rooted in China' 2020 Meetup Event at Lakewoods Garden


On 7th November 2020 at LakeWoods Garden in Mobara, Chiba, 133 Shih Tzus and 205 participants joined us at our free stitch annual ‘Shih Tzu: Rooted in China’ meetup festival for a day of enjoyable activities and communication. 

While at all times maintaining precautions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, our staff prepared a large scale open-air event on Friday night, consisting of three carefully fenced fields, two sales tents, one photo shoot tent and one main stage for our attendees to enjoy. 

This year, we offered training and obedience sessions provided by our trainer Mr. Sasaki, a lecture by Mr. Fukasawa, a chance to win a range of prizes ranging from illustrated postcards to our original dog food at the charity tombola, a charity photo shoot, a 30-metre dash competition, and other prize draw events that took place on our main stage.

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 Shih Tzus Who Attended Past Events
    5. Venue [About the Venue] [Directions]
    6. Shop Stalls [Recruitment] [Introduction]
    7. Lecturer Introduction [Mr. Fukasawa]
    8. Trainer Introduction [Mr. Sasaki]
    9. Training Sessions and Seminars [Introduction] [Reservation]
    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. Introduction to the Commemorative Event Illustration
    19. Talk on the History of the Breed
    20. Volunteer Recruitment for Professional and Apprentice Trimmers, and Other Roles
    21. Q&A Session


Before the 10:00 a.m. start, many attendees were waiting in line at our reception tent in front of the Lakewoods Garden entrance while our staff carefully checked the everyone’s temperature, sprayed hands with sanitising gel and confirmed that all participants had downloaded the government's COCOA coronavirus contact checking application on their smartphones. Naturally, all attendees and staff observed mask-wearing and social distancing protocols to keep themselves and others safe at all times. 

As standard with free stitch events, we offer two types of check in for the event. For those who had pre-registered online in advance, they 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 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 unable to receive the free samples, the attendees were excited to be able to join in the day’s festivities. 


While our attendees were waiting for the event to start, our in-house photographer took family portraits of them with their dogs for them to download and enjoy. 

At 10:00 a.m. the gates opened and the attendees entered to explore the events that awaited them. We were pleased to see some returning faces among the crowds and were surprised to see that they had brought other breeds of dogs that had attended previous festivals along with their Shih Tzus.

After a brief welcome and introduction to the event delivered, the attendees were free to explore the day. We invited collaborating businesses to attend our event and hold stalls. Our attendees enjoyed chatting to the staff and learning about different services and products on offer. 

Dog Run

At this event, we set up and provided a large dog run for our attendees and their dogs to enjoy. After a long journey in the car for many, the shih tzus couldn’t wait to get off the leash and enjoy stretching their legs together in the open space and open air. While observing the interaction between the dogs and owners, our staff were pleased to see everyone carefully respecting social distancing while enjoying pleasant conversation. 

Charity Photo Shoot

We opened many events to participants on the day. One of the most popular activities was the free stitch charity photo shoot. Our professional photographer took photos of attendees dogs for downloading 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. All of the shih tzus loved having their photo taken. As part of our ongoing charity work to raise awareness of and support families who adopt foster dogs, we regularly hold charity photo shoots at our Meetup events and at select locations around Tokyo. To apply for the charity photoshoot, we ask participants to make a reservation online in advance. 

Training Sessions

Free stitch regularly collaborates with trainers that work in and around the Tokyo area, and on the day of our shih Tzu Festival we had the pleasure of being joined by our regular Mr. Sasaki. 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 delivered by Mr. Sasaki with focus on the history of the shih tzu breed, their temperament and character, and how best to use their strengths and weaknesses as a breed to improve on their behaviour and communication with their owners. Lots of questions were asked and enjoyment was had by all in the sessions.

Agility Sessions

In the afternoon, the training and obedience seminars gave way to agility and performance sessions and it is there that the shih tzus really showed their stuff. A cornucopia of obstacles, tunnels and jumps were prepared to test the dogs’ power and endurance. Led by Mr. Sasaki, attendees could run, jump and dodge their way through the obstacle course to compete for the fastest time to win prizes at the end of the day.  

30 Metre Dash 

The 30 metre dash was an especially fun activity that was as enjoyable to watch as it was to participate in. Two sensors were set up at the start and the goal of the 30 metre fenced off run and they measured the complete speed of shih tzus running to their owners. It was interesting to see the varying speeds of the different dogs and their reactions to their owners. 

Group Photo

While carefully maintaining social distancing and coronavirus spread prevention, all participants gathered for a group photo on the lawn in front of the main stage. It was great to see so many different kinds of shih tzus 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. 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 flavours. All three flavours 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 were privileged to commission an original commemorative artwork piece by artist Ms. Fumi Koike who created a beautiful design for sale on postcards, T-shirts and other products. 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 a lucky draw and award ceremony. The ambassador dogs and their owners joined us on stage to present awards for the fastest 30 metre dash that had been taking place throughout the day and a lucky draw took place. Attendees put their attendance number into one of four boxes to enter a chance to win some fabulous prices. Among the prizes won were 400 grams and 2 kg of free stitch original food, free stitch original treats and one lucky winner was able to win a free stitch original Balcody carry bag!

The 2020 Shih Tzu 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!