Since 2018, many visitors have been delighted by teamLab Borderless’ exhibitions in Odaiba, Tokyo. Despite living within a 20-minute cycling distance, I had never been to the exhibition before although I had wanted to for a long time. At first, it was just way too crowded and I heard stories about having to stand in line for 2 hours just to get in even after buying a timed ticket, and then again lining up to enter certain rooms once you are inside. And then the COVID-19 crisis hit and the exhibition closed for a while. And finally, last Monday I got the chance to visit the exhibition together with the Japan City Tour team, and I have to say that it was one of the most extraordinary art experiences in Tokyo!
Entering the Different World of teamLab
We got timed tickets the day before and when we got to the entrance we could walk in right away. I was wearing comfortable clothes and sneakers for the occasion, which was especially handy for the more active part of the exhibition (more about this later). After putting our luggage in the free lockers and a temperature check and a short explanation we entered the exhibition space. At the entrance, you can choose between 3 directions, and we chose the Butterfly direction. I understand now why they call it ‘immersive art’, as you feel like you enter a different world as soon as you walk into the dimly lit space. In the first room, there were only a few very colorful butterflies flying around, but when you walked further into the space you slowly became completely surrounded.
The exhibition is constantly moving, so you can stand in one place and look around for a long time without getting bored. It made me feel like I was in the world that was created in the movie Avatar from 2009, like a different planet. We walked around the butterfly area for some time while taking in all the colorful animals and plants we saw flowing all around us and then went into the main space of the area that contains a small ‘mountain’ that you can climb. There were some wonderful ‘weather’ effects that made it look like it was raining or sunny, and on the walls opposite a seasonal autumn theme was projected that felt a bit spooky but beautiful in a gothic way.
There is no one predetermined route to enjoy the exhibition, and there are a few hidden pathways that lead you to rooms with different themes. You have to look closely at the walls to find them as they are well covered. One of them leads to a platform from which you can see the main space from above from which you can take amazing pictures. It is very easy to take beautiful pictures in teamLab in general, my phone camera didn’t seem bothered by the lack of light and still captured the colorful atmosphere wonderfully.
Smaller rooms had exhibitions with a different theme, like a dark lake with lotus plants, a rolling and stormy ocean, a room full of lamps, and a maze made of led lights. Especially the maze felt like some kind of trip to another mind space with fast-moving lights all around us that created shapes of rain and rainbows. The mirrors on the floor intensified the effect greatly which made us totally surrounded by the light show which was amazing. We probably stood there for around 15 minutes just watching the led lights flicker all around us.
The Athletics Forest
Then we went to another floor that contained the Athletics Forest, but before we went to the most kid-friendly place of teamLab Borderless, we went for a very special cup of tea. You can pick between 4 flavors, and I got the hot Chamomile Latte one. You then get a small plastic container with the tea and are led into the dark tea room. After the server took our containers she came back swiftly with our Japanese-style cups of tea. Once the cups were placed in front of us, the tea was lit up with bright colors in the form of blooming flowers that kept moving and changed into leaves blowing in the wind. It was a wonderful little show, and the tea was tasty as well.
The Athletics Forest has some very educational and interactive exhibitions, some of which are especially fun for younger visitors. You can make drawings that are then projected onto the floors and walls. The drawings don’t only move, but they are also interactive like when you step on them they change shape.
There was a space where you could manipulate the images of streets that were projected on the floors and walls by placing objects on them, and there were spaces where you can walk between large balloon-type things and jump on a projection of our solar system (if you are under 15 years old). The best part of the Athletics Forest was the place where you can walk in a kind of jungle gym while large images are moving on the walls all around you. Because of the slightly moving jungle gym and moving images, it felt like you were traveling fast while you were actually stationary. I was a bit dizzy after coming out, but it was fun!
Planning Your Visit
We then went back downstairs, and after looking around in the beautiful room of butterflies a bit more, we went to the exit. We were inside for around 1,5 hours which was perfect for us, but you might want to plan to spend a little more time there especially if you come with kids who want to make the drawings and play a bit longer in the Athletics Forest, or in case it is a bit more crowded and you have to wait for a bit before being able to enter specific parts of the exhibition.
We went on a Monday morning so it was relatively quiet, and we didn’t have to wait anywhere at all. Also for those who just love taking in their surroundings and taking their time in an immersive art exhibition like this, it is a good idea to plan for a 2-3 hour visit.
Do I recommend a visit to teamLab Borderless to tourists who are only in Tokyo for a few days? Definitely yes, even though immersive art is slowly spreading to other large cities in the world as well, teamLab Borderless is one of the original immersive exhibitions, one of the largest in the world, and there are some interesting quintessential Japanese elements in the exhibitions.
Especially for families with kids and younger people, teamLab Borderless is an unmissable attraction for people on a trip to Tokyo, but also for people who are normally not that much into art or modern art, the exhibition will be a great time.
Please note that there is another teamLab exhibition in Toyosu, Tokyo, that is also very much worth visiting. Don’t get confused as to for which exhibition you are getting tickets! Here there is a more general article about both teamLab exhibitions in Tokyo.
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