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When we think of museums, we picture large white spaces with artwork hanging on the walls or sculptures in the middle of an open space. You stare at the piece, perhaps read the description, and then move on to the next piece of artwork. At teamLab Borderless, it is a completely different experience. It’s a group of digital artworks that creates a borderless world where you find yourself roaming around exploring for hours in awe.
We first discovered teamLab about two years ago when we visited the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. We stumbled into an exhibit there by teamLab titled, "Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Blossoming on Collision - Light in Space, 2016". Ever since this experience, we started following teamLab and their limited exhibits around the world. Most of their exhibits are in Asia, but they also have a few in the US and other parts of the world. Recently, teamLab opened up a permanent museum in Odaiba called teamLab Borderless (about 45 minutes from the center of Tokyo) and we knew we had to visit this museum on our next visit to Japan.
When we stepped foot inside the museum, it truly was borderless….and dark. As soon as we walked through the curtains, we were immediately immersed into a fascinating digital world. We were also surprised that there were barely any signs to direct us and that the entire museum was dark with little to no light. There aren’t any pamphlets either, so you really have no idea which direction you should go. You just go and explore. So that’s what we did. We just started wandering around and even felt a little lost at times as we kept ending back at some of the same places. But that is part of the experience and we loved it.
Here is our experience of when art meets science…
“People move freely and recognize the world through their bodies. Artworks move in and out of the rooms freely and people lose themselves in the artwork world with their bodies.”
Forest of Flowers and People: Lost, Immersed and Reborn
Our first stop was the Forest of Flowers and we were immediately blown away with its beauty. The huge space is illuminated with colorful changing flowers. It was especially cool when we became camouflaged and blended in with the scene. The flowers also react to a subject in a couple of ways - when you stand still, the flowers surrounding you bloom and grow abundantly and when you touch or step on the flowers, they shed their petals all at once. We spent a good half hour here watching the ever-changing flowers. If you’re patient, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to take photos in this room.
Universe of Water Particles on a Rock where People Gather
We thought the first room was mesmerizing but this room was even more incredible. The tall projection of the waterfall was so spectacular that we were almost speechless. We loved that it was a bit of a challenge to walk up the rocks just like it would be in real life. The digital water also responds to you, so when you get to the top of the hill and near the waterfall, it reacts and changes its flow.
Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well
This was the exhibit we saw at the Mori Art Museum and it was our very first teamLab experience. We were so happy to see it again because the music to this experience is just phenomenal. It’s so moving that Crystal gets goosebumps and a little teary-eyed with emotion. At the Mori Art Museum, we were able to sit on the floor and get the entire 3D experience but at Borderless, we were only able to view it at a distance. I believe visitors are usually able to get closer to the walls, or at least they used to be able to, but on our visit, there was a man on the floor directing everyone to stay behind a marked line. Nonetheless, it was still a beautiful experience and not to be missed.
Peace can be Realized Even without Order
This was one of our favorite rooms at Borderless and we kept going back to it. It was actually the sound and voices in this room that really left an impression on us. As you moved closer to the holograms, they would talk to you but in a very charismatic way. For example, when you got close to one of them he would say, “koi, koi, koi” which means “come, come, come” which made it sound like he was singing. The music, sound effects and instruments in this room was very interesting and it completely sucks you into the atmosphere.
The sound design is a huge part of the experience and Hideaki Takahashi is the genius behind all these exhibits. We tried to look up more information about him online but could not find anything regarding his background. We’re huge fans of his sound design because it reminds us a lot of the soundtracks from the Ghibli films like Nausicaa, Laputa and Totoro.
As we made our way out the room and into the hallways, we noticed some of the holograms we saw earlier transferred on to the wall next to us and it was almost as if they were leaving the room and walking with us to the next room.
The Way of the Sea in the Crystal World - Colors of Life
We’ve seen Crystal World on Instagram as it's in teamLab exhibits around the world so we were looking forward to this room. It was certainly beautiful and the colors and sounds were constantly changing which felt like the experience would never end. It is said that the work is rendered in real time by a computer program and is in constant change; previous states will never be repeated and can never be seen again. The only thing about this area was that it was a little crowded and at times we felt a little claustrophobic.
“A creative physical space that trains spatial recognition ability by promoting the growth of the hippocampus of the brain. It is based on the concept of understanding the world through the body and thinking of the world three-dimensionally.”
This room felt like a child’s dream-come-true. Before you can enter, you have to make sure to have flat shoes or sneakers. Otherwise, they will provide shoes for you as heels are not allowed. The reason being that the entire room emulates mountains and deep valleys, so you are never walking on a flat surface. It’s a three-dimensional space constructed by slopes of various heights and the images being projected on the ground were artworks that visitors in the museum were drawing.
Weightless Forest of Resonating Life
This was a fun room with big balloons floating which gave your body the sensation of space and gravity. The lights of the objects would change color depending on your movement so the colors were constantly changing in this room.
“Focuses on encouraging changes in the relationships between people in the same same space. Individual creative activities can be transformed into co-creative actions.”
This room was mostly packed with kids, but that didn’t stop me from coloring my own fish; complete with a Travel Pockets logo! There are various outlined sea creatures at the tables with lots of colors to choose from. The more colorful you make your drawing, the better so that you can easily notice it on the big digital ocean amongst hundreds of other sea creatures.
Once we finished the drawing, we submitted it to the friendly employee at the far end of the room and she quickly scanned it for us. Within seconds, our Travel Pockets fish was up on the digital screen. We were quite impressed at how fast the whole process was. We were able to follow our fish for a good 30 seconds and then we lost track of it. Sometimes it moved super fast, so it was hard to keep up. I guess we should have created a huge octopus or squid instead but we were still happy with our creation that came to life.
Sliding through the Fruit Field
This was a fun activity for all ages but there were mostly kids and parents. Again, that didn’t stop us from having fun too! You’ll have to take off your shoes before you go down the slide so make sure you have socks on if you don’t like to touch the floor with your bare feet. There may be a line, like we encountered, but the line goes by fairly fast and you’ll be sliding down in no time. We slid down the digital slide with the children and Candy came in first place. Take that, kids!
Forest of Lamps
“When you stand close to the lamp it shine brightly and emits a color and begins to spread to other nearby lamps and so on and so on. The light will eventually return to the first light.”
This room had a line, which was about a 30-minute wait. We were really looking forward to this experience but left a little disappointed. The lights were spectacular, but we were given less than three minutes to stay in the room so it really wasn’t enough time to fully grasp the light concept. With more time, I’m sure the experience would have been a lot more enjoyable.
En Tea House
“Make tea and a flower blooms inside the teacup. Flowers bloom infinitely as long as there is tea. The tea in the bowl becomes an infinite world in which the flowers continue to bloom. Drink in the infinitely expanding world.”
We would have loved to try out En Tea House but by the time we reached it, there was already a 45-minute wait to enter the room. Based on our last experience at Forest Lamps, we weren’t looking forward to waiting 45 minutes and then be quickly rushed out within minutes, so we opted out. Plus, we were starving so there was no way we could wait that long.
We spent over 3 hours at the museum and could have easily stayed longer but since we were hungry, we had to leave a littler earlier than we wanted to. We tried to explore every room but we started getting lost towards the end and came upon the same installation multiple times. It was like trying to figure out a maze in the dark and we were getting a little frustrated (probably because we were hangry). I think we missed a couple of exhibits like the Light Vortex and the Floating Room but for the most part, we stopped by the ones we were looking forward to.
How To Get Here
TeamLab Borderless is located in Odaiba, Japan, which is about 45 minutes from the center of Tokyo. We took the Yurikamome line and got off at Aomi station. There will be signs directing you to the museum and you will go through a Toyota exhibit.
ADDRESS: Odaiba Palette Town, 1-3-8 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan
When and Where To Buy Tickets
You can buy your tickets online and we highly recommend buying them well in advance as this is a popular museum and tickets sell out quickly. We bought our tickets a month in advance. We tried to get additional tickets a week before our visit and they were already sold out.
Tips Before You Go
Arrive Early or Later in the Evening (Even on a Weekday)
We arrived right when they opened at 10:00 AM and there was already a huge line waiting to get into the museum. And this was the line for people who already purchased their tickets online. It took us about 35 minutes to get in the door. If you don’t want to wait and want to be the first ones in, it’s probably a good idea to get there an hour before opening. We have also heard that the evening hours are better to visit near closing time as the crowd dies down.
This was probably our biggest mistake. We had snacks in our backpacks, but we decided to store our bags in the free lockers at the entrance. You can’t get to the lockers unless you exit the museum, so it might be wise to carry a smaller bag with snacks. We definitely would have wandered around the museum longer if we had something to munch on to give us some more energy. There are small resting rooms with vending machines for drinks, but no snacks.
Utilize The Free Lockers
At the entrance there will be a large area to store your belongings in a locker, free of charge. We’re glad we stored our coats and large backpacks in here. The museum was room temperature so a coat probably would have been too hot and a drag to carry around for hours. Carrying a large backpack would have quickly become tiresome as well. Just remember that you won’t be able to get back to the lockers until you exit the museum and there is no reentry.
Wear Comfortable Flat Shoes
There are a lot of areas in the museum where it’s necessary to have flats or sneakers on. It’s also safer not to wear heels as it is very dark inside the museum.
Everyone wants that perfect picture for their social media but it’s incredibly difficult to get because there are mass amounts of people that visit this museum. With that being said, there are times you can be in the picture alone (or almost alone). You just have to be patient. There’s waves of people that come in and then it dies down a bit so wait for that opening. Or politely ask the person that is in your shot if you can have a couple of seconds to take a picture. Everyone was extremely nice and understanding.
Bring Your Kids
TeamLab Borderless is extremely kid-friendly. We thought this museum would be most suitable for adults but they have plenty of rooms the kids can enjoy too. Actually, the kids had more interactive things to do like the fruit slide and sketch room.
Enjoy the Experience
Everyone is so crazy about taking pictures these days (including us) but make sure you really take in the teamLab experience. Their work is so phenomenal and inspirational that it sometimes gives us goosebumps. The immersive digital experience paired with the beautiful sound design is like none other, so make sure you stop, put the camera away and enjoy the experience.
We absolutely loved our time here and think it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. We probably could have spent all day in here if we would have brought some snacks with us. We wish there was a little bit more direction as to where and what was inside because we got lost often (especially trying to find the exit) but we realize that part of the experience is to wander around and explore.
We do hope to visit again someday and check out the exhibits that we missed. Although it is a permanent museum, it is constantly transforming with the seasons, so there is always something new and exciting.
ADDRESS: Odaiba Palette Town, 1-3-8 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan
HOURS: Weekdays 10:00 - 19:00 ; Sun, Sat & Holiday 10:00 - 21:00 (Closed 2nd & 4th Tuesdays)
ADMISSION: Adults 3,200 YEN (~$30 USD), Child 1,000 YEN (~$10 USD)