On our recent trip to Tokyo to visit friends, we had a chance to visit the intriguing digital art museum, teamLab Planets. Part of a creative movement conceived by teamLab geniuses to immerse the body in an experiential existence with digital art, it is a museum visit unlike any other!
When we visit art museums, I typically tell my daughter to cross her arms behind her low back for an easy reminder of "no touching" as we wander through galleries. Not so in the teamLab Planets exhibit! A fully immersive experience, this place invites seeing, hearing AND touching!
The journey begins with a quick video guide of some easy rules to follow, then you are ushered into a locker room where you can remove your shoes and secure your extra items in lockers (included in the admission price). Shorts are available to rent for free since you will be walking in knee deep water. Get the shorts, regardless of your fashion sense! :)
<<Trip Tip>> If you want to avoid wearing the rental shorts, dress in your own shorts (or pants) that can easily be rolled up to your thigh. Don't wear dresses or skirts since many of the exhibits feature mirrors on the floor! Also, make sure to download the teamLab app before you enter. It will give you some detailed info and allow you to interact in real time with some of the exhibits!
The museum is meant to be experienced barefoot so you can truly feel all the sensations. You enter the exhibit and are immediately engulfed by darkness and music. The first experience you will encounter is walking up a waterfall and then meander through some dark rooms with various textures underfoot to arrive at a giant bean bag room that is called "The Soft Black Hole". You literally have to crawl though this space to get to the next part of the exhibit so make sure you are in decent shape!
Up next is "The Infinite Crystal Universe" and it was, by far, my favorite part. Cascading strands of crystal lights synchronize with music over a mirrored floor to create a never-ending show of light. It feels magical as you move through the giant space (and slightly disorienting!)
Then comes more water! As you wade into the warm, knee deep water, projected koi (Japanese goldfish) surround you on the surface of the water. In an amazing feat of technology, these fish actually respond to your movements and swim away, especially if you try and catch them like my daughter and her friend did! Sakura (cherry blossoms) were also projected on the water while this beautiful, other-worldly music played on a loop.
The exhibits continue to engage and impress as you enter each one. "Floating in the Falling Universe of Flowers" is a giant dome screen made seamlessly into a borderless space by smooth, mirrored floors. You are invited to lay on the floor and actually participate in the artwork (via the app) by selecting butterflies to appear among the flowers.
Probably the kid's favorite was the giant, colored spheres. Officially called " Expanding Three-Dimensional Existence in Transforming Space", this installation is very interactive and responsive to your movements. Dozens of giant spheres are suspended within the space and cycle through a rainbow of 12 colors. As you touch the spheres, they shift slightly to allow you to pass through while changing into a new color that ripples to the spheres surrounding them.
Unfortunately, teamLab Planets only has 7 exhibits so it is a little short. The upside is that you can re-enter and do the whole exhibit as many times as you want within a two-hour window of your ticketed time. With that said, it is highly recommended that you purchase advanced tickets online. You will be able to select a timed entry (but expect to still wait about 15 minutes in queue.)
Children are allowed (ages 4-12 are 800 Yen) and 3 & under are no charge but I would suggest a baby carrier since strollers are not permitted past the locker room. As for toddlers up through age 4 or 5, I would caution parents to truthfully evaluate their child's disposition before bringing them. While they are allowed, it may simply be more stressful than enjoyable for you as the parent and there is also a lot of visual and audio stimulation which can be overwhelming for sensitive kids.
This was an amazing chance to see the characteristic Japanese modern art and digital technology married into one interactive experience. While teamLab's Borderless exhibit has long term plans to stay, the Planets exhibit will only be open through Fall 2020 so make sure to catch it while you can!
Digital art museums are popping up everywhere! Check out teamLab's current exhibits throughout the world HERE. Comment below if you've visited one!
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