A handful of new art museums opened in Tokyo this past year, and one that immediately went to the top of my list was the Mori Building Digital Art Museum Epson teamLab Borderless … whew. Let’s just call it teamLab from here on out, as most people do, and make all our lives easier.
teamLab opened in the summer of 2018 in a large warehouse-style building in Odaiba. So, what makes teamLab different from other art museums? Well, as the name clearly implies, all of the art in the museum is digital and ever-changing. It relies on human interaction for many of the displays, so the art is never static. Leave the room and come back in – the experience will be subtly different the second time around. Some displays you can’t touch – like the hanging lamps – but your presence will still have an effect on how the art is transmitted and viewed.
The museum is divided into a handful of general sections. The ones marked immediately inside the entrance were something like World of Flowers, Butterflies, and Athletic Forest. As a very general guide, the first two are downstairs, while Athletic Forest – with a few smaller sections – are upstairs. Downstairs is more “visual”. Upstairs is more interactive, where you can really climb, bounce and slide on the exhibits.
While my elementary-aged daughter loved the Athletic Forest, I was taken in by the downstairs sections. World of Flowers is colorfully captivating, as is the wall of bamboo with the animal procession (my daughter loved spotting the frogs and rabbits). The lamp room was also fascinating – though you’re limited to perhaps 2-3 minutes inside. Sadly, we missed the crystal room, which seemed like one of the cooler displays – an accident of some sort had closed off the room for what ended up being the duration of our time there.
For a type A person like myself, the hardest thing about teamLab is the signage – or rather, lack of it. (If there were other signs, I missed them. I’m not the tallest person and the entrance is crowded. 😉 ) There are signs again throughout the exhibit, mostly outside certain rooms or at staircases, but there are plenty of unmarked rooms simply covered by cloth hangings that you should – by all means – poke your head into. (Unless it says “staff”. Then it’s clear it’s not for you.) Don’t rely on a museum guide. There aren’t any and it’s too dark to read much inside the museum anyway. That said, if you’re with young kids, keep an eye on where they are at all times. As I mentioned, it’s dark and they can get lost easily.
Allow at least two hours, likely more, to explore the full range of the museum. It’s colorful, it’s engaging, and no, you don’t have to be a kid to use the slide or the trampoline in the athletic forest section. If you have a kid with you, however, know that this area will be a highlight (particularly the slide). There’s no food on site, though there is the En Tea House, which offers green tea with digital flowers blooming out of it. There’s an incredibly busy Wendy’s right outside the entrance but you’re also not far from the food options of Venus Fort.
We bought tickets in advance the day before from the museum website (in English) and used the easy link in the email to scan into the museum. You can also purchase tickets in advance from Japanese convenience stores, or at the museum on the day you visit. I heartily recommend purchasing in advance, especially if this is a top priority site. Adult tickets were ¥3200, while my elementary aged daughter was ¥1000. It’s not cheap, and larger parties will feel the strain. But considering the amount of time you could spend there and the uniqueness of the museum’s exhibits, for many it will be worth the price.