Does teamLab Borderless Deserve a Spot on Your Tokyo Travel Itinerary?

With countless articles and videos covering the world-famous teamLab Borderless digital art museum, I was hesitant to add yet another write-up to the collection. However, after experiencing this fascinating, interactive presentation of light and sound, I set out to answer a single question: Is teamLab Borderless, an immensely popular yet equally time-consuming affair, worth a spot on your travel itinerary? The quick answer is yes. However, there’s one major caveat. Read on to learn how you should approach this unforgettable experience.

2019-06-25   Visit: Museums, Tokyo,

What is teamLab Borderless?

Bursting onto the scene in June 2018, teamLab Borderless (officially and awkwardly named Mori Building Digital Art Museum: EPSON teamLab Borderless) uses the latest digital projection techniques to seamlessly merge the worlds of technology and art. The “borderless” metaphor runs deep. Not only are the borders between art and technology erased, but the design of the exhibition itself is also without barriers or boundaries. Projection mapping brings nature-themed artwork alive in fascinating ways as the exhibits merge and migrate throughout the dark 10,000-square-meter complex in Odaiba, Tokyo. Learn more about teamLab and what to expect by visiting the official website.

Lose yourself in a new world

When you consider teamLab Borderless as the sum of its parts, the exhibition becomes an experience like no other. As a standalone technology, projection mapping has become commonplace. When merged with art, however, projection mapping opens up countless possibilities, and teamLab has capitalized off of that in ways that were previously unimaginable.

The beauty and creativity of teamLab Borderless is obvious. However, what truly captivated me as I meandered through the museum’s dark halls was a sense of exploration that I haven’t felt since I was a child. Once you enter the main building, you are set free into utter darkness and literally have to make your way into the light. Wayfinding signage is minimal (if you manage to see any at all) and you are free to explore the entire exhibition in your own way and at your own pace, never knowing what lurks around the next corner.

There were several moments where I felt like pausing to manually map out the place—just as I would when playing an old  8-bit Nintendo adventure game from my childhood (well before the Internet rendered that practice futile). Thankfully, I let go of those impulses and simply followed the flow of the projected artwork, chasing all kinds of digital imagery as it wound its way through the premises.

Not entirely borderless

With so much well-deserved praise showered upon teamLab Borderless, the exhibition has become a true global phenomenon, and unfortunately, that is the exhibition’s greatest flaw. In order to accommodate throngs of visitors from all over the world, the venue is constantly running at maximum capacity. This means that as you work your way through the exhibits, your progress and experience will be constantly impeded by your fellow travelers and their ambitions to snap perfectly illuminated selfies.

Photography is encouraged and admittedly irresistible, but after you take a few shots for your memories, I recommend putting your camera away and giving into the moment. Nothing beats discovering your own cozy corner in a dark room and letting your mind wander against the digital backdrop of crashing waves and a soothing ambient soundscape.

The big question

This brings us back to the big question: Is teamLab Borderless worth a spot on your itinerary? Yes—just make sure you do whatever you can to avoid the crowds. I arrived at the venue on a Monday at 11 a.m. and still had to wait in line for about 30 minutes just to get inside. Once inside, some of the most impressive exhibits also had lines to contend with. My advice: arrive at the venue on a weekday (preferably during the off season) and line up before it opens at 10 a.m. Doing so will ensure that you’ll have a truly remarkable experience in a stunning digital world without borders.

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Writer / Translator

Originally from Riverside, California, I've been living, working, and writing in Japan since 2009. Japan has become my second home, and I'm especially fond of Shinjuku, Tokyo. That being said, I also love getting out into the countryside and exploring the entire country. Through Tadaima Japan, I hope to share the wonders of Japan with a wider, international audience. Check out my articles if you enjoy exploring on foot, convenient cafes, and affordable dining.


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