Hello! If you’re reading this, it may be because you’ve heard of the TeamLab Borderless exhibit in Tokyo and, like I did, you want to go and get some Instagram shots. There is no shame in it – you are among friends here! TeamLab Borderless in Odaiba (which is different from TeamLab Planets) is an excellent rainy day activity and is ideal for killing 1-2 hours, especially during winter and/or with kids. One of the things I love about the whole Odaiba area is that the activities, restaurants and entertainment on the island are almost all indoors!
I didn’t really know what to expect going to the exhibition a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I’d put my experience (and photos) in a blog post. That’s how this blogging stuff works, right?
↓ Crystal World
To kick off, here’s a tip for getting there – if you start your journey from Ikebukuro, Shinjuku or Shibuya (by train on the JR Saikyō Line), you’ll cross the Rainbow Bridge on your way to Teleport station and the journey is really nice, giving you awesome views of the Tokyo skyline. Alternatively, you could get the Yurikamome line from Shimbashi or Asakusa. This is a pretty cool monorail and if you’re lucky you may even get the front seat! Finally, you can get the Odaiba Rainbow bus from Shinagawa Station east exit – there are signs to the bus stop from the station – which drops off near TeamLab, and the buses run pretty regularly. If you click the address link at the bottom of this wall of blog, Google Maps should tell you the best route.
The queue, even with pre-booking tickets, was about 30-40 minutes. I’m told this is normal and not just because we were there on New Year’s Eve. I think the people who pre-book are in the same queue as people who buy on the day, so there seems to be no benefit to prebooking. That said, if you want to be sure you aren’t turned away at the door (which has happened to me once before), I’d book in advance. You can get tickets here, they cost 3200 yen for adults (1000 yen for 4 – 14 year olds) and once you do get in, it’s difficult to know where to begin!
↑ Weightless Forest of Resonating Life
The inside of the art exhibit is in darkness. There were times I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face as we made our way round the different rooms. We didn’t bother to grab a map because I actually thought being moved around the place would be fairly structured (maybe by some neon arrows on the floor or something), but everyone is free to wander wherever they want – I guess that’s the ‘borderless’ aspect kicking in. I think this is both excellent and a nightmare because you can easily become lost, or miss out on really cool rooms. Apparently there’s something called the Nest that we completely missed and had never heard of. It looks super cool too. Sad times.
↓ (L-R) Memory of Topography, Light Shell and Light Vortex, and Athletic Forest
Second tip, for those of you who like to wear skirts/dresses – leave them at home or ensure they’re tight. Most of the time it won’t be an issue but 2 or 3 of the best rooms have very clean, mirrored floors and while the staff may be able to offer an odd fabric contraption to protect your modesty, I’d just come wearing trousers or leggings or something. It can be really distracting when you’re trying to enjoy a light show or bolder through a dimly lit assault course and you’re worried about how much of your inner thigh the people around you can see. I was wearing quite a long dress but even I had a couple of “oh crap, this floor is mirrored and I didn’t notice” moments.
Now, I am no Instagrammer and my boyfriend is no photographer. That said, we did try to take lots of photos because it’s a super cool and unique place, and a lot of the photos actually came out really well (thank you boyfriend). Don’t go in expecting to be alone in some exhibits – I get the feeling it’s always busy despite what the internet says, and I think you have to be lucky (or famous) to get people to move away for you to take photos. On a positive note, we got some fairly decent shots because some rooms are quieter than others, so it is possible.
↑ Flower Forest
There are a few ‘Instafamous’ rooms which you may recognise, but for completeness here are all of the rooms they have:
- Crystal World – an infinity room full of LEDs and mirrors, the lights follow a pattern to music. This is an excellent Instagram spot, particularly as the lights cycle through several colours.
- Forest of Lamps – you get 2 minutes only in here (it flies by when you’re busy taking photos) and the wait time was about 40 minutes. It’s amazing once you’re in, but the time limit may mean you don’t get the photo you want, so move fast! I made sure my camera settings were right by testing them on a window into the exhibit first.
- Universe of Water Particles on a Rock where People Gather – I like some of the names of these rooms. This is basically a waterfall made of light and it’s a pretty neat place for a photo. There’s a small ‘hill’ on which people gather for photographs – again, it might be difficult getting this place empty but if you’re there early or wait long enough, you may get lucky!
- Flower Forest – this is a great place for photos mostly because it’s so huge, so it’s much easier to find an empty bit of wall or corner.
- Black Waves – this space was super calming and an ideal spot to sit for 5 minutes and relax. From memory, they were playing wave sounds which is cool. The lighting isn’t too hard on your eyes and you can get some pretty awesome photos there too.
- Weightless Forest of Resonating Life – imagine illuminated hot air balloons. This was a really cool area, however it was sometimes spoiled by kids (and some adults) hitting other guests with the inflatables. They’re actually pretty heavy and one guy knocked us off our feet! It’s a pretty fun space though.
- Light Shell and Light Vortex – this room was pretty interesting but I didn’t really understand what it was doing or what the point was. We didn’t spend too long in here (plus I was very conscious of the mirrored floor). I’m told the lights create 3D pictures but it just looked like spotlights to us.
- Athletic Forest – the most physically demanding area (clue is in the name) but also the best space for kids – the illuminated hot air balloons are here too. Athletic Forest is an area where the floor is uneven, there are illuminated trampolines, animated whales are swimming on the walls, there are climbing activities and a space for drawing.
- Memory of Topography – here you can watch the changing seasons on the rice paddy. The stalks in the room are flexible so you can walk through this room taking whatever route you want.
- En Tea House – this is a really cool idea and the latte was delicious, but if you don’t like green tea, you won’t like the menu here. However, the illuminations on the bar in front of you are awesome so even if you don’t drink your cup of tea, it’s probably worth the 500 yen just to sit there and chill.
↑ Black Waves
Some extra tips for your visit:
- Some of the exhibits have bright or flashing lights and loud noises (this is in addition to being in a dark room in the first place). Please bear this in mind for anyone with sensitivity or discomfort in such situations.
- You can’t store any luggage there, so if you do have suitcases with you, try and find a luggage locker at the train station.
- Leave tripods and selfie sticks at the door – you may be asked to leave if you’re seen using one (plus they’re super annoying – who the hell uses selfie sticks in 2020?). Also, there is strictly no flash photography allowed inside the exhibit, so be sure to turn flash off!
- No heels are allowed in most parts of the museum, so bring flat shoes.
↑ Forest of Lamps
Apparently the exhibits are interactive – you touch flowers and they wilt, touch the lanterns and they change colour. This wasn’t my experience – I don’t think anything changed colour or moved when I touched the surfaces – but perhaps I was doing it wrong. Anyway, even without the interactivity, TeamLab Borderless is a wonderful art space and a great way to spend a couple of hours. I definitely recommend it!
↓ Universe of Water Particles on a Rock where People Gather
I hope this quick guide was helpful – let me know if you have any questions on booking tickets, getting there, what to do when you’re in the exhibit or other recommended places in Odaiba!
- Monday–Thursday: 11:00am – 7:00pm
- Friday & Holiday Eve 11:00am – 9:00pm
- Saturday: 10:00am – 9:00pm
- Sunday & Holidays: 10:00am – 7:00pm