The first time we encountered this brand new museum in Japan’s capital was when TimeOut London listed it in their museum envy column even before it opened, admitting that the information on the exhibition, tickets and opening times was sparse but that interactive 360 degree screening was to be expected, created by an art collective of ultra-technologists. As we were already planning our Japan trip teamLab Borderless made it to the top of our list.
And here we are with our tickets, pre-booked for the day as required and at the timeslot recommended to us via email the day before. We put our rucksacks in the locker and download the accompanying exhibition app.
Then we walk through a black curtain into another world – projections of flower beds surround us, our feet, our heads, everything. The display moves subtle, almost organic, there is ambient music and it feels like an escape into something very quiet. People everywhere around us pose for selfies and trying to catch the projections of single blossoms or butterflies on their arms but still, it is a very calming place and the atmosphere is relaxed and full of astonishment. There are many little nooks and crannies with their own visual stories to discover and soon we have lost all sense of orientation and time. It is as if we are on the centre stage of a lush perfume advert made by photographer Kirsty Mitchell, the extended edition for the big screen.
Then seasons, wind and trees, leaves, even rain appear and ultimately a rainbow. Kanji symbols fall from the sky. I catch a couple and take them as a blessing. This is a temple indeed, a temple in the praise of the genius of nature and human technology. We sit on a waterfall, almost feeling it stream through us. Later we will sit in Hokusai’s waves, accompanied by minimalistic, hypnotic piano music. I want to move in and never listen or see anything else but there is a bamboo forest to discover, inhabited by white rabbits which we follow, naturally.
We find ourselves in the centre of a Swarovski crystal, powering the Millennium Falcon through galaxies of star dust and black holes. Afterwards there is a military parade of animal spirits so fabulously done no camera can catch its magic and we admire them with open mouths of wonder. We have to queue for the already iconic Forest of Resonating Lamps and I am giving an apron as the staff worries about upskirting incidents. My attention is already elsewhere: Lamps are being mirrored indefinite from all sides and every colour combination occurring is my new favourite one.
Next we wade up another stream through its reef and rice plants and again, there is weather and currents and water everywhere, fireflies, seeds and life. I’m taken back to Bjork in the Eden Project and am once again baffled by how corrupted our brains must be if it takes the most advance technology to tell us how beautiful nature is. This afternoon all big questions have come up in my head about life, believes and the universe at least once. About the real meanings behind words like “ecosystem” and “symbiosis” and how our body is not just a network of reactions. Or maybe it is. Maybe it is more, maybe not – it has been almost a spiritual journey so far.
A brilliant orchestra of beams brings us back to reality, a choreography by light only and it might in its own way be the best room. There is still a lot to see.
Shoes are indeed recommended from now in this open space area with its hills and dives, with whales floating around, light globes and several occasions to bring your own drawings to the wall, interacting with others in oceans of creativity, man-made or naturally. You could spend the whole day here, playing, climbing and discovering and even though children love it, it does not for once feels childish. But we have three hours of sensory overload already behind us and promise that we will never return to Tokyo without coming here.
***** out of 5 stars
Booking your museum tickets online well in advance is recommended. Each advance ticket was 3,200 yen.
The museum can be easily reached via Metro, either Tokyo Teleport Station or Aomi Station – it will however close at the end of August 2022 and revive in a new format in central Tokyo in 2023.