Going to art galleries will never be the same after you’ve visited Planets in Tokyo, the genre-challenging digital art exhibit created by Japanese digital-art group teamLab.
Located near the futuristic neighborhood of Odaiba, teamLab Planets houses seven multi-sensory, full-body immersive art displays that combine, touch, sight, sound and forward-thinking creativity to formulate an experience unlike any other. Planets completely turns the idea of what a museum or gallery is on its head. If you’re in Tokyo, this is a must-do.
From the people behind it, to what to bring and how to get there, here’s everything you need to know about experiencing the digital art wonderland that is teamLab Planets in Toyosu, near Odaiba.
What or who is teamLab?
teamLab are Japan’s most high-profile collective of digital artists and creators; they’re a self-described “interdisciplinary group of ultratechnologists whose collaborative practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, design and the natural world.”
The enigmatic group, which formed in 2001, is made up of creative specialists, including artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects, who together craft boundary-pushing digital art experiences.
Over the past two decades, they’ve created plenty of temporary works, but it was in 2018 that they captured the attention of the art world in a big way by opening teamLab Planets, a long-running (summer 2018 until autumn 2020) immersive art museum and follow-up to their permanent neighboring exhibition Borderless (which you may have heard of, too) in Odaiba.
The concept of teamLab Planets
Planets is the more tactile of the two teamLab galleries in Tokyo, with four exhibition spaces that host seven different, large-scale artworks, which teamLab calls “body-immersive” works. By “body-immersive”, they really do mean immersive: you’ll explore the museum barefoot, and at times while submerged up to the knees in water (you can stash your shoes and belongings in a free locker before entering).
The reasoning behind the concept is that, as teamLab explains, once the “boundary between the body and the artwork dissolves, the boundaries between the self, others, and the world become something continuous.” Guests are expected to engage with the works far differently than they would at a regular exhibition; more like how you may engage with the natural world.
What to expect
Without giving too many of the surprises away, you can expect to be barefoot, and given that many of the displays feature water, you can expect to get a little wet! You’ll wander through maze-like dark rooms that lead out into open, light-flooded displays and synchronized music. Be sure to charge that phone, because the Instagram content opportunities are abundant.
Given that there’s no clearly marked pathway, you can expect to get a little lost, but this is half the fun; there’s a good chance you’ll stumble across a hidden surprise. Also, as is the way it was crafted, many of the rooms have mirrored walls and light displays that will trick your sense of space and depth of vision, so tread carefully!
Best time to visit teamLab Planets
The digital art museum in Tokyo is understandably popular, so no matter what time of day you go, there will likely be a small crowd. However, the space is large enough that even when it’s busy, it never feels too crowded. Each ticket also has an admission time, to help keep movement flowing, and you might be able to go in early.
The museum opens at 9:00 am and closes at 10:00 pm (last entry is 9:00 pm) and is generally quietest during the first two and last two hours on weekdays, with numbers peaking at noon until just after lunch. On weekends, the spread is a little more even, with people getting there early, so weekdays are, in our opinion, best. To avoid having to line up to buy a ticket, you can select your time and date and book online.
What to bring/ wear
A visit to Planets in Tokyo requires a little planning. Given you’ll be wading through water displays, be sure to wear shorts or pants that can easily roll up. If you are wearing a dress or skirt, be aware that some of the pieces also feature flood mirrors, so it might be best to pack something to wear under the skirt or dress to avoid flashing your underwear! The museum does offer free loan wrap-around modesty garments if necessary, as well as shorts. They also provide towels.
As you’ll have to take your shoes off at the entrance, it’s best to wear sneakers or slip-ons that are easy to remove, and it’s best to avoid wearing foot-covering tights because they will have to come off too. If you have any abrasions, open wounds or cuts on your feet, make sure they’re covered well, because while the water is very clean, the chlorine may sting.
Finally, make sure you’ve got something trustworthy to carry your phone in, because the last thing you want to do is hear an ominous splash! And on that note, consider downloading the teamLab app before you start exploring the exhibits—it allows you to do some pretty cool stuff while walking around … you can find details on the inside of the lockers.
How much time to put aside
Compared to Borderless’s 50-odd displays, Planets has fewer art pieces, but they are a lot more physically immersive, so in terms of time spent in the museum, they’re pretty even.
The interior of Planets is a whopping 10,000 sqm, and it does require a bit of additional work, taking off shoes, drying your feet, posing for the perfect shot, etc. If you put aside around two hours, not including travel time to the museum, you’ll be able to fit everything in rather comfortably, with a little time to revisit your favorite displays.
Which to visit first: teamLab Planets or teamLab Borderless?
If you have the time and the means, we recommend visiting both digital art exhibitions in Tokyo, because their displays are quite different. While teamLab Planets is more physically immersive and tactile, Borderless has a larger collection of individual pieces. But given that Planets is set to run only until autumn 2020, if you have to choose one, perhaps pick Planets—as it may be your last chance to check it out!
How much do tickets to teamLab Planets cost?
Adult tickets: ¥3,200
12-17 year-olds and over 60s: ¥2,700
4-11 year-olds: ¥2,000
Disability ticket: ¥1,600
How to get there
The address is: 6-1-16 Toyosu, Koto Ward, Tokyo.
teamLab Planets is right by Shin-Toyosu Station, on the Yurikamome Line. From Shinjuku Station, take the Shinjuku Line to Ichigaya Station, then switch to the Yurakucho Line train—you can get off at Toyosu Station, from there it’s a 10-minute walk; or catch the Yurikamome Line one stop over to Shin-Toyosu Station.
Pro tip: While you’re in the area, you might want to have a whirl around the nearby Tokyo Gas Science Museum, or pop over to Toyosu Fish Market (the new Tsukiji), which is just one train stop away from Shin-Toyosu—alight at Shijo-mae Station.