Walking through Tokyo, you might pass by multimedia artworks, geolocated audio recordings, or street pianos without realizing it — there are many scattered across the city. Here’s where to find some of the best hidden sound, art and poetry in Tokyo. We’ll also tell you how to make your own audio experiences.

We’ve only included permanent installations here, but seasonal sound walks and exhibits also pop up from time to time — check our event listings to see if any are coming up.

1. Street pianos in Tokyo

Tucked away in a quiet corner, a street piano’s song has the power to lure distant travelers. With over 700 street pianos scattered across Japan, these public instruments encourage passersby to pause, play, listen and connect through music.

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STPIA, a local street piano information service, is dedicated to documenting and sharing pianos across Japan. The service gathers information on their sound quality, surroundings, maintenance status or removal, which may occur if players purposely cause disruptions.

The map locations provided by STPIA have guided many pianists on scavenger hunts, some of whom have walked piano to piano, recorded their journeys and shared performances via YouTube. Shows like Station Piano, Airport Piano, Street Corner Piano have also helped street pianos garner attention.

Low light piano with lights in the background
Photo by Getty Images

You are welcome to play any of the street pianos, regardless of your skill level. Simply head over to a piano’s location, take a moment to read any posted rules, and play. To get started, look for the street pianos that have been installed in:

A street piano that has seen many great performances is the “Tocho Omoide Piano”, or “Memory Piano” located on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. It’s a black polka-dotted, yellow grand piano — avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama’s signature motif. Read more about Yayoi Kusama in Tokyo.

2. Multimedia art walk in Shibuya

Shibuya’s chaotic energy takes a meditative turn with Jinny Street Gallery, aka “Jinny”, a path with showcases at every lamp post. This permanent, open-air gallery was made for the flaneur, by flaneurs. If you’re a person who wanders with no goal other than to have an open mind and find something new, that’s you.

Walking along the Jinny path, multimedia artworks might blend in or catch the eye — photographs, objects, texts, illustrations, you name it. Just about every month, a new exhibition pops up. Jinny Street Gallery is an easy walk from Harajuku, so grab a coffee and combine it with other things to do in the area. Check their Instagram to see what’s on when you’re in town.

3. Poetry walk in Tokyo (Japanese)

Note: You’ll need to understand Japanese for this one.

A poem might be right where you stand, echoing through the streets. Led by poet Yuki Nagae of the COEM (code plus poem) collective, “GeoPossession — Topos of Voices” is a literary sound art project that brings poets, novelists, lyricists and playwrights back to their “topos”, or place, of inspiration.

All manner of Tokyo parks, train stations, and seemingly unimportant spaces have spawned works of literature. For the project, the words and surroundings of each writer were recorded using a 3D microphone. The recordings are intimately tied to their locations, and only by visiting them can you hear the writers’ performances.

The idea is to use a special app to find a poem’s point of origin. Once there, the geo-positioned story should automatically play through your headphones, allowing you to experience the language, memory and place that a writer holds dear. At the time of publication, the app was still under construction, but the locations can be found on the COEM website.

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Bonus: DIY audio guide walk

Do you have a great story to tell on the streets of Tokyo? You can create your own geolocated audio guide with Echoes. This is the app that helped bring Ellen Reid’s famous global sound walks to life.

Narrate a story, layer sounds or music, and map your tour to specific locations in Japan, or anywhere your adventure takes you. You can listen to other people’s meanderings, too.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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