Interested in a day of art, anime and pop culture, away from it all? Then this easy day trip from Tokyo to Tokorozawa in Saitama Prefecture is for you. Read our guide to visiting digital art collective teamLab’s Acorn Forest exhibition, plus the contemporary cultural hub of Sakura Town next door.

Despite once being known as Dasaitama (dasai meaning uncool in Japanese), Tokyo’s neighbor Saitama has always had a lot to offer visitors in the way of nature, with the mountainous Chichibu area at the top of the to-see list. But in recent years, the prefecture has been making strong efforts to attract day-trippers with interests other than hiking, including art and pop culture experiences (like a Moomin theme park). Enter the teamLab Acorn Forest exhibition and the Sakura Town complex in Tokorozawa City.

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kadokawa museum and tree
Photo by Carey Finn

Just under an hour from central Tokyo, these new installations make for a great day out—particularly for families with kids. The teamLab Acorn Forest opened at the beginning of August, 2020, while Sakura Town had its “pre-opening” around the same time. Its grand official opening took place on November 6, 2020, having been pushed back due to the COVID-19 situation.

ovoids at teamlab saitama forest
Photo by Carey Finn

Explore the teamLab Acorn Forest in Tokorozawa

The newest exhibit from world-famous digital art collective teamLab, the Acorn Forest—officially known by the title Resonating Life in the Acorn Forest—is a permanent feature in Higashi Tokorozawa Park. Much smaller than the indoor teamLab Planets and teamLab Borderless exhibits in Tokyo, the Acorn Forest is entirely outdoors, nestled among trees on a hillside. This corner of the park is known as the Musashino Woods.



teamLab acorn forest saitama
Photo by Carey Finn

Like all teamLab artworks, the Acorn Forest is an interactive experience: you meander along paths dotted with shiny silver sculptures called ovoids (these “acorns” come up to about the hip on an adult), and you are encouraged to knock them (gently). Doing so emits a sound that sets off the other ovoids, resonating through the little forested area. This blends harmoniously with the tinkly wind-chimes-and-Zen background music that is characteristic of teamLab exhibits.

silver acorns at saitama teamlab forest
Photo by Carey Finn

When I visited, I was the only human in the forest, so the sound was rather lonely, but if you go in a group, presumably you can get a kind of cool choral effect going. I did hear a bunch of birds when I visited, though, including the azure-winged magpie. That was a bonus.

At night, the ovoids and trees are lit up, adding an extra dimension to the experience.

There is a tiny cafe that overlooks the exhibit, but it wasn’t open when I went. You can also get refreshments at Sakura Town, or at one of the cafes or restaurants along the road that runs from the station.

When to visit the teamLab forest

Although the Acorn Forest is cheaper to visit during the day, we recommend waiting until dusk to go in. As darkness falls, the silver ovoids and trees light up in all different colors, creating a far richer visual experience.

Your best bet is actually to head to Sakura Town first, and then pop into the Acorn Forest on the way back to the station. In terms of timing, allowing 2-3 hours at Sakura Town is probably sufficient, and 30-40 minutes is all you really need at teamLab. This means that the Tokorozawa trip is best scheduled for an afternoon. If you aim to leave Tokyo around 1pm, you can look forward to an easy day out.

While it seems that you can explore the teamLab exhibit in light rain, the paths could get a bit slippery, so we recommend going on a clear day—or at least checking the official site before you set off.

teamlab exhibition in forest in saitama
Photo by Carey Finn

Tickets to teamLab Acorn Forest

Entry tickets can be purchased in advance online (in Japanese), or at the ticket booth on the day.

It costs ¥500 for adults for daytime entry from Monday to Thursday, and ¥600 for daytime entry on Fridays, weekends and holidays. Nightime entry is ¥1,000 from Monday to Thursday, and ¥1,200 on Fridays, weekends and holidays.

The exhibition is closed on Tuesdays, as well as in strong rain and windy conditions.

Discounts

Booking online gets you a ¥100 discount. And residents of Tokorozawa get a special discount.

COVID-19 safety precautions

Before entering the teamLab Acorn Forest, you will:

  • Have your temperature scanned (wrist)
  • Be asked to sanitize your hands with the alchohol spray provided
  • Be asked to put on a pair of disposable plastic gloves

And as is the norm nowadays, you ought to be wearing a mask.


Check out Sakura Town

Sakura Town in Saitama is a pop-culture hub comprising several different parts.

The Kadokawa Culture Museum

Tokorozawa Sakura Town made international headlines when it announced its core feature—the Kadokawa Culture Museum. This museum, which is the gray, cuboid granite building pictured here, was designed by the legendary Kengo Kuma—giving it instant architectural cred.

tokorozawa sakura town
Photo by Carey Finn

Kuma is also the man behind the New National Stadium in Tokyo, as well as the Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, among other notable works.

The Kadokawa Museum is named after the Kadokawa Corporation, the Japanese publishing house that developed Sakura Town in partnership with the Tokorozawa local government. Kadokawa is well known for its manga publications.

The Kadokawa Museum features a library with a “theater of books” (including, unsurprisingly, thousands of manga titles), a dedicated anime museum, art gallery and science section, as well as displays on book publishing, and a cafe.

kengo kuma museum exterior saitama
Photo by Carey Finn

Outside the museum is a shallow pond/water feature, which, in an unusual move for Japan, you are actually allowed to paddle in. This is nice for the kids, who can splash around on a warm day.

paddling area and crocs outside kadokawa museum
Photo by Carey Finn

Tickets to the Kadokawa Museum

Standard admission tickets cost ¥1,200 for adults, and must be booked online (in Japanese). You need to register on the site first. These give you access to the fourth-floor “Edit Town” installation (all about editing, in case the name wasn’t clear) and Bookshelf Theater, as well as the fifth-floor Musashino Corridor and Gallery.

To access just the first-floor manga and light novel library, you’ll need to cough up ¥600, while special exhibitions in the Grand Gallery on the same floor cost ¥1,600.

It’s ¥3,000 for a 1-day passport on Mondays to Thursdays, and ¥4,000 on Fridays and Saturdays. These give you access to everything at the museum, including the special exhibitions in the Grand Gallery.

Note that tickets to the EJ Anime Museum, which is on the third floor of the Kadokawa Culture Museum, need to be purchased separately. They are priced at ¥1,500 for basic entry (advance booking). The ticket website is in Japanese.

Here’s a video walk-through of the Kadokawa Museum, to give you an idea of what’s what.

COVID-19 safety measures

Among others, the following preventative measures are being taken:

  • Visitors are expected to wear masks and maintain social distancing
  • Your temperature will be taken before entering
  • You’ll be asked to sanitize your hands using the alcohol spray provided before entering
  • The museum is being ventilated and cleaned in line with COVID-19 prevention guidelines
  • The anime shrine and anime hotel in Saitama

    Other features of Tokorozawa Sakura Town include a hyper-modern Japanese pop shrine (the Musashino Reiwa Shrine, also designed by Kengo Kuma), a rather pricey anime-themed hotel (the EJ Anime Hotel), expected to be popular among cosplayers and otaku, an events hall, restaurants and office space.

    anime shrine at sakura town in saitama
    The anime shrine. | Photo by Carey Finn

    Getting to teamLab Acorn Forest and Sakura Town

    The closest train station to teamLab and Sakura Town is Higashi-Tokorozawa. To get there from Shinjuku, you can take either the JR Saikyo Line, changing to the JR Musashino Line at Musashi-Urawa Station, or the JR Chuo Line, changing to the JR Musashino Line at Nishi-Kokubunji Station. Either way, the cost is ¥570, meaning it’s ¥1,140 for the round-trip. Because those are JR lines, you can use the JR Pass, if you have one.

    jr train at higashi-tokorozawa station
    Photo by Carey Finn

    When you exit the ticket gates at Higashi-Tokorozawa Station, turn right and walk straight along the road for about 10 minutes. On either side, you’ll find cafes and restaurants, so you can stop in for seafood, Indian curry, coffee and more if you’re in need of fuel.

    Higashi-Tokorozawa Station sign
    Photo by Carey Finn

    If you look down at the sidewalk, you’ll see manhole covers featuring anime characters; these indicate you’re heading in the direction of Sakura Town.

    evangelion manhole cover in tokorozawa saitama
    The manhole covers on the road leading to Sakura Town are anime themed. | Photo by Carey Finn

    When you see this giant rabbit sign (it should be on the left side of the road), turn left immediately afterwards.

    white rabbit sign near teamlab acorn forest
    Follow the white rabbit. Turn left just after this sign. | Photo by Carey Finn

    That will lead you to Higashi Tokorozawa Park, which houses teamLab, and then Sakura Town is across the road from teamLab. You can’t miss the looming Kadokawa Culture Museum building.

    Bonus: There is also a playground in the park, where you can let the kids burn off any extra energy before heading back into Tokyo.

    higashi tokorozawa park playground
    Photo by Carey Finn

    While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published on September 8, 2020. Last updated November 10, 2020.

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