Today, we started in the cafe with a coffee to decide how to spend our next few days in Tokyo, our last few days in Japan. We knew we wanted to have a really nice and fancy sushi dinner, so we searched for that and made a reservation for the 1st of April. We also decided to get tickets to a really cool interactive museum called TeamLab Planets. TeamLab is a group of engineers, architects, and artists that came together to create two semipermanent installations in Tokyo (TeamLab Planets and TeamLab Borderless). After getting our tickets, we hopped on a train to head towards the museum because it was going to take a while to get there.
We got off the train in Ginza which is a super high-end shopping district with every fancy designer you can think of and several you may have never heard of. Ginza is not just known for their shopping, they are also known for their tempura restaurants which we wanted to try before TeamLabs. We were surprised that a lot of the tempura places had three and even four dollar signs on google because we figured it was basically just fried food. How could that be almost $100 a plate? So, we found a highly rated two dollar sign place near us and headed there. We ordered at another one of those ticket vending machines and had a seat. Haley got the High-end traditional tempura plate that just meant she got a couple extra pieces and some more expensive fish in her bowl and I got the traditional bowl with ramen on the side. In our bowls was a prawn, two peppers, a half-boiled egg, a filet of fish, seaweed, and Haley got octopus and another style of fish all on top a bed of rice. After getting our bowls and tasting the tempura, we immediately began to understand why this meal can become so pricy. It has a lot to do with what they fry because they will fry almost anything and has, even more, to do with how well the food is coated and how well the tempura stays on the food. It was so delicious. We were especially impressed with the tempura half-boiled egg which had a beautiful yellow yolk and amazing flavor. The really nice thing about tempura is that it doesn’t feel super heavy after you eat it. We were even feeling up for some sweets after lunch, so we stopped at a waffle store and got some dessert waffles. We got a waffle sandwich filled with vanilla custard, a plain waffle with a chocolate drizzle (expertly placed just on the ridges of the waffle), and a maple waffle that wasn’t sticky or covered in syrup but had the perfect syrup flavor. Impressive and tasty! We took these to go and started our 50-minute walk to TeamLab Planets. The walk was very pleasant because once we got outside of the shopping district we got great views of the city and the huge skyscrapers that encircled the downtown area. A little farther on our walk, we came to a series of three bridges that provided some great views of the ocean and of the skyline. As we got over the third bridge, we ran into a MASSIVE line that stretched for almost a quarter of a mile. We had heard that TeamLabs was popular but we didn’t think it was going to be that crazy. Luckily, we had the foresight to walk to the front of the line to be sure we should stand in it and thankfully it was for a music festival that was going on in the building right next to the TeamLabs building. When we got to the TeamLabs entrance we were faced with a much more manageable line that took us about 30-minutes to get through. As we were waiting, we read the rules and warnings. It said that you must be barefoot inside the museum, that in some sections there will be water knee-high, and that there are mirror floors so be mindful of your outfit. All of these rules just got us more excited and curious about what this place was going to be. They described it as a visual, auditory, and tactile experience. Once inside, we experienced something that is going to be very hard to describe but I am going to give it my best shot.
The first thing we see is a black hallway lit by red lights on the floor with felt or sued fabric on the floor and walls. We turned a corner, running our fingers along the wall when we started to hear the sound of rushing water. A little further down the hallway, we saw a ramp that was lit with white lights on the floor and was a few inches underwater. We walked up the ramp which was the first installation of the exhibit. After the ramp, we dried our feet off and entered a very similar hallway but instead of red lights, they were blue. We walked this hall for a minute or two and then we hit the second installation which was an entire room that was one huge beanbag. Unfortunately, all the spots on the floor were taken so we didn’t get a chance to lay down and relax. But, we walked through the room which was harder than I imagined it would be. Your body sunk deep with each step making it difficult to make your next step. The room was filled with giggles of people attempting to get across the floor and falling. After the beanbag room, we entered the felt hallway that had floorboards with altering textures and continued to the next installation. It was a huge room covered floor to ceiling in mirrors and in the open space was light strips that stretched all the way to the floor and lit up in an array of colors and patterns. This might have been one of the most fun and coolest things I have ever seen. We spent a majority of our time in this room taking pictures and watching the impressive light show. The colors blinked, flashed, and moved like waves, shooting stars, and constellations according to the music it seemed to follow. It was truly a symphony of lights. After that, we headed to the next installation which was where the knee-high water was. This room mimicked a pond filled with multi-colored coy fish and flowers. They were projected onto the water and the fish swam around. If you got close to one, it would dart away like a live fish which was super cool and fun to mess with. This room was also mirrored so if you weren’t careful you could almost walk into the walls because it looked like it went on forever. We thought this was cool enough, but suddenly the multicolored fish began to create streams of light like a jet contrail. The lights began to fill the space as the coy fish crossed each others’ paths. The next exhibit was a very interactive experience. It was a room filled with giant colorful balls that floated yet were heavy enough to move and sink on to your head. You could lift them up and move them around, but if you weren’t careful you would get trapped in a corner and the balls would sandwich you in. After playing with the balls and taking some cool mirror photos, we headed to the final exhibit. This installation was basically a huge 360-degree Imax screen that had moving butterflies and flowers flying across the screen. It had flower petals falling off in a mesmerizing spiral motion and the stems would come flying at you. The flowers and butterflies were all different sizes, some small and some nearly covering the screen, all moving quickly past you. If you weren’t looking, they would sometimes make you flinch they felt so close. We laid there for while relaxing and watching. When we got up to leave, we didn’t know that that was the last thing in the museum. Us and the people around us saw the exit and all unanimously let out a bummed “aw man” (in multiple languages), even though we had been there for about 2.5-3 hours. After we got out, we were kind of in shock at that amazing experience and didn’t really know what to do next.
We stood around for a while talking about how freaking cool that place was and then started the long walk back to the train station. We decided that we had not had enough conveyor belt sushi so we found another place close by and headed there for dinner. After dinner, we were pretty exhausted from the walking and the mind-melting experience we had at TeamLabs so we called it a night. But first, we headed to a bakery called Theobroma that is known for their chocolate cake. We had first heard of this cake on a youtube show called “worth it” and they claimed it was the best cake they have ever eaten so we had to give it a try. We googled it on the map and it was only a 10-minute subway ride. We got our cake and then headed to the hostel to eat it, and let me tell you they were not lying that was the best chocolate cake I have ever had. It had a thick mouse like texture but was not overly sweet and you could easily eat the whole thing if you weren’t paying attention.
Until next time,
Justin and Haley
All photos by Justin Ruck