Wait. There are two teamLab digital art museums? Can I do both teamLab Borderless and teamLab Planets on the same day? What else did I not know about Odaiba? How much can I accomplish in a single day of sightseeing without collapsing from exhaustion?
The challenge had already started, even before I started following the ultimate itinerary. Honestly, the first challenge is getting to Odaiba. An artificial island in Tokyo Bay, Odaiba is not as integrated in the public transport network as central Tokyo. However, precisely because it’s rather new land, it is brimming with new developments and excitement about the future in the air that is unattainable anywhere else. The giant 20 meter tall Gundam Mecha Robot towering above Diver City seems right at home there. You could stare at it all day, but there is so much else to do here! From futuristic buildings and cars to VR parks, mecha, and the Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Survival Channel challenged me to test the limits of human touristy endurance and see how much is TOO MUCH to do in Odaiba in a single day.
TeamLab Digital Art Museums, and How to Make the Most of Them
Even if you’re seeing the word ‘teamLab’ for the first time, you have probably heard of their work referred to as the “shiny stuff” or “light installations.” However, not many people know that two separate museums of digital art opened recently – both in Odaiba, both by teamLab, both having the same admission ticket of 3200 yen, both having a couple of similar or same installations. There have been unlucky wanderers stumbling into the wrong teamLab with a ticket for the other one, finding out the distance between the two is not walking distance. Those who did realize in advance were left to decide which one to go to, or wonder if you can visit both on the same day. So, I did exactly that, and I did it on the weekend for peak crowdedness – a big bite at the very start of my Odaiba challenge. Did I bite off more than I could chew? Let’s see.
Planets is the teamLab museum for which you need to pick not only a date but also a timeslot for entering. This adds a little pressure, but the great tradeoff is that the notorious crowds and time spent waiting in lines are smaller in Planets than in Borderless. Once you’re in, you can stay as long as you want.
Tickets were pre-bought online and getting in was a breeze, just showing the QR code. TeamLab Planets is easy to find, unlike Borderless. It’s right at Shin-Toyosu station on the Yurikamome line, and it’s in its own building. There’s no need for refreshment detours, Planets serves food and drinks, has free lockers for your stuff and free wifi, which is especially handy for using the teamLab app that guides you and lets you interact with the artwork.
Mind you, I had no intention of running through this mega popular art haven like a headless chicken just because I was on a challenge. I set the goal of taking a cool pic for Instagram in every room. Preferably a photo with fewer people around me. I managed to do all of that and finish up with Planets in under 90 minutes.
TeamLab Borderless is about 2km from Planets, or a short 10 minute train ride on the Yurikamome line, from Shin-Toyosu to Aomi Station.
Detour through Megaweb Toyota City Showcase? Don’t mind if I do!
A challenge within a challenge is finding the entrance to Borderless. Borderless is situated in the VenusFort/Palette Town complex, but the way to get to it is… well… complex. And Odaiba is full of futuristic fun, so it was really hard to stay focused and go straight to Borderless. The path takes you through the Megaweb Toyota City showcase, and despite showcasing mainly older classic cars, there are futuristic cars too that snatched my attention – like one that runs on hydrogen.
Then, when you leave Megaweb, go under the Ferris Wheel and the Borderless entrance should be to your right.
After finding it, entering Borderless is as easy as Planets, with the streamlined QR code scanning process. Lockers are not offered to you directly, but there are some – use them so that you can move freely. Borderless is bigger than Planets, with additional installation rooms, no structured path of movement through it and with long waiting lines to enter some rooms. This is why I needed more time here than in Planets, so I gave myself 2 full hours. This is really the bare minimum.
While Planets invites you to explore with your whole body (including requiring you to go barefoot), in Borderless you are obliged to leave your shoes on, thank you very much! The Crystal Universe room and the Forests of Lamps seemed to be the most popular, but I skipped the first one as it is almost the same in Planets, and the waiting time for Forest of Lamps was more than 1 hour! However, I did manage to take a good photo in every other room and experienced the more playful and interactive side of Borderless.
I spent maybe one-quarter of my allotted time in the EN Teahouse, for which I paid in advance when buying the ticket. In the soft pleasant darkness of the teahouse, your tea becomes the canvas for the digital art unfurling around you. Don’t deny yourself this immersive experience, no matter how little time you have. I could have waited in line for a photo with lamps, but instead I drank the artsiest tea in the world, and drew my own art that was immediately added to the rich digital fauna running around Athletic Forest.
I could have stayed much longer in Borderless, but Odaiba has many more extravaganzas in store for me, so after my 2 hours were up, I dashed straight to Venus Fort; the building connected to Palette Town.
The Hidden Country Inside Venus Fort
I was a bit sheepish about entering Venus Fort as it was a beautiful sunny day outside and I felt I was missing out on it. But a challenge is a challenge, so I pressed on, and went inside to find … a blue sky right above me. How is this possible? Where am I?
After seeing the fantastical digital worlds teamLab creates, Venus Fort’s blue skies crafted out of light should not have surprised me, but they still did, as I was not expecting it. Another thing I was not expecting was MORE teamLab art – but there it was. One of Tokyo’s most creative Christmas trees!
Venus Fort is a shopping mall that looks like Italy, with piazzas, fountains and cute cafes all around it. It was the perfect place to have lunch. Eating pizza on an Italian piazza only minutes after we visited teamLab, gave me a glimpse of what life with the ability to travel via teleportation might look like. No time to waste. Time to beam myself back to Tokyo to see the top of Fuji TV!
FUJI TV – A Retro-Futuristic Building and One of the Best Views of Tokyo
It took me 15 to 20 minutes to get to Fuji TV walking from Venus Fort. No stopping or detours, as I wanted to watch the sun set over Tokyo Bay. It was unbelievably easy and fast to get to the Hachitama – the spherical observatory of Fuji TV. This unique building marking the Tokyo skyline is famous worldwide with cityscape lovers, as it is one of renown architect Kenzo Tange’s retro-futuristic masterpieces.
So, there I was, INSIDE the metal ball at FUJI TV, watching the sun melt behind the real Mount Fuji. The reds in the sky turned into violets, and then inky blue as night fell, then finally, the Rainbow Bridge lit up in a spectrum of color. An hour passed as I enjoyed the sky’s complete transformation from day to night. On my way out, I even had time to do a quick stamp rally gathering 7 stamps and visit the souvenir shop!
With everything in Odaiba growing dark and starting to twinkle, now was the perfect time to see the Gundam statue light up in its full glory.
Unicorn Gundam – the Mecha Watching over Tokyo
Seeing the Unicorn Gundam towering in front of Diver City is almost like a religious experience to Gundam fans. It is a life-sized, transforming mecha robot from the anime series. I was rushing to get a glimpse of one of the transformation showtimes, but if you happen to miss one, know that there are several scheduled periodically throughout the day.
The Gundam Cafe just behind the Unicorn Gundam is great for souvenirs, but I opted for something with more instant gratification – Gundam-shaped custard-filled taiyaki waffles! I gobbled them on the go as I headed deeper into Gundam world – the Gundam Base. Unseen to casual visitors, the Base is on the 7th floor of Diver City and is the true Mecca experience for fans. It holds all the models and kits you could ever want, including award-winning Gundam models, painting workshops, and more.
I spent almost an hour taking in everything Gundam, before my body started begging for a caffeine boost. I realized I had been hopping around Odaiba for more than 8 hours – and still had a ways to go!
Virtual Reality Games in Diver City
After immersing myself in Odaiba’s futuristic and fantastic but very real-world attractions, it was time to go further and dive into virtual reality. VR technology is rapidly improving to the point that you are not merely playing a video game, but you are literally INSIDE the game. These VR games have never been as readily available as they are now!
HexaRide VR (around 30 minutes total)
The HexaRide has two options on alternating schedules (check the times before you go): Attack on Titan or Ghost Chaser. I went for Attack on Titan and found myself literally soaring with the Scouts – as the seats tilt, move, and throw you around. It was a step beyond watching anime – watching from inside, flying with the characters.
Typhonium VR games (around 30 minutes total)
Typhonium takes the illusion further by letting you walk around Virtual Reality. I will never know how ridiculous we looked to employees as we ran around and screamed in an empty room, but the horrors of the CORRIDOR game seemed very real to me! They do have non-horror games as well, but those only involve sitting or standing… Only Corridor lets you walk around as you experience the game.
Odaiba to Full Capacity!
After being nicely shaken and stirred by VR games, it was almost time to end the challenge. Exhaustion was taking over, while the mall itself announced it was closing in 30 minutes. In a single day, I managed to visit both teamLab Planets and Borderless while taking great photos, drinking tea and drawing my own art in 4 to 5 hours. Some visitors might call it a day right there – but I gallavanted on through Megaweb Toyota, Venus Fort, the Fuji TV Observatory (and do a stamp rally), Gundam Unicorn, Gundam Cafe, Gundam Base, and finally HexaRide VR and Typhonium Magic Reality Theatre. After 10 hours, I was totally drained, but my curiosity was satisfied to the max!
I only worried about leaving this futuristic reality and coming back to the ordinary present. However, walking into TOKYO TELEPORT station to catch my train was just the thing to put a smile on my face. It seemed somewhat old-fashioned to take a train, but I dreamt about flashing digital displays and teleportation as I fell fast asleep in my seat.
Unicorn Gundam really brings a tear to my eye whenever I approach it. It’s unbelievable! This challenge is a real “the future is now” experience I recommend to anyone.