Tag: Odaiba

Odaiba: Digital Art Lab

If you’re planning on visiting Tokyo, the Digital Art Lab in Odaiba should definitely have a place on your itinerary.

Featuring displays that react to guests’ movements and touch, the interior feels like an endless labyrinth with living art installations that are constantly morphing and traveling between rooms.

In one hallway a stylized lion composed of illuminated flowers walked alongside me, matching me stride for stride. When I stopped, the lion did too. As I raised my camera to snap a photo, the lion turned to regard me and looked straight at me.

Other rooms feature walls and floors that respond to touch, and even a tea house where floral light patterns seem to grow from your tea cup. Move the cup and the flower disperses in the digital wind, while a new one blooms in your cup’s new location.

One of my favorite areas was a room comprised of nothing but tens of thousands of LED light strips pulsing to the beat of an epic orchestral track. One moment you’re surrounded by crystalline lights sparkling like stars, the next you’re bathed in digital rain like something out of the Matrix films.

Digital Art Lab’s crystalline LED room
Thousands of LEDs surround a winding path which opens up into a clearing at Tokyo’s Digital Art Lab.

Another room uses angled floors and walls to enhance the effects of a spectacular 3D light show. I had to steady myself as the view lurched out to what looked like a galactic view with stars flying past. The effect was so realistic, I experienced a sense of vertigo.

There’s a mushroom forest, a kids area with illuminated slides and trampolines, and lots of out-of-the-way, hard to find rooms that reward exploration with spectacular displays.

Tokyo Digital Art Lab
Large rooms like the one pictured here feature dynamic and responsive art displays. Visitors can scatter flowers on the walls by touching them, and divert the flow of waterfalls by standing beneath them.

 

Odaiba: Protected By A Giant Japanese Robot

Chances are you’ve seen a Gundam even if the name seems unfamiliar.

Gundam are sleek androform robots piloted by humans and often seen wielding massive guns, utility-pole-size katanas and other outrageous weaponry.

The name Gundam is synonymous with “Japanese robot,” and the IP is one of the top 15 highest-grossing media properties in the world, putting it in the same company as franchises like Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Batman/DC Comics universe and Lord of the Rings.

In other words, Gundam is serious business in Asia.

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A typical Gundam figurine assembled from a model kit.

The cult franchise began with a 1979 cartoon series and expanded to include movies, manga and spinoffs, but the real moneymakers are plastic model kits of the many mecha in the wider Gundam universe. Gundam mecha account for 90 percent of all model kit sales in Japan, and they’re wildly popular worldwide, including the United States.

With all of that in mind, maybe it’ll seem a little less crazy that Tokyo has a life-size Gundam standing guard over Odaiba in a major commercial plaza. The 24-meter (78-foot) statue is impressive in its own right, but at night it reaches new levels of awesomeness when the robot’s lights activate, bathing the behemoth in ambient crimson.

Life size Gundam
A life-size Unicorn Gundam statue keeps watch over the Odaiba district of Tokyo.
Life-size Gundam in Tokyo
Facing out from the complex, Unicorn Gundam seems to guard Diver City.

After spending a few hours wandering Tokyo’s incredible Digital Art Lab, it was past sundown and pouring when we reached the statue. I got soaked for my efforts, but it was worth it to see the iconic mecha with my own eyes.

To provide a sense of scale, the average adult male is about as tall as the Gundam’s ankle.

Every half hour after sundown passersby can watch the Gundam transform between “Unicorn Mode” and “Destroy Mode.” Panels and sections on the robot’s torso fold into a new, more aggressive-looking pose, while alternate lights are activated and more protective armor encases the machine’s head.

Life-size Gundam in Tokyo
A close-up shows the illumination of the Unicorn Gundam statue at night.
Tokyo’s life-size Unicorn Gundam statue
The statue is remarkably detailed and captures the sleek — and iconic — look of the franchise’s mecha.