TeamLab Borderless vs TeamLab Planets
TeamLab Borderless and TeamLab Planets are digital art museums in Tokyo. But they’re nothing like standard museums – they’re unique, immersive experiences with projection mapping, music, lights and effects.
I’ve been to both (and loved them both!). It’s an experience like no other, that goes beyond language barriers – I think anyone would enjoy it! So here’s my comparison to help you choose which to visit during your Japan trip.
Which should you go to?
TLDR: Here’s the short answer!
Having been to both, if I had to choose one, I’d choose TeamLab Borderless, because it’s much larger. It’s probably about twice the size of Planets, with more rooms to experience.
But there are also a few other things to consider…
Only Planets has Water Rooms
The water rooms are only at TeamLab Planets. These are rooms where you walk through shallow water with projections on the surface. It’s a very unique experience. That also means you don’t wear shoes at TeamLab Planets. You have to remove them as soon as you enter (there are lockers).
Also, the room with the floating orchids that you see in all the Instagram photos is only at Planets.
Some Rooms are the Same at Both
There are several rooms that are the same at both (including my favourite – the Crystal World!). So if you go to both and to see everything, there will be some repetition. I enjoyed going to both, but on separate trips to Japan, a year apart, so I didn’t mind seeing some of the installations again.
Planets is Temporary
Another point to consider is that TeamLab Planets is temporary – currently it’s scheduled to close at the end of 2027. That’s been extended several times since it opened.
Borderless is permanent – so if you’ll be visiting Japan again in the future, consider whether you want to catch Planets before it closes, and visit Borderless in the future.
Here’s a quick summary! TeamLab Borderless is the permanent digital art museum. It’s much larger than Planets, and takes around 3-4 hours to look round – although you can spend as long as you want there.
There are lots of different rooms with different projections, music and lights, that you can walk around freely. There’s no map or set route, and there are no signs – this is to awaken your spirit of exploration! On my first visit, I missed a couple of rooms, so make sure you’ve seen everything.
It’s a lot more interactive and fun than I expected, both physically and creatively, as well as being mesmerising and beautiful. There’s also a section that’s aimed at kids – but really anyone can enjoy it!
TeamLab Borderless was originally in Odaiba, then closed to move to a new, more central location near Tokyo Tower. It’s in a new complex called Azabudai Hills, which has stunning architecture. It re-opens on 9th February 2024 and tickets are available now. I’d recommend buying them from their official site (it’s all in English). Your ticket’s sent by email, and you get a barcode to enter that you can show on your phone.
Here’s my video from 2019, from the original location in Odaiba. On the whole, it’ll be the same but with a few new rooms! I’ll be visiting in early spring 2024 and making a new video – subscribe on YouTube to catch it.
TeamLab Planets is a temporary exhibition, but you’d never know when you’re there – everything about it feels very permanent. It’s much smaller than Borderless and takes around 1-2 hours to look round.
There’s a set route around the rooms to follow, so you’ll see everything in the same order. It’s split into two sections: the water area and the garden area. You return to the locker room between them, and you can go around each as many times as you want to.
The unique feature of TeamLab Planets is the water rooms. There are a couple of rooms where you walk through shallow water – very unique! The water’s not very deep – up to about mid-calf depth on adults. So I’d recommend wearing shorts, or trousers that you can roll up to the knees. There are several rooms with mirrored floors, so skirts aren’t recommended. There are lockers where you could get changed if you need to, for example in colder weather.
This does also mean you’re barefoot throughout the whole attraction. The floor’s soft and it’s clean, so there’s nothing that could hurt you, and they lend you sliders for the small outside garden section. In the water rooms, the floor’s rubbery so it’s not slippery at all. Clean towels are also provided after each water room so you can dry off (they must get through so many each day!). But if you’re not happy being barefoot, or being around other people’s bare feet, this is not the place for you.
I’ve seen some comments online about a smell at TeamLab Planets. There’s a very light chlorine smell, just like at a swimming pool, but when I went, that was all there was. It didn’t smell bad and seemed extremely clean. Cleanliness is valued in Japanese culture (for example taking off your shoes when entering the house, and using a mat when sitting on the ground outside), so I don’t think it’s necessary to be concerned about it not being clean.
There are several rooms at Planets that are also at Borderless. The other notable unique room at Planets is the room with the hanging flowers, which are real growing plants. This one’s very popular, so you enter in groups and are all ushered out together – otherwise I think you’d be tempted to spend forever in there!
Here’s my video from TeamLab Planets, filmed in early 2023.
After the walk-through, there’s lots of practical info and advice at the end of the video:
Do you need Advance Tickets?
Both attractions are a great option for a rainy day because they’re all indoors (apart from one outside garden at TeamLab Planets). So you might want to be flexible about when you go, and wait for the weather forecast before booking tickets.
However, both are popular attractions – especially Borderless as it’s been closed during its relocation. To make sure you don’t miss out, I’d recommend keeping an eye on ticket availability to see if you need to grab tickets before they sell out, or if you can afford to wait and be flexible.
How to check ticket availability
It’s really easy to check availability:
- Go to the official website and start following the booking process.
- On the calendar, it’ll show which days only have a few tickets left – indicated by a red triangle. This seems to appear when any of the time slots are fully booked (even if it’s just one that’s sold out).
- Keep following the booking process to see which time slots are still available. Morning slots seem to sell out first.
- If there aren’t many slots left during your trip, consider booking tickets. If there’s still good availability, maybe it’s ok to wait. You can even check this on your phone while you’re in Japan.
If you’re going to Japan during a popular time, like cherry blossom season, Golden Week (end of April, / start of May) or during the popular autumn colours in November, tickets will sell out faster so you’ll need to book tickets earlier.
The colour-coded calendar you see when you book tickets gives an idea of how busy it’s likely to be – on more popular dates, the ticket price is slightly higher.
Other TeamLab Exhibitions
It’s worth noting that these two in Tokyo aren’t the only TeamLab attractions! There are others around Japan, including the Botanical Gardens in Osaka, which are outside, a museum in Fukuoka, and a forest in Saitama on the edge of Tokyo.
There are also temporary exhibitions for a limited time. There’s been one in an old soy sauce factory and one in a hot spring bath-house in Kyushu. So it’s worth checking what’s on during your visit, especially if you’re travelling around Japan. You can see what’s on on TeamLab’s website.
Free Installations in Tokyo
There are also a number of much smaller installations around Tokyo that you can see for free. Most of them art quite small, but the Galaxy store in Harajuku has a whole floor with virtual dinosaurs wandering around the walls and floor you can catch with your phone (obviously a Samsung phone that they lend you to try out!) – and it’s completely free.
Other, smaller, free installations in Tokyo include:
- An animated map of Tokyo at the SkyTree, to keep you entertained while you’re queuing for tickets.
- A virtual waterfall in Ginza Six department store.
- Outside TeamLab Planets there’s a fiery waterfall column.
- You can eat at the TeamLab ramen restaurant Vegan Ramen Uzu without a ticket. It’s just outside TeamLab Planets.
Others come and go, so check the TeamLab website for an up-to-date list, as well as info about other installations around Japan.
My Japan Guide Book
If you’re planning a trip to Japan, my 300 page guide book has lots more tips, practical advice and ideas for things to do. You can get it right here, with worldwide shipping to any country worldwide: