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Tokyo’s New Floating Flower Garden Wants You to Become One With the Orchids

By Mae Hamilton

Aug 16, 2021

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It is believed that orchids are among the most fully evolved flowering plants in the world.

Courtesy of teamLab Planets Tokyo

It is believed that orchids are among the most fully evolved flowering plants in the world.

The two newest exhibits from teamLab Tokyo encourage visitors to rethink their relationship with the natural world.

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According to a survey conducted by Tokyo’s Bureau of Urban Development in 2015, only 7.5 percent of Japan’s capital is dedicated to green space. But now visitors and residents alike can get the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in all things leafy and beautiful without having to step outside city limits at teamLab Planets Tokyo, a museum with a mission to help people transcend the boundaries between the self and the world. Located in Tokyo’s Koto City neighborhood, the fully interactive facility added two intriguing expansions to its collection of mind-bending exhibits this summer.

The first new installation, which has been dubbed the “Floating Flower Garden: Flowers and I are of the Same Root, the Garden and I are One,” consists of 13,000 orchids that are suspended from the ceiling and dangle so they almost reach the floor. However, as people move about in the space, the flowers are seemingly able to sense movement and gently drift upward to accommodate visitors’ movements. The floating garden is meant to be a futuristic take on ancient Zen gardens, which were initially created to help Buddhist priests feel more at one with nature. 

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Though there isn’t a crumb of dirt in the exhibit, the flowers are very much alive and real—most orchids are able to sustain themselves by simply absorbing water from the air. Due to the unique nature of orchids, which evolved to alter the strength of their fragrances to attract insects when they’re most active, the smell of the blooms varies throughout the day and is strongest after sunset when nocturnal insects are out and about—something to keep in mind if you’re planning an evening museum run.

Mosses are thought to be among the most ancient terrestrial organisms to ever exist.

The other exhibit is known as the “Moss Garden of Resonating Microcosms—Solidified Light Color, Sunrise, and Sunset,” and comprises a hilly, mossy area that’s dotted with ovoid-shaped mini-sculptures (which represent tiny microcosms) that move and glow when interacted with—and visitors are highly encouraged to do so. In the morning, the ovoids have a metallic, reflective sheen, but in the evening, they illuminate in eye-catching, neon colors. When the wind blows or when they’re pushed by visitors, the ovoids will begin to shine brightly and emit a resonant tone.  

In addition to the two new exhibitions, teamLab Planets Tokyo also has nine other installations, including an art piece that makes guests feel as if they’re walking on water and another that gives the illusion of being able to manipulate fire. Founded in Tokyo in 2001, teamLab is a collective of interdisciplinary specialists—artists, animators, programmers, engineers, mathematicians, and architects—who work to demonstrate the connections among art, technology, science, and the environment. Its work is a part of a number of museums’ permanent collections across the world, including Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art, San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. 

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If you do drop by teamLab Planets Tokyo before the exhibits are removed in 2022, a word to the wise: Upon entering the museum, visitors are required to remove their shoes—and that’s not just because of Japanese customs. TeamLab believes that going barefoot helps visitors develop a more intimate experience with the artwork they’re viewing and helps the space feel a bit more homey.

>> Next: The Everything Guide to Cherry Blossom Season in Japan

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