Tokyo Mapping Show

When visiting Tokyo for the first time, it’s a must to lose yourself in the sprawling Shinjuku district at dusk and discover its strident, dazzling, neon-filled urban jungle that never sleeps. Shinjuku, one of the twenty-three districts of the Japanese capital, has become mythical since Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation immortalized it twenty years ago.

But between the end of February and the end of April this year, a new must-see attraction called Tokyo Night and Light made its appearance in the district, offering passers-by the world’s largest video mapping ever projected onto a building, according to the Book of Records. This giant 14,000 m², 127 m high by 100 m wide, solar-powered digital show illuminates the skyscraper of Tokyo’s metropolitan government headquarters every day from dusk until around 9 p.m..

The entire facade is then covered with five alternating projections of traditional motifs and illustrations of monuments. Various artists were involved: Lunar Cycle was designed by the Colors Creation collective, Evolution by Belgium’s Maxime Guislain, 800 by BBC designers, carried by the new single by Japanese singer Aimer, as well as two other creations focusing on Japanese history and nature. But it was the life-size Godzilla (100 meters high) that created the buzz!

The projections follow the entire building to the millimetre, with its twin 243-metre-high, 48-storey towers linked by a central building that resembles both a cathedral and a microchip. Designed and built between 1988 and 1991 by the famous architect Kenzo Tange, one of the fathers of contemporary Japanese architecture, the headquarters of Tokyo’s metropolitan government also offers the public free access to breathtaking views of one of the world’s largest cities, with its almost fourteen million inhabitants.

For more than a decade, video mapping has been making a splash around the world, intoxicating audiences with the kind of moving images found in immersive exhibitions and futuristic works of art. There’s no end in sight to the video mapping craze, and Team Lab, a Tokyo-based collective, has been excelling in the genre since 2001.

“Japan has world-class technology and content, so why not take advantage of it?” said Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who wants to use Japanese film and cartoon content to attract ever more foreign tourists despite the exorbitant cost of the operation. Last December, Japan saw a record 2.73 million travelers in one month, 8% more than before the pandemic, and a total of 25 million by 2023. That’s a lot of people to come and admire Mount Fuji, which covers Tokyo City Hall in all its glory.

Text by Christine Cibert

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