Lalaport Fujimi had been a much anticipated and long awaited event in Saitama Prefecture by the time it finally opened its doors to the public in the spring of 2015.
I remember reading press release after press release about what the shopping mall would offer and it all seemed so exciting. Among the many articles that piqued my interest was one introducing a futuristic digital art play area by TeamLab. At the time, the proposed name for the TeamLab in Lalaport Fujimi was 'Learn and Play! team Lab Future Park.' A bit of a mouthful but thankfully by the time the store opened, they had changed the name to the much easier and catchier TeamLab Islands.
Before 2015 the art and technology collaborative TeamLab had only temporary exhibitions and pop up play areas in various locations. TeamLab Islands was their first permanent play area in Japan. My four children and I visited it the week it opened when we queued with hundreds of other art and technology enthusiasts so as to be one of the first to experience this interactive digital gallery play land.
Just a note: we have returned for more visits to TeamLab Islands over the last four years and thankfully there have never been such numbers and queues since. It does receive a steady flow of customers, but on weekday mornings it is usually just a handful of customers and of course is much easier for small children to enjoy the attractions.
Light Ball Orchestra
A signature feature of TeamLab productions is their use of colour changing lights and music. You can experience at Lalaport Fujimi in the Light Ball Orchestra play zone, where giant balls repeatedly change colour and make music upon touch.
Sliding through the fruit field
As you slide over the digital images it creates a new scene. When you land at the bottom of the slide you can look at what your sliding has created. Flowers sprout and honeybees pollinate which results in the fruit growing.
There are two 'Little People' play areas in Lalaport Fujimi. One is on a table, the other against a wall. The direction the little people walk and the activities they do are influenced by human interaction.
Children colour pictures that are then uploaded to a digital display where they become 3D images. These images move and act on touch. There is also a craft option in this area where the pictures can be made into 3D papercrafts that can be taken home.
Similar to Sketch Town, children colour pictures of fish that are then scanned into a digital aquarium. Each touch on the display wall brings the sea creatures to life.
Create! Hopscotch for geniuses
Using a touch tone panel, children create a hopscotch from shapes. Once finished, the unique stepping stone type hopscotch is sent to the electronic path where the children can then walk on their own creations. Each step they take releases music and an accompanying explosion of colour.
Story of the Time Gods were Everywhere
Another tactile display, where each touch transforms a symbol to an animal. The more animals you release, the more the story evolves.
Connecting! Block Town
Here you create an original digital town of roads and railways by placing blocks along a town scene. As roads and railways are created, trains and cars appear.
Nothing beats the great outdoors. But TeamLab Islands isn't meant to. It brings the outdoors indoors for the purpose of interactive art. It is art first, play second. TeamLab Islands is an ideal place to introduce young children to alternative art and with the hands on interaction, bright colours and unusual features it is sure to impact their creative minds.
By car: Lalaport Fujimi is located off route 254. TeamLab Islands is on the 2nd floor. The nearest parking to TeamLab Islands is the third floor of car park six.
By public transport: you can get a bus bound for Lalaport from the east exit of Tobu Tojo Line Tsuruse Station. It takes about six minutes to the Lalaport Fujimi bus terminus.
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I've been in Japan for 18 years and yet everyday is still an adventure. For the last 11 years I have been living in and blogging about Saitama Prefecture (on my personal blog insaitama.com), occasionally appearing on TV to promote the attractions of my adopted home in rural Saitama. Despite its central location, just North of Tokyo, Saitama is still quite unknown to the international tourist, but frequented by domestic travelers. It is a great place to experience some off-the-international-tourist-trail locations and meet with locals and national tourists. And of course Saitama is home to venues for both the Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I hope to introduce a taste of what there is to do and see in my articles on Japan Travel and help you with your Saitama travel planning.