A Wild 'Where's Waldo' Portrait of Tokyo

Find the Kabuki actors, sushi rolls, and emoticons hidden in this massive mural.

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Tokyo is an energetic city, filled with frenetic motion and bustle. These tend to be difficult to capture, unless your canvas is an entire room, as it is for teamLab’s mural at the new Tokyo Skytree. Filling the walls of a room at the size of 130-feet wide by 10-feet tall, the mural took sixteen people—eleven artists and five animators—more than a year and a half to complete. What’s more, the mural depicts almost the entirety of Tokyo, focusing on its central districts around the Sumida River.

The painting is stunning, not only because of its size, but also due to the amount of detail the artists were able to fit into it; hidden around the massive tableau are Kabuki actors, sushi rolls, and emoticons, among other random Japanese artifacts. Not only is the city filled with realistic billboard adds, but also with people, all of whom look unique.

Drawing inspiration from traditional depictions of Japanese cities, the artists decided to make the mural ‘flat,’ with no single vanishing point, foiling a reading of unified perspective. The artists write, "in Japanese art there are rakuchurakugaizu (views in and around the city of Kyoto) and edozubyoubu (scenes of Edo on folding screens), these art works have no central point of focus, they are ‘flat’, everything is depicted with the same degree of importance and they contain a vast amount of information even down to the stories of each and every individual.” In this way, they convey both the look of the city and also the tremendous sensory overload the visitor feels while there.


Series of zoom-ins showing epic amounts of detail



All images courtesy of TeamLAB

This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

  • A.J. Artemel is a second-year student at Yale School of Architecture. He holds a BS Arch and a Minor in Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia.