1. Pavilion Tokyo 2021
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Tea House "Go-an" designed by Terunobu FujimoriLocation: Victor Studio
  2. Pavilion Tokyo 2021
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Global Bowl designed by Akihisa HirataLocation: United Nations University
  3. Pavilion Tokyo 2021
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Tokyo Castle designed by Makoto AidaLocation: Ginkgo Avenue in Meiji Jingu Gaien

In photos: 9 stunning art installations at Pavilion Tokyo 2021

Pavilions by artists and architects including Yayoi Kusama are popping up across Tokyo. Go see them now for free

Written by Time Out. Paid for by Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Arts Council Tokyo (Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture)

The city-wide Pavilion Tokyo 2021, one of the Tokyo Tokyo Festival Special 13 events, lets you enjoy nine quirky and futuristic installations designed by eight world-renowned Japanese architects and artists, such as contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, as well as architects Terunobu Fujimori and Kazuyo Sejima. The pavilions are on display until September 5 and are all free to visit (for 'Suimei', the entry fee to Hama-rikyu Gardens still applies).

Most of the installations are centrally located. You'll find them within a 30-minute walk from the Japan National Stadium. To get an idea of what’s on display, see the list of pavilions below before heading out for your art adventure.

‘The Obliteration Room’ by Yayoi Kusama
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Art: Yayoi Kusama / The Obliteration Room 2002-present. © Yayoi Kusama

‘The Obliteration Room’ by Yayoi Kusama

This interactive pavilion allows you to obliterate a pure white space with differently-sized colourful round stickers. The concept leans on Kusama’s signature polka dot motif, and the installation belongs to her famous 'Obliteration Room' series (2002-present).

The stark white pavilion is a re-creation of an apartment, complete with a fully equipped kitchen, living room and reading corner. The highlight, however, is a Japanese-style room decked out with tatami mats and a tokonoma alcove.

Visiting 'The Obliteration Room' requires a reservation in advance – but it’s free.

Find it at: Shibuya City Office – No. 2 Mitake Office

‘Global Bowl’ by Akihisa Hirata
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Global Bowl designed by Akihisa Hirata

‘Global Bowl’ by Akihisa Hirata

This large, bowl-shaped structure with differently-shaped openings and intertwined elements was designed to represent the large number of people from various nationalities and backgrounds visiting Tokyo during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The installation’s appearance is also based on the National Stadium’s convex architecture. It integrates aspects of nature, technology and the city by using three-dimensional cutting techniques and traditional materials.

You can step inside the pavilion and also sit down on some parts – however, you’re not allowed to climb up the installation.

Find it at: In front of United Nations University

‘Kokage-gumo’ by Junya Ishigami
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Kokage-gumo designed by Junya Ishigami

‘Kokage-gumo’ by Junya Ishigami

This mystical landscape has been created by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami. By implementing carbonised yakisugi cedar, the structure seems to have been standing there for decades, harmonising perfectly with its location. You’ll find the pavilion in the garden of kudan house, an old Spanish-style mansion built in 1927 by businessman Mankichi Yamaguchi in Kudanshita.

The dark planked roof doubles as a sunshade, while the wooden planks compliment the lush green of the garden’s vegetation. The tall installation hides the modern cityscape, so it feels like you’ve been transported back in time to a peaceful oasis in the 1920s.

Find it at: Garden of kudan house

‘Suimei’ by Kazuyo Sejima
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Suimei designed by Kazuyo Sejima

‘Suimei’ by Kazuyo Sejima

This installation by Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima is inspired by a winding stream, a common garden element during the Heian period (794-1185). It's intended to match the water features in Hama-rikyu Gardens. When seen up close, you can tell that the water is flowing slowly and quietly down the waterway, its surface reflecting the sky, clouds and surrounding landscape.

The historical Hama-rikyu Gardens was established during the Edo period (1603-1868), and is now surrounded by high-rise buildings. So it’s a great place to experience both Tokyo’s past and present.

Sejima is famous for her designs blending clean and modern elements with shiny surfaces, such as her design for Tokyo’s Sumida Hokusai Museum, which is dedicated to ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai.

Find it at: Hama-rikyu Gardens (admission fee applies; free prior reservation necessary)

‘Tea House “Go-an”’ by Terunobu Fujimori
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Tea House 'Go-an' designed by Terunobu Fujimori

‘Tea House “Go-an”’ by Terunobu Fujimori

Tea lovers should head over to this elevated wooden teahouse created by Japanese architect, architectural historian and director of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, Terunobu Fujimori.

The green turret-like foundation of 'Tea House "Go-an"' is covered by grass, while the raised tearoom is made of carbonised cedar planks, also known as yakisugi in Japanese. You’ll have to crawl through a small entrance and climb up a narrow ladder to reach the inside of the teahouse, from where you’ll have great views of the National Stadium, just across the street. Come evening, the structure lights up like a giant lantern.

Note that you’ll have to make a (free) reservation on the day to enter the teahouse. Reservations can be made at the nearby WATARI-UM, the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, daily from 10.20am.

Find it at: In front of Victor Studio

‘Cloud pavilion’ by Sou Fujimoto
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Cloud pavilion designed by Sou Fujimoto

‘Cloud pavilion’ by Sou Fujimoto

This unique installation represents a fluffy, floating cloud, and was designed by world-renowned architect Sou Fujimoto. The pavilion sits on three slender legs, and is intended to provide shade for passersby during Tokyo’s scorching summer heat.

Fujimoto describes clouds as objects with an exterior but without walls, plus a dynamic inner space. He created the work as ‘a place for everyone’ to emphasise diversity and tolerance worldwide – clouds are like a massive roof that we all share around the globe. The same pavilion is set up at two different locations in the city to mimic the ubiquity of clouds themselves.

Find them at: Yoyogi Park (near Panorama Grass Field), and inside Takanawa Gateway Station

‘Street Garden Theater’ designed by Teppei Fujiwara
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Street Garden Theater designed by Teppei Fujiwara

‘Street Garden Theater’ designed by Teppei Fujiwara

This wooden structure was designed by architect Teppei Fujiwara and represents a garden in the middle of Tokyo that highlights the balance between nature, people and the environment.

As Tokyo developed into a modern metropolis, greenery was added to the streets, turning the city into a large-scale garden. Through 'Street Garden Theater', Fujiwara provides visitors a chance to experience the growth and evolution of the on-site vegetation, and to deepen their relationship with nature.

The wooden framework has multiple layers, which you can access via steps and stairs. Sit down, take in the scenery, and enjoy being surrounded by different types of plants, flowers and herbs, such as tomato plants, morning glories, and rosemary.

Find it: In front of the former National Children’s Castle, 5-53-1 Jingumae, Shibuya

‘Tokyo Castle’ by Makoto Aida
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; Tokyo Castle designed by Makoto Aida

‘Tokyo Castle’ by Makoto Aida

This pair of Japanese castles by artist Makoto Aida graces the entrance to the ginkgo tree-lined Icho Namiki Avenue close to Tokyo’s Gaienmae Station. While the larger castle boasts a height of eight metres and was made from cardboard, the smaller version is about half its size and uses blue tarp.

The idea for ‘Tokyo Castle’ dates back to Aida’s ‘Shinjuku Castle’ created in 1995. Aida spent as little as possible on art supplies due to lack of money – an approach which has become a hallmark of his style. For ‘Shinjuku Castle’, Aida found inspiration in the temporary housing of the homeless made from cardboard and blue tarp that protects them from rain.

Even though the materials are quite primitive, they are inexpensive, but still reliable, and are regularly used during natural disasters. By combining them with luxurious castle designs, they become stunning and eye-catching installations.

Find them at: Ginkgo Avenue in Meiji Jingu Gaien

Don't miss...

Photo: Kisa Toyoshima; 2020-2021 designed by Daito Manabe and Rhizomatiks

...the installation ‘2020-2021’ by artist Daito Manabe and art collective Rhizomatiks across from WATARI-UM, the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum also hosts the Pavilion Tokyo 2021 exhibition, showcasing the sketches, plans, models and materials used for each pavilion.

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