A New Gem in Tokyo’s Tourism: The Largest Projection Mapping Show on Earth

Tokyo: A giant projection screen rises nearly 130 meters into the night sky, with Godzilla rumbling on it. Tokyo has added another gem to its long list of must-see attractions, which was immediately recognized by Guinness World Records™.

The projection mapping project “Tokyo Night & Light,” using the intricate front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG)’s 48-story main building as its screen, is four months old. On June 24, the TMG added a new feature to its nightly projection program, which aims to “create a new tourism resource to color Tokyo’s nightlife.

Several hundreds of people from Japan and abroad gathered for the first showing of the latest 2.5-minute feature titled “Synergy,” looking up from Citizens’ Plaza at the foot of the 243-meter TMG No.1 Building.

Using 40 state-of-the-art visual and audio instruments, the artwork displays abstract images of flower heads, petals and other plants that pulsate and swirl over images of the building’s exterior while also warping and melting to the beat of the music of a fast-paced electronic symphony. In the finale, twigs and branches tangle up into a full-foliaged tree.

“We’ve come to feel what has been the talk of the town in many ways,” said Japanese tourist KAIGAWA Mutsuki, 25, after watching the show with his former Thai and South Korean classmates from university in Australia. “I’ve once seen a similar projection mapping show in Singapore. But this is bigger and I’m impressed.”

The sequence was created by Belgian CG creator/stage filmmaker Maxime Guislain. It is themed on the “relationship between humans and nature,” as the TMG puts it. It depicts how the “complex intermingling” of human activities with nature “will bring about a bright future in which we can coexist in harmony.” In 2023, Guislain created a video projection for a Japanese stage play “Stage Evangelion Beyond,” which was inspired by a global hit anime series and performed for the opening of a theater in Tokyo.

The Tokyo Night & Light project has attracted 240,000 visitors in its first four months. On weekends and holidays, up to about 10,000 people mill around the open-air semi-circular Citizens’ Plaza. Food trucks and stalls are set up there in the summer months, selling beer and snacks.

The largest architectural projection mapping show

The Guinness World Records™ organization has recognized the project as the “largest architectural projection-mapped display (permanent).” The nightly show is projected onto an area, 127 meters high and 110 meters wide, on the front of the TMG No. 1 Building — from its fourth to 32nd floors. The building, designed by the late architect TANGE Kenzo and completed in late 1990, is split into two towers from the 33rd floor and upward. Its exterior resembles an integrated circuit, which popular global travel guide Lonely Planet compares to a “pixelated cathedral.”  

The building itself, located by a green park and not so far from the all-night entertainment district of Shinjuku, has long been a popular tourist spot. Its two free observatories are daily drawing thousands of visitors from Japan and abroad as they are back in full operation after the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Tokyo Night & Light” is now vying with the capital city’s other attractions including, to name a few, the world’s tallest tower at 634 meters, an all-direction “scramble” intersection teeming with selfie-takers and the largely wooden National Stadium built for the Covid-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

Tokyo Governor KOIKE Yuriko told a recent news conference that the TMG is employing Japan’s projection mapping technology, which has been also used for a light and sound display at the Notre Dame Cathedral. “We are combining the Japanese technology with the sensibility of Japan as well as Tokyo and Edo (the old name of Tokyo) to attract tourists,” she said.

“This projection mapping project has been filling up the once empty Citizens’ Plaza with people.”

“Life-sized” Godzilla on the rampage

On weekdays, the show has been held every half an hour, combining short features for a total of 10-15 minutes, between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. On weekends and holidays, 15-minute specials have been shown at the same interval. Some of the works featured in recent months are “Godzilla: Attack on Tokyo!” and a work inspired by traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e paintings themed on everyday life. Synergy, the latest feature, is to be screened once at 7:30 p.m. on the weekend/holiday menu.

In the Godzilla episode, the world-famous movie monster, who is celebrating his 70th year in the Japanese filmdom this year, looms 100 meters tall on the TMG building wall, the same as its fictitious height. He battles a new anti-Godzilla weapon called Super X2 Kai. In 1991, one of the 30 Godzilla films so far showed a scale model of the then newly built TMG No. 1 Building demolished by Godzilla in a fight against another monster.