Inside the teamLab sauna: sweat, steam and floating works of art


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“It sounds a bit dubious,” Natsumi warns. The photo with the red lanterns probably gave him the wrong idea.

Others run away by simply citing health problems. “I have low blood pressure,” apologizes Raffaela.

While the sauna, red lights and Roppongi can trigger a fight-or-flight response in some, all fear is misplaced when it comes to teamLab. The Tokyo-based art collective continues to open new exhibitions of its otherworldly art, and one of them is the digital art bath and sauna called teamLab reconnect in the affluent Roppongi district of Tokyo.

“Aubergines” 2 at teamLab Reconnect in Roppongi

The exhibition aims to immerse visitors in a ‘sauna trance’, a form of meditative and heightened mental state which results in a new form of perception of art. “By entering a sauna trance, the senses are heightened, the mind cleared, the beauty of the surrounding world is brought out and what normally goes unnoticed can be experienced,” teamLab explains on its website.

So far, so good. In practice, this means wearing a bathing suit, sweating in a sauna, followed by a cold shower, then cooling off and resting while looking at digital art. As no one wants to join me to try teamLab’s new art-on-sauna experience, I go alone.

Ticket to enter teamLab Reconnect in Roppongi
teamLab Reconnect in Roppongi


TeamLab has taken possession of an empty corner lot in front of the Mori Tower. As the wedge appears, it becomes clear that the entire event is being held in a tent, albeit a very large one.

First of all, a video to explain what awaits the visitor and to explain the “do’s and don’ts”. Understood. There will be three cycles of sauna, cold shower and art experience.

Then comes the rental of the swimsuit. Praise be to the god of rubber bands: the larger size is suitable; and praise to the goddess of electricity: the lights are dimmed.

Then I get two towels. There is a labyrinth of saunas waiting for me.

“Swimsuit selfies” at teamLab Reconnect in Roppongi

Selfies in swimsuits

TeamLab is not only famous for its extremely popular immersive exhibits, it has also taken the art of the selfie to new heights. Those who love to take a self-portrait in a dazzling environment will also get their money’s worth at teamLab reconnect, although conditions apply. No cameras inside the sauna, and no cameras inside the showers or changing rooms, but everything else is fair game. Smartphones can be placed in waterproof cases and taken into the exhibition.

The heat and humidity have already fogged up my glasses. As I walk into the sauna with my two towels one of them is already wet.

sunflowers at teamLab Reconnect in Roppongi

The first sauna is really hot – so hot that I immediately step back outside. I check the digital display. It reads 100 Celsius, intense heat. I can only agree and go looking for more moderate heat to begin with. I run five more saunas at 100 C or 90 C. Then the last one says medium, with a temperature of 80 C. That seems to be my best bet.

I walk in and a staff member is straightening the rugs on the floors and benches. Maybe I can dry my wet towel. I’m supposed to stay 10 minutes, but I think it’s best to leave after two. It is really hot in here.

Then comes the cold shower. The section is dark with mist falling from the ceiling and lights forming rings on the floor. This work is based on ensou, the practice of the Zen school of drawing a circle with a single uninhibited brushstroke.

cascade – at teamLab Reconnect in Roppongi

I feel less zen in the cold shower, however, as I try to stretch an arm out trying to keep my towels dry. There is a storage space for the towels above the shower heads, as I find out too late. The recommended time in a cold shower is two minutes. I sit down quietly for two seconds.

It’s time to move on to the artistic experience called “Ephemeral Solidified Light”. It is a maze of blue light and mirrors with water cascading from above, forming strands that resemble glowing, pulsating raindrops. A man and boy sit quietly on the floor in the center of the room, enjoying a cold shower inside a maze of moving lights and colors.

sunflowers – it’s August – at teamLab Reconnect in Roppongi

Finnish traditions with the taste of green tea

I return to the sauna. As I walk past the shower, a young woman screams in despair. It looks like her boyfriend pushes her into the cold shower and keeps her there for exactly two minutes while she holds him for support, her head resting on her shoulder, her whole body shaking. We all know Ikea is a death trap for couples, but could the teamLab sauna be even worse?

As I walk back to my next sauna, another couple is already sitting there, whispering to each other without any signs of strain. Well it might not be that bad. Maybe the Saunatonttu, the little sauna elves, the guardians of the sauna in Finnish folklore, are there, bringing us good luck as we respectfully sit around a 100 kilogram hot stone together.

A staff member arrives with a can of water and pours the contents onto the hot stone in the sauna, sending steam and the aroma of green tea into the air. This infusion goes through the Finnish word löyly.

As the steam clouds my glasses and the temperature inside the sauna increases, I also get up to head to the next artistic experience with a slightly long and winding name: “Proliferating Immense Life in the Rain – A Whole Year per Year “.

the art of morning glory at teamLab Reconnect in Roppongi

I must have arrived around August, because the sunflowers have come out, grow, wither, scatter their petals. Sitting on a long bench in a bathing suit and watching the flowers grow, die and come back is a truly magnificent experience.

Another lightning shower and I find myself in the last art room: “Levitation – Flattening Red and Blue & Blurred Violet.” It’s supposed to evoke supernatural feelings, but, alas, my shower may not have been long enough. Instead of red and purple, I only see two globes of white light moving slowly up and down, the abstract vision of a person moving closer while remaining distant.

Now that my two towels are soaked, it’s time to visit all the art rooms for one last time. I dry off quickly in the ladies-only sauna, then leave.

It sure was relaxing. And I will tell Natsumi that nothing really questionable is going on here.

teamLab reconnect runs until November 23, 2021. Weekday tickets cost 4,800 per person, weekend and holiday tickets cost 5,800. Admission is restricted to people 12 years of age and older.

Author: Agnès TandlerAgnes Tandler is a German foreign correspondent who also reports for JAPAN Before. Find his articles in English on this link.

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