Is Tokyo’s Expensive Projection Mapping Tourist Draw Worth It?

Is Tokyo’s Expensive Projection Mapping Tourist Draw Worth It?

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Tokyo Metropolitan Building
Picture: K@zuTa / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Godzilla and others take center stage in a projection mapping exhibit in Tokyo that some say isn't worth its hefty price tag.

Tokyo is pouring a lot of taxpayer money into a nighttime light show screening Godzilla and other artworks on a scale that won a Guinness World Record. The project’s expense is drawing negative attention at a time when incumbent governor Koike Yuriko can least afford it.

Tokyo spends big bucks on a big light show

正太 on X (formerly Twitter): “都庁 ゴジラ プロジェクションマッピング3 pic.twitter.com/TmjVFWp3mi / X”

都庁 ゴジラ プロジェクションマッピング3 pic.twitter.com/TmjVFWp3mi

Godzilla blows a hole in the Tokyo Metropolitan Building in projection mapping exhibit.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building displays the largest architectural projection-mapped display recognized by the Guinness World Records. Since late April, a 100-meter Godzilla has illuminated the capital’s landmark.

The 70-year-old franchise won its first Oscar for best visual effects in March with Takashi Yamazaki’s “Godzilla Minus One.” This is the seventh projection-mapping artwork since the government launched “Tokyo Night & Light” in February.

Dubbed “a new tourist resource to add color to Tokyo at night,” the project cost 1.8 billion yen (about 11.5 million USD) in FY2023 and is now running on a budget of 950 million yen (about 6 million USD) for FY 2024.

Officials and citizens have criticized the gross expenditure of taxpayer money on these light shows, to which Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike responds with optimistic projections of a high payoff.

At a press conference in March, Koike said that the “killer technology” would create “an economic ripple effect of 1.8 billion yen.”

Godzilla and more art wows

 Year-round screenings will begin every day from sunset to around 9:00 pm. The 6-minute screening for “GODZILLA: ATTACK ON TOKYO,” created by movie director Kazuhiro Nakagawa, 38, now runs on weekends and holidays, once every hour starting at 7:30 pm.

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Other artworks include “Ukiyo” by Berlin-based creators John Tettenborn and Kourtney Lara Ross, works by Japanese signer Aimer, and more.

People who visited Godzilla’s first screening told reporters how amazed they were to see the monster on such a grand scale. “The screen was bigger than in the movies. It was really impactful,” a boy told TBS News.

1.8 billion yen spent

Tokyo governor race billboard with Koike Yuriko and others
A billboard from the 2020 election featuring Koike Yuriko and other challengers. (Picture: Shutterstock)

Other citizens were less enthusiastic about the show. A 52-year-old woman told reporters that she would rather have the city invest in school infrastructure. “The public high school my son went to had a building that was crumbling apart. I want the city to use its money on the children,” she said.

Tsuyoshi Inaba, representative of Tsukuroi Tokyo Fund, a support group for impoverished people, says that the 1.8 billion yen spent on the project last year alone could secure housing for the many people living in internet cafes and other insecure situations. “Instead of using the budget to improve the city’s appearance, I want them to allocate the budget to supporting people who are suffering,” Inaba said.

Tourism experts say that even they are confused about why Tokyo officials are investing so much in projected screenings when reviving travel in rural areas should take priority.

“Projection mapping has been done in every theme park like Disney Land. I wonder, why this now? Its attractive force for tourists will probably be weak,” said Professor Yoshihiro Sataki, a scholar who teaches tourism studies at Josai International University. He adds the Shinjuku attraction goes against the recent trend of pushing tourists to the countryside to ease overtourism.  

The controversy comes as Koike is considering a run for another term as governor in July’s elections. She faces a staunch opponent in the form of liberal politician Renho. As of today, Koike has still not officially announced her candidacy.

Sources

都庁プロジェクションマッピング知事「経済効果18億円」. NHK

億単位のカネが光と音に化ける…東京都庁プロジェクションマッピング「都立高校ボロボロ」「困窮者支えて」の声も. 東京新聞

ゴジラが都庁に襲来?プロジェクションマッピングで登場. NHK

議論呼ぶ都庁のプロジェクションマッピング 予算7億円 妥当性は?. NHK

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