Seeing is believing: Trick art confounds senses

Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

A woman poses as if trying to stop a man rolling in a giant wooden tub.

By Taku Mukoyama / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer An object depicted in a painting may appear to be 3D depending on how it is painted. The angle from which an object is viewed may alter the observer’s perception of it. Such optical illusions are known in Japan as trick art, a term coined by SD Corp., an art production company based in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture. The pioneering company is behind the Tokyo Trick Art Museum in Tokyo’s Daiba district.

The museum features depictions of Edo-period (1603-1867) tea houses and post towns. I saw one visitor flipping a tatami mat with her bare hands; another was spinning a huge tub with his legs like a hamster — or so it seemed.

“I can’t help but be excited. I feel like I’m a child again,” said Yoko Sato, a 58-year-old housewife from Hamamatsu who was visiting the museum with her friends.

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  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A famous trick with an optical illusion in a room in the style of the Edo period (1603-1867).

  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Two women pose in an exhibit designed to look like one room with a large mirror on its wall.

  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    An AR app on a smartphone makes it seem like a couple depicted dancing in the painting in the rear of the photo have emerged from the canvas.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

Toby Erthle, 35, a tourist from Munich, Germany, said, “Japanese trick art is also famous in my home country. Simple though it might seem, the abundance of ideas here is amazing.”

The key appeal of the museum is that it encourages not only viewing but also touching and taking photos.

Optical illusions can be appreciated and shared with friends and family. “If visitors have richer communication than usual through the exhibits, we have achieved what we were aiming for,” said Hironobu Shimizu, 45, the director of the museum.

Some exhibits utilize augmented reality (AR) technology. For example, some of the paintings hanging in the museum come alive when viewed using a dedicated smartphone app. Visitors can immerse themselves in the exhibits by using the AR app, with which users can make it seem as if they have become mermaids swimming with fish, or have joined a couple dancing.

The museum features 54 exhibits that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.

■ Tokyo Trick Art Museum

Trick art exhibits were popularized in 1984 by Kazumune Kenju (1940-97), the founder of SD Corp. There are 17 related art museums across the country. It is a two-minute walk from Odaiba-kaihinkoen Station on the Yurikamome Line.

Address: 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato Ward, Tokyo

Open: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed on irregular days (Check website for details)

Admission: ¥1,000 for adults and high school students, ¥600 for children aged 4 and above.

Information: (03) 3599-5191Speech

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