Early in 2010, Japanese motorists crossing the Rainbow Bridge were greeted with a bizarre sight: a stadium-sized great white shark leaping out of Tokyo Bay towards their cars. But this Godzilla-esque carnivore wasn’t there to munch on screaming Tokyo citizens — it was there to entertain them. This larger-than-life shark was the product of one of the world’s most breathtaking laser shows.
Looks pretty realistic, doesn’t it? Well, it’s nothing more than beams of light bouncing off of water molecules drifting through the air, kind of like an intimidating, hungry rainbow. The Odaiba water illumination show ran for a few weeks in late 2009 and early 2010, wowing Japanese onlookers with a scintillating display of lights. This great white shark, for example, measured about 50 feet high and 130 feet wide, dwarfing the actual man-eaters (which have a maximum length of about 20 feet).
So, how did they create this glowing uber-Jaws? It all started with Odaiba Island, a manmade island that the Japanese built for defensive purposes. World War II came and went, but the island remained. They’ve since refitted it so that the Japanese people can use it for leisure, commercial businesses, and of course scaring the pants off of motorists with brilliant laser shows.
They used a fountain to send up a plume of water from Tokyo Bay. Next, they projected light into the night sky. The mist acted sort of like a movie screen, catching the rays of light to create a beautiful 360° image. This technique allowed them to display just about anything, from words and photographs to spiraling galaxies and blasts of lightning.
Unfortunately, the Odaiba water illumination show has already come and gone. These pictures and videos are the best thing we have to capture the awe and excitement of this famous laser show. We could sit around and mope about the fact that the light show is over, but I think that would be a waste of time. After all, Japan is a technologically advanced island nation and they seem to have a penchant for aquatic light shows. They also wowed the world when they sent this floating firefly memorial drifting through Tokyo.
I’m always on the lookout for the next piece of stunning aquatic art, and the Japanese have proven that they know how to combine modern technology with the endless supply of water that surrounds them. It’s hard to predict the future of art, but Japan may very well be launch pad for this growing trend in digital aquatic art.