Bubble tea, a drink with a milk tea base and filled with chewy tapioca, or “boba” pearls, is a Taiwan-based craze that has recently taken Japan by storm.
The demand for boba has caused tapioca imports to Japan to soar over fourfold in the last year — in the Osaka metropolitan area alone, tapioca imports increased from 30 tons to 633 tons. Allied Market Research estimates the $1.9 billion dollar tapioca market will become a $3.2 billion dollar market by 2023.
So why not ride the hype and open an attraction that promises to be the “tapioca land of your dreams”?
This may be what event organizers the Tokyo Photogenic Team thought when they announced the opening of Tokyo Tapioca Land in Harajuku in a press release on July 16. The same group was behind the temporary exhibits Tokyo Ice Cream Land in 2017, and Tokyo Donut Land in 2018.
The setting for Tokyo Tapioca Land is the jing multipurpose facility, a glass enclosure located just steps from Takeshita Street. To prepare for Tapiopocalypse, I mean, Tapioca Land, the inside of the facility was filled to the brim with Insta-worthy, kawaii photo ops.
Attractions include a pit filled with giant balls that look like tapioca pearls, balloon art shaped like tapioca cups, tapioca-filled shopping carts… and a misplaced spicy ramen ad. For ¥500 extra, you can take part in a Tapioca Mystery Game, and find hidden clues around the facility.
As expected, pre-sale tickets sold out quickly when they became available on July 17.
— 東京タピオカランド (@tapioca_land) August 13, 2019
On opening day Aug 13, @tapiocaland_land tweeted “Open today #tokyotapiocaland So many cute photo booths 💕 Take one in your hand!”
Tapioca Land looks better on Instagram than IRL
At an influencer event that took place the day before the official opening of Tokyo Tapioca Land, there were many smiling faces and Insta-perfect pictures.
View this post on Instagram
. ＼🥤タピオカランド🥤／ . . . 明日からオープンする タピオカランドのプレオープンイベントに ちょこっと参加して来ました〜👏🏻✨ . 去年はアイスクリームランド🍦がやっていて すごく話題だったよね🥺✨ 今年は人気のタピオカだ〜！！！ 場所もＪＲ原宿駅からすぐでした🕺🏻✨ . 出店するのは ●#謝謝珍珠 #xiexiepearl ●#三茶ヤ ●#虎一茶#tigertea ●#LABLAP タピオカランド限定メニューがあったり 目新しい名前のタピオカブースや 可愛いフォトスポットなどがあったよ☺️💕 . . . 📍開催期間 ８月１３日〜９月１６日 #東京タピオカランド#タピオカ#原宿#期間限定#フォトジェニック#インスタ映え#限定メニュー#シェイシェイパール
“Tapioca Land – I participated in the pre-opening event at Tapioca Land, which opens tomorrow! Last year, Ice Cream Land was the popular spot, this year it’s about tapioca! It’s located right by the JR Harajuku Station” captioned influencer @ebichan_nn_n.
However, since the opening, reactions have been more than mixed about Tapioca Land.
Common complaints include the ¥1200 per person entry fee being too steep, the welcome drink is too small with barely any tapioca pearls, it feels like a DIY school festival, and the absence of toilets.
Disappointed tapioca fan @_M_0809 tweeted, “Tapioca Land is on the same level as a school festival. I think it should be described as a limited-time, pop-up event. The admission fee is ¥1200. Only 4 stores are open. No re-entry and no toilet.”
Model and cosplayer Capsule Bunny was invited to the opening party and had this to say:
I got Invited to the Tapioca Land opening party and checking Japanese Twitter, it was trending saying it was terrible… but gosh, it was one of the saddest places I’ve ever been lol video coming soon! pic.twitter.com/giXVtTOQz5
— capsulebunny (@capsulebutt) August 26, 2019
Visitors have even gone as far as comparing Tapioca Land to the start of Tapiopocalypse.
“Tokyo Tapioca Land should have had these vibes” tweeted @hachibit2.
@Qui1i thinks anything called “Tapioca Land” needs a whole lot more tapioca:
— くぃり (@Qui1i) August 25, 2019
Among all the grievances, the one that takes the cake has to be that the free welcome drinks were being given out without straws. All tapioca fans know it’s critical to have an extra-wide straw so you can slurp up the chewy bubbles of goodness. Who wants a face full of boba balls?
While Tapioca Land has since addressed the “no re-entry and no toilet” complaint and put up signage to warn people of this (literally) crap oversight, it doesn’t look like they’ve managed to make any other improvements to what seems to be a hodge-podge of “Instagram-worthy” picture spots made of flimsy bits of cardboard.
Unsurprisingly, tickets to Tokyo Tapioca Land are not sold out anymore and can be purchased online from the Tokyo Photogenic Team site from now until Sept 16 when it finally ends.
If you’re into crap, though, an alternate exhibition we actually recommend is the newly opened, permanent Poop Museum in Tokyo!