The Zipper Boat Is Art

The Zipper Boat Is Art
Screenshot: Sumida River Sumi-Yume Art Project

What’s that zipping across the Sumida River in Tokyo, Japan? Behold, the zipper boat.

The zipper boat is technically called the “Zip-fastener ship” and is the brainchild of Japanese artist Yasuhiro Suzuki. You might’ve even seen it sometime before, as Suzuki created a scale model of the zipper boat in 2004 before first taking a full-sized version of it out for a spin back in 2010. The zipper boat made a comeback over the past few weeks as part of an outdoor art installation for the recently concluded DESIGNART Tokyo 2020 festival.

The installation, titled Opening the River Zip-Fastener Ship and first spotted by MyModernMet, saw the 9-metre boat travel between Azumabashi and Sakurabashi from Oct. 31 to Nov. 8. The event description notes that the Sumida River historically served as a border between cities. Roughly translated, the site reads, “The waves trailing behind the zipper ship as it travels between Azumabashi and Sakurabashi connects the opposing banks while also opening the water’s surface like an actual zipper. It will change how you look at the town’s scenery.”

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Suzuki apparently first drew inspiration for the zipper boat when he was looking down at Tokyo Bay from an aeroplane. He saw a boat and the resulting foam behind it made it look as if the boat was “opening up the sea (read: Earth) like a zipper.”

According to the Sumida River Sumi-Yume Art Project, the usually busy Sumida River has been “silent as it has never been before” due to the pandemic. That silence led Suzuki to note that, up until the current situation, he had never noticed the “now” of the river’s surface. The idea behind the installation was to “draw out and convey the water’s various expressions.”

It’s OK if you don’t get it; we can’t all be artistic geniuses like Suzuki. Thankfully, we have video! Also, if you scroll down to the bottom of the Sumida River Sumi-Yume Art Project’s page, you can see photos submitted by passersby who saw the zipper boat in person. Some are really quite the visual.

My descriptions are not nearly as poetic, but look at this lil zipper boat go! Isn’t the incredibly chill piano/electronica music soothing? Wow, look at the sparkly light reflecting off a nearly empty Sumida River. It’s almost like you can forget the trash fire that is 2020 when you look at the zipper glide steadily forward. Maybe, like the zipper boat, we too can calmly glide into a less shitty 2021. Maybe I’m reading too much into a zipper-shaped boat. I don’t particularly care! At the end of the day, it really does look like the zipper boat is unzipping the river’s surface and, sometimes, it’s just nice when something is exactly as it seems.