Zipper-Shaped Ship Unzipped Tokyo's Sumida River for All to See

A zipper-shaped ship cruised down a river in Tokyo, and soon it may carry passengers to and fro.
Brad Bergan

Anyone walking near Tokyo's Sumida River last weekend might have caught a glimpse of a giant zipper-shaped boat powering through the waves and unzipping the world for all to see.

Called the "Zip-Fastener Ship," the zipper-shaped boat is the mind-child of Japanese artist Yasuhiro Suzuki, and the outdoor installation — called "Opening the River," played a role in DESIGNART Tokyo 2020 before it was shared to YouTube.


Zipper-Shaped Ship Frontal
The artist got the idea while flying above Tokyo Bay in a plane. Source: Suzuki / Opening the River / YouTube

Zipper-shaped ship unzips Tokyo's Sumida River

The artist, Suzuki, has a reputation for drawing inspiration from ordinary objects, My Modern Met reports. But the idea for the weird ship design came while he looked down into Tokyo Bay from the heights of an airplane flight. 

The wake behind the zipper-shaped boat looks like the teeth of a zipper. Suzuki initially built a scale model in 2004, but didn't reveal his full-scale work to the world until 2020.

"This work is a boat modeled after a zipper tab," said Suzuki on his work, reports Daily Mail. "As the vessel glides through the water, the wake looks like a zipper coming undone, suggesting the image of the sea opening up."

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A post shared by Yasuhiro Suzuki (@mabataki_suzuki)

Zipper-shaped ship might transport passengers

"The Zipper Ship will travel to and fro between Takamatsu and Megijima [in Japan] and will also carry passengers," he added, revealing how the vessel carries more than one person.

In August, the boat underwent sea trials to evaluate the risk of rollover — but Suzuki will have to wait until the ship receives approval from authorities before he can load passengers onto the unconventional vessel.

Zipper-shaped boat unraveling the status of Earth

As an artist, Suzuki has received several awards — including the 2001 Interactive art prize at the Digital Stadium Awards — since his graduation from Tokyo Zokei University as a designer.

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Zipper-Shaped Ship From Above
The zipper-shaped ship looks like it's unzipping the river. Source: Suzuki / Opening the River / YouTube

Other works of Suzuki include Property of Water (2004), along with Perspective of the Globe Jungle (2001).

We don't live in a utopia, where every object performs its function in harmony with everything else. Few would want to, because just as broken windows in New York take on deeply-cultural meanings, so too can a giant zipper-shaped boat on the river lead us to ask ourselves strange but inspiring questions. Eventually, we might come to wonder how cultural objects — like industrially-produced zippers — might unravel the planet amid the advance of the climate crisis.

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