Still missing Japan? Totally understandable with the current ongoing situation in mind. While it still seems that the Tokyo Olympics will still continue, we are still unable to visit the country as a tourist. But there is a solution, although it might become a source to strengthen the feeling of wanting to go to Japan.
The existence of the Internet has broadened our view of the world, making it possible to travel the world digitally from the comfort of your own home. It is wonderful to do because it makes us better informed about the countries that we eventually want to visit. And with the growth of technology, it is even more interesting to surf around the Internet and pretends that we are really travelling around the world. A couple of virtual tours of different locations in Japan will be listed below. Get something to drink, a snack, sit down on a comfortable chair or bank, relax and let’s go on a virtual exploration of Japan. And the good thing is that these options are free! Don’t forget to check out the other parts of this article series.
Hiking on Mount Haguro
Mount Haguro is one of the three sacred mountains of Dewa, situated in Yamagata Prefecture in Northern Japan, also known as Dewa Sanzan. The other mountains are called Gas-san and Yudono-san and these three mountains are the centre of a folk religion based on the worship of mountains, Shugendo, a blend of the traditions of Buddhism and Shinto. The mountains have been very important for the spiritualistic believers for over 1400 years. Every year, a group of mountain ascetic devotees, also known as yamabushi, will do a pilgrimage of rebirth. Mount Haguro is the only mountain of the three that is accessible all year long.
Recently, Google added a new virtual tour feature on Google Search for over 100 global museums and cultural sites, including Mount Haguro. If you search in English for information about these places, you will see a link to the virtual tour below the short description of the location. This function works best when you search on your mobile phone, but can also be seen in an browser on your computer or laptop. After taking this virtual tour, you can also go see several stories posted on Google Arts & Culture (this is best seen in the free app) to get more informed about Dewa Sanzan, the cuisine and spiritual beliefs. If you are interested to see a video about Mount Haguro, TokyoStreetView produced a video of Mount Haguro, also known as Haguro-san. It is not a walking video, but a compilation of the surroundings including sounds but without people. Another video to get you informed is the video by Hidden Japan where Derek Yamashita is on the location for a guided hike. Another suggestion is the video on The Dewa Sanzan YouTube channel with video footage of Mount Haguro in the middle of the winter.
Visit Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is one of Japan’s most famous landmarks and one of Osaka’s many must-see spots. The castle is widely known as a symbol of the power and fortune of samurai and daimyo Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who is regarded as the second “Great Unifier” of Japan.
Before it is possible again to visit the location in person, we are able to visit it virtually through a 360° video, where we walk with the videographer from the entrance to the castle itself. This video can be viewed through a browser on a computer or laptop, but the best advice is to get your mobile phone or tablet as it gives you a better experience. There are quite some options of videos to enjoy the virtual trip, such as the video by Japan360 with the videos of the entrance, the shrine and the visit in the castle itself and Cult Media Online with a video outside Osaka Castle and cherry blossoms. Another option is the video by Kazutoshi Otani with some extra information and a creative approach with 2D video and 3D video.
Another option is this virtual tour produced by IKOMA360 and published on the website of the International Virtual Reality Professionals Association (IVRPA) who develop, support and promote the professional and artistic uses of 360° panoramas, image-based VR and related technologies. You can zoom in, click on certain places on the presented map and can look around or let it run automatically. Another option is the well-known Google Street View to click around the site but you might want to check out the Google Arts & Culture app on your phone to get more information about the castle and see more from the inside of it.
A spooky visit to Hashima Island
Hashima Island, commonly called Gunkanjima and also known as Battleship Island, is an island that has been uninhabited since the 1970s. Featured in a James Bond film and other films, games, comics and more, it has that spine-chilling feel as this place, located off the coast of Nagasaki, cannot be visited freely. Nature has been slowly taking over the island and ageing buildings are crumbling down slowly. There are tours where certain parts can be shown because of safety reasons. This means that a virtual tour of this ghost island is a more than logical choice.
In 2015, a 3D model of the island produced by researchers from Nagasaki University was presented in a 3-minute video and gives a good insight into how the island looks, like a certain battleship, hence the nickname. There is also a ‘making-of‘ video, including shots of the drones in action. Another option is this short promotional video in 4K made by Nishinippon Shimbun Media Lab for the historical documentary Battleship Island, to give a better idea of the island. An alternative is visiting the island yourself by using Google Street View, from the virtual boat towards the island to virtual walking through the small ghost island. If you want to have more insight about the location, the official website of Gunkanjima has created a web page to guide you with this virtual stroll on Hashima Island. On this website, it is also possible to get more informed about the history of the island, about when coal was found and from when it was inhabited. Furthermore, you can click through more photos and videos if you haven’t seen enough. Another option for more information is watching the short documentary by National Geographic. In the free Google Arts & Culture app, you will be able to view an online exhibition about the island.
Walk through Shukkeien Garden
Shrunken-scenery garden, that is how the name of Shukkeien Garden can be translated into. With miniature valleys, mountains and forests, it can be concluded that it is a good name for this garden with these picturesque scenes. The garden has a long history, the construction of it started in 1620, just after the Hiroshima Castle was completed. In 1940 the garden was designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty and it is also famous for its cherry and plum blossoms.
The atomic bombing in the Second World War damaged the garden heavily, with only the stone bridge and a couple of trees still standing, which means that most of it had to be rebuilt following the war.
A special VR virtual tour through the garden has been created by Advanced Virtual Technologies, they also produced the Makidou Cave Virtual Reality tour and many others. In this virtual tour, you are able to click around the premises and transport yourself to the location where you want to do your virtual walk. During this virtual tour, you will get information about certain things, such as what you can normally do at certain spots in the garden, or detailed photos. It is also possible to follow YouTuber TravelChili on their walk through Shukkeien Garden in 4K. There will be no talking, so you get the chance to be able to be absorbed in the location, virtually.
If you haven’t seen the first articles of this virtual travel article series, click here to get inspired.