If you’ve had to postpone your next trip to Japan due to the coronavirus pandemic and are stuck at home during your vacations, rest assured that you can still enjoy virtual travel to Japan without stepping outside.
Using a range of virtual resources, you can now get plenty of travel ideas and experience some of Japan’s most exciting attractions online, which can help you plan your trip and decide what you want to see in person.
360-degree virtual tour of Japan
If you’re sad about missing out on a potential tour of the country in person in 2021, take comfort in the fact that you can still visit Japan from home using a 360-degree virtual tour set up by the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Called ‘Japan: Where Tradition Meets the Future’, the virtual viewing experience takes in a range of popular tourist attractions such as the Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto, Kagawa’s Angel Road, and the Nara Deer Park. It can be accessed using YouTube from any mobile device, or by using VR goggles for maximum immersion.
Additionally, it’s also possible to experience the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto and walk through the famous 1,000 Torii gates through a virtual walkthrough on Google street view.
Shibuya Crossing live cam
The filming location for internationally popular films such as Lost in Translation and Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, the world-famous Shibuya Crossing traffic intersection in Tokyo’s district of the same name is often compared to the bustling Times Square in New York.
And you no longer need to visit Japan’s capital to experience the awe-inspiring waves of foot traffic every time the lights turn green, or the flashy neon advertisements of Shibuya Crossing, as a live webcam stream is now available online.
Virtual Cherry Blossom viewing
One of the most popular seasonal activities in Japan during the spring is the act of hanami, or the viewing of flowering cherry blossoms.
While you may not be able to experience the vivid pink sakura flowers in person this year, the Japanese Weather News site has uploaded 360-degree virtual tours of several of the most popular viewing locations online, including:
- Ueno Onshi Park
- Chidorigafuchi Green Road
- Along the Meguro River
- Takato Castle Park
- Osaka Castle Park
- Hirosaki Park
- Miharu Takizakura
- Showa Kinen Park
- Sumida Park
The videos available provide an immersive experience for virtual visitors and even include nighttime cherry blossom viewing options.
You can also view the cherry blossom in Tokyo’s Chidorigafuchi Park, west of the Imperial Palace, through a live feed available on YouTube.
Tokyo National Museum of Nature and Science online
The Japanese National Museum of Nature and Science located in Tokyo’s Ueno district has made its very own extensive VR tour available on its site which provides guided visits around 2 different areas of the space.
These include the 4-storey Japanese Pavilion which explores the country’s wildlife and contains a large collection of dinosaur fossils from Japan, as well as a tour of the 11-storey Global Pavilion, which begins in a room full of exotic taxidermied animals.
One of the unique features of this museums’ virtual experience is that the angle of the cameras is set up to mimic a child’s eye view, making it easy for even the youngest visitors to read the exhibition descriptions and enjoy the full experience.
Japanese National Museum of Nature and Science virtual tour
Tokyo National Museum virtual tour
There is now a wide range of other virtual tours of Japanese museums available online, including the unique Tottori Sand Museum and its intricate sand sculptures, and the chance to interact with a variety of interactive exhibits courtesy of Miraikan, also known as the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.
However, one of the most extensive online collections in Japan comes courtesy of the Tokyo National Museum, which has made much of its over 100,000 pieces of art available through a virtual tour, which includes a walk-through of the famous Horyuji Treasures Gallery.
Maki-do Cave virtual tour
An attraction off the beaten path that you may not otherwise get around to visiting while in Japan, the Maki-do caves are located in Nimi, Okayama Prefecture and stretch back 450 meters into limestone rock.
Also known as the ‘Dream Palace’, you can now visit the caves’ illuminated underground lake and dramatic stalactites from the comfort of your own home with an online 3D guide.
Hiroshima’s Shukkei-en Garden online panoramic
Opened to the public in 1940, Shukkei-en is a historic garden located in Hiroshima adjacent to the Prefectural Art Museum. Although it suffered damage during the nuclear attack on the city in 1945, it was reopened in 1951 after a complete renovation.
Shukkei-en roughly translates to ‘miniature scenery’ in English, which is apt because the gardens represent scaled-down versions of Japan’s forests, mountains, and valleys. It’s now possible to follow the path around the extensive gardens and its central lake online.
Shukkeien Garden online panoramic
Shinkansen live cam
If you want to get an idea of the lightning-fast speed of the Shinkansen bullet trains before you use the services for yourself, you can now do so by accessing a live cam located railside in Settsu-city, Osaka.
Focused on the Taikai Depot, spectators have an up-close view of the Main Line on which the Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen operate,either in the direction of Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo, or to Shin-Osaka and Hakata, and you can also occasionally spot the rare Shinkansen maintenance vehicles which run at night.
You can also view an up-close look at the interior of a Shinkansen First Class cabin on Google street view, to get an idea of the high level of comfort you can expect to experience when traveling on these trains throughout Japan.
Tokyo Tower online tour
One of the most iconic attractions in Japan’s capital, the Tokyo Tower attracts around 2 million annual visitors, who flock to the top of the structure for the spectacular views of the surrounding city.
And thanks to the Google Streetview, you can now sidestep COVID-19 restrictions and take a virtual tour of the inside of the Tower and enjoy the city skyline for yourself without having to leave your sofa.
Mount Fuji on Google Streetview
Without a doubt Japan’s most iconic natural attraction, Mount Fuji welcomes thousands of visitors each year, many of whom scale its conical summit during the traditional climbing season from July to mid-September.
Although the climbing season for Mt. Fuji was cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic, hiking enthusiasts have still been able to virtually explore its slopes through the Google Street View platform and experience a stunning sunset on its summit without having to put on their mountain boots.
Additionally, you can also take in vistas of Mount Fuji through the following live view.
Cover photo: Sunset photo of Chureito Pagoda and Mount Fuji – Photo by Giuseppe Milo under CC