Explore Japan with Virtual Tours
While physical travel is all but a distant memory right now, there are still a few ways to enjoy the beauty of this great country, all from the comfort of your home. Think e-museums hosting some of the best collections in the world, Mount Fuji sunrises in real-time, live broadcasts from iconic landmarks, and hilarious livestreams.
e-Kokuho: National Treasures and Cultural Properties of National Museums
While the website may not be the slickest, this e-museum lets its impressive art collection do the talking. The site is home to HD images of some of the country’s most cherished national treasures and important cultural properties. Whether you’re after some calligraphy, a little sculpture, metalwork, textiles, or ancient treasures, this museum has one of the best virtual collections on the net. There’s even a section dedicated to swords!
The pieces you’ll find here typically reside within the confines of four of Japan’s major national museums; the Tokyo National Museum, Kyoto National Museum, Nara National Museum, and Kyushu National Museum. Descriptions for each piece are in Japanese, English, French, Chinese, and Korean, so you don’t even need to use Google translate to understand the fascinating history behind each image.
Tokyo Fuji Art Museum
With a collection of 30,000 pieces spanning Japanese, Eastern and Western art, the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum is one of the city’s most impressive galleries. Still, its location in Hachijoji, also makes it one of the hardest to reach for Tokyoites (as does the current requests from the government to stay at home). Luckily the gallery has also uploaded a very comprehensive virtual adventure through space, so you can always try before you buy that train ticket out to the more regional side of Tokyo.
Here you can virtually stroll from the station to the museum before exploring the 12 gallery rooms which showcase everything from jewelry to photography and impressionist paintings after you can hang in the lobby or admire the building from the outside.
While this adventure might be a little more niche, there’s no moment like the present to try something new! Have you ever wondered just how Japanese gin is made? Well the team at Kyoto Distillery has kindly set up a virtual tour of their brewery, where you can witness the distillery and bottling room in action.
It’s impressively comprehensive too, as well as seeing the factory from up high, you can hit the factory floor, weave through the oversized bottling machines and even hang out in the sampling room. If you’ve wanting to pretend you’re not drinking at home alone again, then this is a great a great distraction for that too! See the process behind on of your favorite gins before enjoying a nice pour.
As part of Yamanashi Prefecture’s tourism site sits a quaint little webpage called “Fujisan Watcher,” which is essentially a network of live cams streaming Japan’s most iconic resident, Fuji-san. There are a total of nine cameras covering all sides of the mountain including one with excellent views of Lake Kawaguchiko. While of course, you can’t climb the mountain at the moment, you can watch the Mount Fuji sunrise from your bed without having to feel guilty, and that’s a win!
This tour of one of Tokyo’s most iconic landmarks, Tokyo Tower was created by Google Arts and Culture and features the same Google-maps-style "street view" navigation, so it’s very easy to explore. The tour is only on one floor so don’t expect to get too far, but still! You can admire the city skyline in sunny day or moody night options. So, with enough imagination, a convenience store cocktail in hand and some jazzy background music, you can turn this tour into your very own VIP Tokyo luxury experience; just don’t skimp on that extra imagination.
Website: Google Arts Culture
If COVID-19 escapism is what you’re after, this one isn’t ideal. But if you’re a bit of a voyeur and you’re interested in seeing what one of Tokyo’s busiest hubs and one of the world’s most trafficked intersections look like right now, tune into the Shibuya crossing live cam.
This 24 hour, 365-day stream broadcasts just outside Shibuya Station, a train station that usually services 2.4 million passengers each day. This is an interesting pocket of the internet to check into during major events, especially during New Year’s. At the moment, it’s quiet, as expected, featuring a loose cast of office workers, but while the action may be a little slow, find some excitement in the idea that you’ll probably never see it this empty again. Plus, this is definitely one to watch once things get back to normal, and the controlled chaos of each crossing starts back up again.
Website: Via Youtube
Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba
Although the city may not be jam-packed with people on the streets at the moment, Tokyo is still leaving its lights on, meaning that it still looks magnificent at night.
One of the best city night views and an excellent moving backdrop to your evening's activities is the live stream of Odaiba's Rainbow Bridge. With Tokyo Tower in the background, cars cruising the smooth curves of the bridge, and the slow transitioning colors of the bridge's pillars, there's something incredibly soothing about this stream, proof that while it's rough right now, life still goes on.
Website: Via Youtube
ALL JAPAN X TOKYO
While you could be lamenting over how the situation has ruined your foreseeable travel plans, while not take the extra time you have up your sleeve right now to curate your next Japan adventure?
One of the best places for travel inspiration is the Tourism of ALL JAPAN X TOKYO virtual tour page (which AAJ has been lucky enough to be a part of). Here you can explore a series of virtual tours of regional areas throughout Japan, like the rugged north of Tohoku or the volcanic isle of Kyushu, juxtaposed with scenes of the country’s capital! Just click on the region you're interested in, and then tab over to "360 VR Video" tab and let the travel inspiration start flowing!
Website: ALL JAPAN X TOKYO
Jigokudani Monkey Park
Home to Japan’s most hairy onsen dwellers, Jigokudani Monkey Park isn’t the easiest place to get to at the best of times, which is why this live stream is such an excellent idea. Here you can watch the real-life action and drama live from Joshinetsu-Kogen National Park in the northern part of Nagano prefecture. Don’t worry, it’s monkeys only, so you won’t be getting any nasty nude shocks.
Honorable Mention: Travel the Globe!
If you’re looking to venture a little further than Japan, be sure to check out the Google Arts and Culture National Parks virtual tours. From fjords in Alaska to volcanoes in Hawaii and the canyons of Utah, these incredibly detailed tours—complete with informative audio guides—will give you incredibly itchy feet. But they will also hopefully uplift you and remind you that there’s a wide, beautiful natural world out there ready for you to explore once we all get back on track.
Website: Google Arts and Culture