Digital Adventures in Japan

Escape to Japan from home

By Serena Ogawa    - 9 min read

It is definitely time for a vacation! Let’s unpack those bags, cancel the flights, and put on our pajamas! We won’t be leaving the living room for this holiday to Japan.

Coronavirus seems never-ending and a lot of plans to travel have been on hiatus indefinitely. With entry bans and mandatory lockdowns being just a handful of the challenges of travel these days, why leave at all? Well, with this follow-up itinerary to our first virtual tours of Japan, you won’t have to!

What are you waiting for—aside from the popcorn in the microwave to finish—let’s go on a digital tour of Japan.

Hiroshima

Our first stop on the tour is Hiroshima: a city steeped in history and recovering tragedy; their story is one of hope and strength.

(Photo: Jordy Meow / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The prefecture itself is famous for many other things, of course; take for example Itsukushima Shrine. The vermilion torii gate of the shrine seems to float on the surface of the waters during high tide and during low tide, one can wander through the shrine grounds. At Miyajima VR Tours, you can wander digitally as relaxing music plays and you click on each area of the shrine.

How it works

After selecting Itsukushima Shrine, you’ll see an overhead view of the grounds. From here, you can click on each location to learn more about it. We recommend beginning at the O-torii. Once you’ve clicked a starting point, you can select to Watch VR; the music starts, and you are on your way “walking” through the shrine. There’s plenty of information too if you’d like to learn more about the various sights you’re experiencing.

Other destination tours are Daisho-in Temple, Miyajima, and Mount Misen.

Kyoto

Ah, Kyoto! The once-capital of Japan and the epitome of many peoples’ image of traditional Japan. There are plenty of great places to see, no doubt about it!

(Photo: Vesna Vujicic-Lugassy / CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

The most popular temple of them all, Kiyomizudera Temple, calls Kyoto its home. Every spring and autumn, the stairs up to the temple are crowded with people. And once you reach the beautiful platform overlooking the city—more people. Well, now you don’t need to swim against the crowds because Japan City Tours has high-quality YouTube videos that will whisk you away to the temple.

How it works

Click on the video you wish to watch and voila! The closed captioning provides information, albeit in a poor font choice, so we recommended finding more information elsewhere if it proves difficult to read for those with vision impairment or reading disabilities.

There are also videos for Yasaka Shrine, Arashiyama, Gion, Heian Jingu Shrine, Kimono Forest, and Kinkakuji Temple. All of the videos are short and easy to digest in one sitting. It makes for a perfect afternoon traveling Kyoto—especially since these attractions are quite spaced in reality and traveling between them can take all day!

Japan Travel Experience

If you’re looking for more to see and do in Kyoto, consider an online experience.

Enjoy coffee with a living legend, Samurai Joe. Joe Okada is considered by many to be Japan’s last samurai. Join him as he regales tales of his youth and just what makes him the last samurai during this intimate live Zoom session.

(Photo: Japan Travel)

Another wonderful option is to let us bring a Japanese tea ceremony to you with this online authentic Kyoto tea ceremony experience. Let our team lead you through a house with more than 100 years of history before beginning a real tea ceremony experience where you’re a guest. While you cannot taste the tea or sweets—sadly—you’ll be able to experience every part of the ceremony itself.

(Photo: Japan Travel)

Osaka

What tour of Japan would be complete without a stopover in Osaka? There’s plenty to see in the fast-paced city of lights, food, and innovation.

(Photo: orkomedix / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

With the juxtaposition of modernity like Dotonbori against the history of Osaka Castle, you’ll be excited to watch every one of the videos over at Japan City Tour’s digital Osaka page.

How it works

Just like their Kyoto page, the Osaka version works the same. Click a link to the YouTube video of your choice and be whisked away to any destination.

There are plenty of choices of places to visit. See the Umeda Sky Building, Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine, Imamiya Ebisu Shrine, Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, Shinsekai, Osaka Station, and even a top 5 places in Osaka.

Tokyo

There are thousands of digital tours available in Tokyo. That goes without saying. For the capital of Japan with over 9 million people, there is no end to the places to see, foods to eat, and things to do! We’ve got a selection of four tours that might hit the spot for any Japanophile.

Ghibli Museum

A tour of the Ghibli Museum is always in high demand for visitors to Japan. The tickets are tricky to get and can sell out faster than you can blink. Well, with the Ghibli Museum’s library of YouTube videos—made public for the first time—you can get a look inside the museum—for free! Subtitles are only in Japanese, but at least you can enjoy watching the beautiful scenes.

(Photo: Garrett Ziegler / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Japan Travel Experiences

These next three experiences are exclusive offers from Japan Travel. They're sure to be a hit for yourself or as a gift for anyone you know who needs a getaway!

Meiji Jingu Shrine

Just a few minutes from Harajuku Station is one of the biggest—and might we add “best”—shrines in Tokyo, Meiji Jingu Shrine. But, as we said, it’s a big shrine, so let Japan Travel do the walking on this one. And the talking. On this live digital tour, you’ll have access to live commentary and even get to go shopping (Yes, they ship the items to you!).

(Photo: Ocdp / CC0)

Shibuya Crossing

Who hasn’t seen a chaotic picture or two of the largest and busiest pedestrian crossing in Japan? Shibuya Crossing is a colorful river of people going everywhere! It’s enough to give someone anxiety. Thankfully, you’ll be at home, comfortable in your slippers as Japan Travel’s guides lead you across the scramble on this Shibuya by Night virtual tour.

(Photo: Landry Miguel / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Tokyo’s skyscrapers and shinkansen

For people who want an insider look at how fast life around Tokyo Station can be, search no more! Let a Japan Travel guide take you on a digital tour around the capital of Tokyo’s business district and see just how quickly those bullet trains speed by when you’re out and about walking—or sitting on the sofa. This makes for a great digital time for those interested in architecture, business, or just Japan at large.

(Photo: Toshinori baba / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Wherever you decide to virtually visit in Japan, it’s a great way to start planning for your next great adventure when borders open up and you can pack your bags for real. Nothing beats travel after all!

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Serena Ogawa

Serena Ogawa @serena.ogawa

Travel Editor for Japan Travel by day, novel-writing cat lady by night.

Join the discussion

Sleiman Azizi 2 weeks ago
This is a great way to keep the travel flame burning...
Kim 3 weeks ago
I really like that online options are becoming more of a thing. Sure, it's not the same as being there in person, but it's often a great thing for future travel planning and getting some inspiration!
Elizabeth S 3 weeks ago
It's nice to revisit through video. I appreciate the places more now, as trips to Kyoto and Osaka spurred me to learn more about the history of the temples and shrines there.