Technology assists tourism industry in Japan during time of coronavirus
Services that allow people to enjoy traveling from the comfort of their home has been expanding in Japan. This includes using cutting-edge information technology to communicate online or to virtually visit theme parks. As people continue to stay home, why not enjoy a new form of sightseeing during the Golden Week holidays this year?
Hajime Sato is representative of the brewery Satosajiemon in Shonai, Yamagata Prefecture. Facing his tablet, the 63-year-old explained about a local brew called yamatozakura at his company’s sake warehouse, saying, “As junmai sake, [which is made without added alcohol or sugar], is a bit more acidic, so it goes well with side dishes that have a strong flavor, like dried squid.”
Three friends were seen on the device from their homes in Tokyo, and they participated in the event through an online network. As they listened to Sato’s comments, they compared three different types of the brewery’s local sake, which had been delivered in advance.
“Mr. Sato, what are your side dishes?” one of the participants asked. “They are wild plants that were harvested nearby,” Sato replied. They had a great conversation for over an hour, which was the scheduled amount of time.
The local government launched a new effort in April to connect breweries with participants, who have had to stay home, via a video conferencing software called Zoom. This provides an opportunity for those participants to taste local products while speaking to others online. After applying to take part in an event, participants will receive local sake from the town and log on to the system at a predetermined time.
“I feel like I really went to Yamagata because [Sato] gave us a tour of the inside of his sake warehouses,” a 47-year-old woman, one of the participants of the event, said. “After the [virus] is under control, I want to actually go there.”
The town had created an experience-based business in which people were invited to the town to interact with locals as a thank you for donations made via the furusato nozei system. However, the business was difficult to continue because of the measures set in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Therefore, the local government shifted to utilizing the internet to avoid physical contact. In addition, it decided to accept participants who were not part of the furusato nozei system through a local tourist association. The fee for virtually touring the brewery is ¥4,500.
“With the internet, we can easily connect with each other even during this period when we have to stay at home, and it will give us an opportunity for others to get a better understanding of the town,” Misuzu Kunimoto, 31, said, who is a member of the cooperation group to vitalize the town that has organized the events. “We hope that participants will add Shonai to the list of future travel destinations.”
Other local governments, such as Senboku, Akita Prefecture, and Fujimi, Nagano Prefecture, are also planning events where people can enjoy craft beers and local products while speaking with their producers online.
Efforts have also been made to give someone the feeling of traveling by using virtual reality (VR) technology.
Nagasaki Biopark, zoo & botanical garden in Nagasaki Prefecture, which is currently closed, posted a VR video on its official YouTube channel to allow viewers to see what it is like to take care of various zoo animals, like kangaroos and giraffes. By having zookeepers and other staff wear body cameras, viewers are able to get up close to see how the animals are fed and how they interact with each other.
The National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo has created a VR video featuring the inside of the museum where you can see various displays including dinosaur fossils and taxidermied animals. If specialized goggles are worn, you can enjoy the effects of the VR more.
As the demand has increased for VR goggles, which can be used in combination with a smartphone, Hacosco Inc. has made goggles out of cardboard and can be purchased online for about ¥700. It is a simplified version with a plastic lens and can be easily constructed.
“New technological innovations often occur when people feel restricted, much like in this current situation, and tourism has also been changing,” Nobuhiko Watanabe said, a professor at the Graduate School of Project Design, who is well-versed with information technology. “With the internet, people can create a new type of communication, which cannot come about through face-to-face interaction, and occasionally, it can lead to a deeper sense of attachment to places and facilities. You should enjoy this new type of tourism.”
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This article was published in Japan News,By Rio Fukumoto / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer, all credits are to be allocated them,