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7 Ways to Visit Japan from the Comfort of Your Own Home


Missing Japan? So are we! It feels like a lifetime that we've not been able to travel and we really do hope the point at which safe travel can resume comes soon; but until then, 'Shouganai' (しょうがない, "It can't be helped")! Thankfully, there are still a number of ways you can "visit" Japan, albeit virtually: read on for 7 of our favourite!

Live Views of Japan

Whilst overseas travel has virtually ground to a halt over the last couple of months, 21st-century technology has come to the rescue, offering us live views of Japan from the comfort of our very own homes - incredible isn't it?! Check out the following live-stream links for a little inspiration of what awaits you on your next visit to Japan: Shiodome, TokyoTokyo Sky TreeMt. Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture; Kenrokuen Garden, Ishikawa Prefecture; Osaka, Osaka Prefecture; Tokyo-bound Shinkansen passing through Fukushima Station, Fukushima Prefecture. Why not try to catch the sunrise in Japan? After all, it is known as 'the Land of the Rising Sun'!

Touring Museums from Home

There are an excellent variety of exhibitions showcasing the best of Japanese art, culture, history and more, both in Japan and here in the UK; whilst museums and galleries are closed to the general public, many of them are offering would-be visitors the opportunity to tour the exhibitions and events virtually! 

Step into the 'World of Anno Mitsumasa', one of Japan's foremost children's illustrators, with an audiovisual, 3D exhibition experience provided by Japan House London. Take a brief look around or delve deeper into the eight distinct areas of the exhibition held at Japan House, clicking on artworks and text for further insights into Anno's works.

An extensive selection of Japan-based museums and galleries are also open in the virtual realm, including the potty-about-poop Unko Museum Tokyo; Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; and The Sand Museum in Tottori Prefecture's famous Sand Dunes. Visit Time Out Tokyo for an up-to-date guide to virtual tours of top museums in Tokyo and across Japan. 

On The Trip - the Multilingual Audio Guide for Travel Destinations in Japan

Travel is a real feast for the eyes and sometimes we can let this get the better of us: gawking at landmarks or works of art, for example, only to realise you actually know very little/next to nothing about what is right in front of you; travel is supposed to be a learning experience so this scenario really is no good. 

Enter On The Trip, an app inspired by those handy audio guides found at art and history museums all over the world: alongside colourful imagery and other visual content, users can learn about a huge variety of sightseeing spots from across Japan, as well as interesting cultural aspects such as food and onsen bathing, in multiple languages, namely Japanese, English, Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese with absolute ease. Most of the available guides are free to use, so what are you waiting for?

JNTO VR Videos

Join us on a 360° VR whistle-stop tour of some of Japan's most famous sights, from the bustling urban sprawl of Tokyo's Shibuya District to the serene bamboo forests of Arashiyama, and beyond! Not only is the virtual tour an excellent piece of armchair travel, it's also the perfect place from which to start planning your dream Japan itinerary; we do of course as ever recommend heading off-the-beaten-track to discover the country's most beautiful cultural and geographical charms!

Film and TV 

A seemingly never-ending state of lockdown has turned the first half of 2020 into arguably the longest film and TV binge session of all time; entire series have been decimated in single sittings, far too many times to count. The online and on-demand catalogue of films and series meanwhile has grown rapidly, leaving us ironically with far too little time to possibly catch up. Japanese film and TV, however, has emerged a major winner from the lockdown as cult-classics from a range of genres including anime and drama have made their way onto our screens.

BFI Japan 2020: Over 100 Years of Japanese Cinema 

Earlier this month the British Film Institute launched 'BFI Japan 2020: Over 100 Years of Japanese Cinema', a major six-month season of Japanese film, on its BFI Player. The season features the great classics of Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and Mikio Naruse, the samurai swordsmen of Akira Kurosawa and the pioneering women of the golden age like Kinuyo Tanaka, as well as striking films by post-war New Wave directors like Nagisa Oshima, vivid visions of anime masters such as Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon, and the J-horror netherworlds created by filmmakers like Hideo Nakata, to name but a few. If you like a little history, you'll be happy to hear that the film extravaganza will also draw on the BFI National Archive’s significant collection of early films of Japan dating back to 1894, including travelogues, home movies and newsreels, offering audiences a rare chance to see how European and Japanese filmmakers captured life in Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sign up here for your 14-day trial and travel across the golden ages of Japanese cinema from the comfort of your very own home!

Studio Ghibli Comes to Netflix UK & Ireland

Once pure lunacy to imagine, now a reality: after the longest of waits, 21 of Studio Ghibli's heartwarming masterpieces are finally available to watch on Netflix, including 'My Neighbor Totoro', 'Spirited Away', 'Porco Rosso' and 'Ponyo', to name but a few; click here for the full list of available titles. There's not much more for us to say, you should have already loaded the first film and put the popcorn in the microwave!

TV Personalities out in Japan

Whilst "Brits abroad" is usually associated with face-palmingly embarassing stories of boozy club nights and tomato red tourists in white shirts, thankfully the same can't be said for the array of British TV personalities and professionals who have journeyed to Japan to show the British public just what they are missing out on. The following shows can all be watched online, though some may require a subscription: Tom Daley Does JapanPaul Hollywood Eats Japan; Joanna Lumley's JapanJames May: Our Man In Japan; and Dr James Fox's The Art of Japanese Life.

Drink with a Japanese Geisha at an Online Party

In the days pre-Covid, you had to travel to Japan in order to drink in the company of a geisha; now you can do it from your living room via the internet. That's right, geisha from the Hakone Yumoto Performing Arts Association in Kanagawa Prefecture have recently embarked on entertaining customers via Zoom, as a result of the cancellation of all of their face-to-face reservations. The new "Geisha Online Drinking Party" is held every Friday and Saturday afternoon (blame the daytime drinking on time difference!) and costs only ¥2000 (£14) - an absolute bargain considering how steep a typical 'Nomikai' with geisha costs! The session features English-language support, so you needn't worry about conversation; if in doubt, 'Kanpai' means "cheers"! To participate, simply make a reservation and complete payment on their website: you will then be notified of the Zoom URL by email.

Round-Up of Blog Posts and How-Tos

We've tried our absolute hardest to keep Japan close to home at a time when everything seems so distant. Over the last couple of months we at JNTO UK have clubbed together to produce inspirational content that's not only the perfect fodder for armchair travel and itinerary crafting, but also easy-to-follow how-tos guaranteed to lift spirits and boost creativity; we've even teamed up with Marie Kondo, award-winning chef Tim Anderson, cute Stationmaster cats (yes, an actual cat), talented artists, globe-trotting motorbikers and many, many more. Click here to bring Japan that extra bit closer to you!

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