Promoting Japanese Culture During the Covid-19 Pandemic
During the pandemic, digital technologies have played an important role in providing Japanese public and private actors with creative solutions. Online communication platforms and immersive reality tools (virtual reality, augmented reality, augmented virtuality, and mixed reality) have been increasingly utilized for the development of diverse projects for remote online experiences of Japanese culture beyond the restraints of space and time.
The use of digital technologies in the tourism realm has also greatly increased in the pandemic. Virtual reality tours have become an alternative of the restricted face-to-face travel to Japan and many such experiences have been offered by public and private institutions. One such example is the “Japan: Where Tradition Meets the Future” 360-degree virtual reality tour, set up by the Japan National Tourism Organization in 2021. It enables the audience to explore Japanese popular tourist attractions, such as the Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto and the Nara Deer Park. The Japanese Weather News site has also provided a 360-degree virtual reality tours of popular cherry blossom locations like the Ueno Park in Tokyo and Osaka Castle Park. Furthermore, 3D virtual reality tours of various Japanese temples have been launched, including the Ninna-ji Temple in Kyoto and the Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara.
Japanese museums offering virtual reality tours have also played an important role in the promotion of Japanese culture in the pandemic. The Tokyo National Museum is a case in point. It has provided a virtual reality tour of more than 100,000 pieces of art. Other Japanese museums offering such experiences have been the Kyoto National Museum, exhibiting pre-modern Japanese art, the Adachi Museum of Art, introducing modern Japanese art, the Kyoto Prefectural Insho-Domoto Museum of Fine Arts, presenting collections of the Japanese artist Dōmoto Inshō, and others.
Thanks to the use of digital technologies, many public and private actors have managed to continue their activities in the pandemic, communicating Japanese culture in new dimensions. The established innovative initiatives have also offered new cultural experience opportunities for the elderly and those with disabilities and financial or other constraints, incapable of visiting Japan or attending regular face-to-face events. Furthermore, they have provided a wide range of personal benefits, such as no lines at heritage sites, no transportation, health or weather issues, lower costs, and more detailed observations of cultural assets. On the other hand, these online initiatives have not been able to offer the same authentic experiences of Japanese culture as the face-to face ones. For the provision of a more enriched opportunities for exploring Japan, the construct of hybrid cultural projects that can be attended both online and face-to-face would be important. As the Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters (2021, pp. 109-110) emphasizes, “rather than using online approaches as a substitute for initiatives in the physical world, it is vital to enhance overall profitability and participant satisfaction by appropriately combining real-world experiences with digital technology and online approaches”.
Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters. (2021). Intellectual Property Strategic Program 2021 – A strategy for strengthening the protection of intangible assets to ensure success in digital and green competition in the post-COVID-19 age. Retrieved from https://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/singi/titeki2/kettei/chizaikeikaku20210713_e.pdf
Japan Arts Council. (n.d.). Japan Cultural Expo VIRTUAL PLATFORM – INTO THE METAVERSE. Japan Cultural Expo. Retrieved June 14, 2022, from https://japanculturalexpo.bunka.go.jp/en/vp/