All you need is a strong Wi-Fi connection.

By Alisha Prakash
March 24, 2020
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First it was Coachella. Then it was Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Before we knew it, Broadway shows, sports tournaments, and other cultural events around the globe followed suit. Now, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are on the chopping block.

Originally scheduled to kick off on July 24, the summer Olympics will now be postponed to 2021 in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic worldwide. Before the final verdict was even announced, Canada and Australia formally withdrew their athletes from the Games.

But you don’t have to wait until next year to travel to The Land of the Rising Sun. In fact, not only can you visit now, but you can do so without getting off your couch.

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The Japan National Tourism Organization created a 360-degree virtual tour of the country starring a famous cast that includes the Tokyo Tower, Kyoto’s Sagano Bamboo Forest, Nara Park, and the torii gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha, among others. Titled Japan: Where Tradition Meets the Future, the film can be viewed via the YouTube app on your smartphone, or for a full immersive experience, with VR goggles like Google Cardboard.

If you prefer to watch something in real-time, this livestream of Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo is a mesmerizing way to spend a morning or evening.

Searching for something that will melt your heart instead? Head on over to the Nihondaira Zoo livestream, where you can hang out with polar bears Rossy and Vanilla (log on between 7 p.m. and 4 a.m. EST to catch the adorable animals in action). Jigokudani Monkey Park also set up a webcam worthy of some awws — and trust us when we say that watching the blissed-out monkeys soaking in hot springs is a soothing alternative to your Twitter feed.

Or, tune into a livestream of Neko Café, one of Tokyo’s famed cat cafes where you can relax with a few furry felines. A livestream showing an Oriental white stork pair at the Shounji area is another option — and now is an ideal time to watch, as there are two eggs expected to hatch soon.

Of course, every springtime itinerary for Japan calls for hanami, the celebrated tradition of admiring the beautiful cherry blossoms. Luckily, there are several 360-degree virtual reality videos featuring the picturesque pink flowers in full bloom in spots like Ueno Park in Tokyo, Miharu Falls in Fukushima, and Hirosaki Park.

But your trip doesn’t have to end there: You can explore the 450-meter-long limestone Makido Cave, a dreamlike Natural Monument in the Okayama Prefecture that shelters an underground lake and features brightly colored LED lights that illuminate the jagged stalactites. Find even more peace and solitude while virtually meandering along the winding paths at the 400-year-old Shukkeien Garden. Walk across the Koko-kyo Bridge, passing lush greenery, bonsais, and koi along the way; sit inside the Seifukan Tea House, which features tatami flooring; or tour the Seifu-ike Pond, where you can marvel at even more cherry blossoms.

If you still haven’t had your fill, take a virtual self-guided tour of the Mochimune neighborhood in the Shizuoka Prefecture (Mount Fuji view included), or experience the snowy paradise of Niseko Village (it’s not called the “St. Moritz of Japan” for nothing).

No matter what you choose, there’s no shortage of ways to fill the monotonous moments at home, whether you want a break from the nonstop news cycle, or are looking for something new to feast your eyes on. After all, you can only spend so many hours putting together that puzzle, right?