I’m a regular visitor to the virtual world of Second Life, and one of my favorite ways to spend time there is by visiting some Japanese sightseeing spots. I have shown you Tokyo Tower, and the castles in Osaka, Kumamoto and Himeji before, but here they are again along with some of my other favorites.
Note: Please let me know if any of these places no longer exist, and I’d be happy to add recommendations for other places in Second Life Japan.
Asakusa and Sensoji Temple
Asakusa is a district in Tokyo, and home to the famous Sensoji Temple. Although it has been recreated in Second Life, most of the buildings are just eye candy. However, Sensoji is beautiful both inside and out, so if you are “virtually” Buddhist, I recommend a minute’s pray in this pixel-rich temple.
Beppu Garden Fountain
Beppu City in Kyushu’s Oita prefecture is famous for its hot springs. Home to over one thousand “sacred” onsen, Beppu has more hot water than anywhere else in Japan. The Second Life version of Beppu doesn’t do the real city justice, but the garden fountain is nice and if you look around a bit, there’s a hot spring under a cherry blossom tree. Very relaxing.
Japan’s most visited castle is Himeji Castle. Also known as the “White Heron Castle” because of its white walls, it is one of Japan’s “Three Famous Castles”, along with Kumamoto and Matsumoto. I’ve been following the progress of Himejijou in Second Life for a while now, and as I write this it is still under construction, but it is looking likely to be one of the most impressive structures in the whole of Second Life when it is finished.
Japanese Warship Kanrin Maru
The Kanrin Maru was a Dutch-made sail and screw-driven steam warship used in the Naval School of Nagasaki to bring Japan up to speed on the newest advances in ship design. Eventually lost at sea, a bigger replica was bought in 1990 and is currently used as a sightseeing ship. In Second Life, you can explore the ship and play in the boiler room!
Kenrokuen is a beautiful, 25-acre garden outside the gates of Kanazawa castle. It is considered on of Japan’s “Three Great Gardens” and is known for it’s beauty in all seasons. The Second Life version of Kenrokuen also changes by season and, along with Kanazawa Castle, is simply stunning to walk around.
Kinkakuji – Golden Pavilion Temple
The Golden Pavilion is one of Japan’s most visited temples, and a trip to Kyoto wouldn’t be complete without seeing the pure gold-leaf covered Kinkakuji. The Second Life version is also a sightseeing requirement, as is the Kyoto Bakumatsu “sim” it’s located on. The whole place is full of beautiful Japanese-style buildings, many of them based on real buildings from the end of the Edo period, and don’t be surprised to see a few people dressed as virtual geisha walking (or flying) around.
Konpira Grand Theater
The Konpira Grand Theater in Shikoku, also known as Kanamaru-za, is a restored Kabuki theater and possibly Japan’s oldest opera house. Although it has a revolving stage and trap doors in reality, I couldn’t find any in the Second Life version. I did get to kneel down on the tatami and enjoy the beautifully recreated interior before I danced around on the stage while no-one was looking.
Kumamoto Castle celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2007, and considering it was burned down after a 53-day seige in 1877 is quite impressive. Actually, original parts of what was once “an extremely well fortified Japanese castle” do still remain, making it a little more authentic than its Second Life equivalent. The virtual Kumamoto Castle is however, a great-looking reconstruction and if you look through the telescope on the observation deck, you can see photos of the real one!
Fuji-san is Japan’s highest mountain, measuring 3,776 meters (12,388 ft). It’s actually a dormant volcano which last erupted in 1707, but could do so again anytime. Mount Fuji is well-known for its symmetrical cone and is a symbol of Japan, depicted in art, photographs and even in Second Life. The SL “Fujiyama” is worth a quick fly around if you can’t visit the real Mount Fuji.
Niseko Hirafu Ski Resort
Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu in Hokkaido is popular with both Japanese and foreign skiers. Niseko in Second Life is represented by a very fun ski course and a digital replica of Yoteizan, one of Hokkaido’s highest mountains. Sadly, I’m just as bad on virtual skis as I am on real ones.
The famous Osaka Castle is actually a concrete reconstruction that only looks like a castle from the outside. If I remember rightly, the inside is an air-conditioned museum with modern lighting and elevators. That shouldn’t detract from what was one of the sixteenth century’s most significant castles. In Second Life, the observation deck is the only accessible part of the building which is otherwise a nicely crafted replica of Osaka-jou.
Kyoto is home to so many temples and shrines, but the 5-storey pagoda at the Buddhist temple, Touji, stands out as the tallest wooden structure in Japan at 57 meters. In Second Life it is on the Kyoto Sanjo sim, surrounded by other beautiful Japanese-style buildings you really should see.
The bright red walls of Okinawa’s Shuri Castle make this one of Japan’s most unusual yet beautiful castles. Reconstructed after being reduced to rubble in 1945, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It makes up a significant part of Second Life’s Okinawa island, along with shops, a popular beach and a restricted military base. Fortunately Shuri Castle is open to the public so you can enjoy it from inside as well as out.
Recommended by Laurel in the comments, the SecondLife Tokugawa sim is based on buildings from the Japanese Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate ruled.
Tokugawa and the collection of 6 or more prefectures that surround it is a work of art. There is a massive castle, formal Japanese gardens, Japanese shopping district and soon there will be an urban sim based on Tokyo. Also, tons of Samurai stuff, residential areas, hot springs, temples and a geisha houses where dancers perform regularly. The whole thing was built by Domokun Giotto and if you like Japan, I suggest you check it out. The castle alone takes up an entire sim.
Tokyo Tower needs no introduction. It is still Japan’s tallest man-made structure at 332.6 meters (8.6 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower), although it will lose that title, as well as more of its profits when broadcasters move to Sumida Tower in 2011. The Second Life version of the tower is a faithful recreation, with two observation decks, the higher of which offers a 360 degree photo view of the real Tokyo cityscape on a clear day. Having visited the real tower on a cloudy day, I actually think the view is better from the SL Tokyo Tower!
There is still so much to see so please bookmark this page, and come back in the future to see what new places I’ve added.