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Online tour takes visitors to hidden areas of Himeji Castle

HIMEJI, Hyogo Prefecture – Himeji Castle is arguably one of the best-preserved feudal-era castles in Japan, but visitors rarely get the chance to explore the entire medieval complex.

But that has now been taken care of, thanks to a Tokyo-based startup that has worked with other companies to digitally recreate a highly realistic 3D CGI virtual reality (VR) tour of the interior.

They had to piece together countless images to reconstruct the World Heritage Site for an unprecedented immersive experience.

The world cultural heritage Himeji Castle VR is published online at (https://hacosco.com/himeji-castle_en/).

The exterior of the feudal fortress is recreated with 3-D CGI in great detail. Explanations of the main keep, gates, and other structures are also provided.

Website visitors can explore the interior with the 360 ​​degree virtual tour, which simulates walking inside the castle to the top floor of the main keep.

The digital tour also takes visitors to sections that are usually closed to the public.

The VR project was created by a nearly 10-member production team led by Hacosco Inc., a Tokyo-based VR service provider.

The team used a drone, high-resolution cameras and a laser scanner last fall to capture images of the castle from all angles over a period of around two weeks.

Once the images were stitched together, the members used the laser scanner to precisely measure the dimensions to recreate the castle more faithfully.

Founded in 2014, Hacosco has created VR versions of dozens of cultural properties across the country, including the Yodoko guesthouse in Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture, designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

“Our goal is to work with city governments and travel agencies to encourage tourism businesses,” said Naotaka Fujii, the company’s 56-year-old chairman.

Takayoshi Doi, 52, an employee of Dentetsu Shoji Co.’s Kobe office who joined the production team, added that another goal was to help “young people discover the beauty of cultural assets through virtual reality”.

Doi said the company would be happy if it served as a catalyst for foreigners to visit the prefecture.