BOJ offers virtual tour as headquarters off limits amid pandemic

FILE PHOTO: Interior view of the Bank of Japan in Tokyo is seen in this screen grab from a virtual reality tour taken July 3, 2020. Virtual Reality Innovation Organization/via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - Forced to cancel a popular on-site tour due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bank of Japan created a virtual one that takes viewers through the brick corridors, dome-roofed rooms and even an underground vault of its century-old headquarters online.

With a click of the mouse, visitors to the “Tour the BOJ from home” site enter through the central bank’s massive courtyard and stroll inside the western, classical-style building with a 360-degree panoramic view of its interiors.

They can also browse a three-dimensional, virtual reality video of the building hunting for hidden “treasures” that include an old chair that had been used by the BOJ’s governors and the world’s first automatic bill inspection machine.

The virtual guide, available for free on the BOJ’s website, was created after the central bank was forced to cancel from March a popular tour of its headquarters that attracted 19,000 visitors last fiscal year - of which nearly 10% were overseas travellers.

“What’s unique about this online tour is that it’s not affected by COVID-19, and that visitors can have the historical building all to themselves,” said BOJ director Noriaki Kawamura.

Located in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi business district, the BOJ’s headquarters consist of a new complex, and an old building that was built in 1896 and designated by the government as a cultural heritage.

The link, below, is the entrance to the tour with English instructions: here

Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Jacqueline Wong