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Scale model of ancient gov't office in Tokyo, VR videos take visitors back in time

This image from a virtual-reality video shows a scene enacting the ancient ball game of kemari. (Image courtesy of the Fuchu city government)
A 1/10th scale model of the ancient Musashi provincial government office is seen at the historical park in the Tokyo suburban city of Fuchu. (Mainichi/Eimi Igarashi)

FUCHU, Tokyo -- A 1/10th scale model of the ancient Musashi provincial government office from the Nara Period (710-794) is drawing visitors to a historical park here, with virtual-reality (VR) videos at set viewpoints giving visitors a glimpse back in time.

The park, constructed by the city government over an area spanning 7,800 square meters near JR Fuchu-Honmachi Station in suburban Tokyo, opened last November.

The ancient province of Musashi consisted of present-day Tokyo, neighboring Saitama Prefecture, and part of Kanagawa Prefecture south of Tokyo including Yokohama and Kawasaki. The capital of the province was in the present-day city of Fuchu -- the name "Fuchu" itself means "provincial capital."

At five points around the scale model, visitors can see VR videos showing ancient scenes such as the provincial governor playing a ball game called kemari, which was popular in the Heian Period (794-1185), and people enjoying a poetry party. As the Fuchu site was also the location of a villa where Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), the founder of Tokugawa shogunate in the Edo period (1603-1867), enjoyed falconry, one VR video depicts Ieyasu engaging in this activity.

The roles of the provincial governor and Ieyasu in the videos were acted out by students at the local Tokyo Metropolitan Nogyo High School. A total of 12 students wore restored costumes for ancient nobles, and the images were processed with computer graphics.

Kei Eguchi, the head of the department for local cultural properties of the city, commented, "We asked the students to appear in the videos, hoping that they would tell others about the historical site in the future. I think the videos are gaining popularity because they're dynamic and people can easily imagine the ancient scenes."

Goggles enabling people to see the VR videos are being lent at the park office free of charge. Audio guidance via attached earphones is also offered in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. Moreover, visitors can also scan QR codes at each of the five points to view simplified videos on their smartphones.

The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the VR goggles are available until 3 p.m.

(Japanese original by Eimi Igarashi, Machida Local Bureau)

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