TOPTokyo LifeGuides & Insights8 Virtual Cultural Experiences to Keep You Occupied During the State of Emergency

8 Virtual Cultural Experiences to Keep You Occupied During the State of Emergency

If you miss traveling, learning and love Japanese culture, you’ll love these online experiences

By Sayaka Mitsui

With the second state of emergency announced earlier this month and the ongoing spread of Covid-19, we all know that it’s crucial to stay at home as much as we can afford it. But we also know that staying at home can easily drag you into a seemingly endless procrastinating mode that makes it even harder to stay motivated and alert.

To help you make the best of your time at home, we’ve put together a list of exciting and informative online events. From learning how to draw manga characters to a panel discussion about gender equality in the workplace and a virtual tour of the disaster area in Fukushima, there’s a lot to see and learn from. We hope you’ll find something that sparks your interest and even inspires you to start a new hobby — from the comfort of your living room.

1. Learn to Draw with Japan’s Manga University

In this online event, Ryo Katagiri, a professional manga artist, will demonstrate how to draw your original manga character with pen and paper. He will be focusing on three significant points: how to draw the head, body, and the clothes of a manga character. There will also be time to ask questions, receive feedback and talk about your work during the workshop. You can see the details and register for the workshop from here.

When: Jan 31, 2021, 8pm-9:30pm
Where: Online workshop, via zoom. Link will be shared after registration
How much: ¥2,500 

Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture is said to have partially inspired Studio Ghibli’s setting for “Spirited Away”

2. Explore Ghibli Spots in Japan: An Online Travel Tour

Explore Japan through the lens of your favorite Ghibli films. This virtual tour takes you through various locations in Japan, which are said to have inspired seven of the most popular Ghibli films, including My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke. You’ll also get to answer some quizzes during the tour and receive a list of recommended destinations for your future Ghibli trips in Japan. More details and tour dates are available on the event webpage.

When: Jan. 21, 22, and later dates are available
Where: Online tour, via zoom
Price: ¥1,500 per person

3. Fukushima Disaster Area Virtual Tour

This virtual tour takes you through Fukushima’s coastal area, which was greatly affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 and the nuclear disaster that followed. You will learn about the earthquake, tsunami, and what happened to the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant host towns and the people who were forced to evacuate from their homes in Fukushima. You will also learn about recent developments in the affected regions as evacuation restrictions are being partially lifted in some areas. 

Tours such as this give us a real look inside the affected areas and open up conversations about the issues and current situations related to the disaster. While the tour is typically held on-site, the virtual tour is a chance for anyone to participate and learn from home. To book, contact the organizers through this inquiry form

When: Every day, various times. See details here
Where: Online tour, via Zoom. Link will be shared after registration
Price: ¥2,000

4. Noh Online: Funa Benkei, Legendary Hero, Riding the Wave from Tokyo to the World

An online performance of one of the most popular Noh plays, Funa Benkei, will be streamed for a limited time with English subtitles. This virtual experience offers something more profound than even watching the real thing at a theater — the organizers have created visual artwork to add to the performance, including a combination of video footage from the audience seats and on-stage, thus allowing to see the performance from all possible angles. Visit the event’s webpage for more information and special highlights on the upcoming Noh play. 

When: Jan 29, 2021 – Mar 31, 2021
Where: Online streaming, via Tokyo Tradition’s official website and Arts Council Tokyo’s official YouTube channel
Price: Free 

5. The Taste of Kagawa: An Online Webinar

There’s a reason why Kagawa, Japan’s smallest prefecture, likes to call itself “Udon-ken” (the Udon Prefecture), and that reason lies in its soul food: udon. To share the beauty of the region and give you some insights into why Kagawa is famous for udon (among other things), Tokyo Weekender is partnering with Kagawa Prefecture to run a series of events that showcase the many reasons why we all love udon. One of the events is a webinar, in which you will learn about the prefecture’s famous sanuki udon, the history and culture of udon, and more about Kagawa. Find more information about the event here. If you are interested in participating the online webinar, please contact [email protected]

When: Jan 26, 2021, From 7pm
Where: Online. See event details here.

6. Gender Equality in the Tech Sector: Solutioning Forward for Systemic Change

If you’re interested in discussing the topic of gender equality, especially in the tech industry, this event is for you. Several groups, including enjoi Diversity & Innovation Consulting, WomEnpowered International, We Speak Equality, and Women who Code Tokyo, have partnered for this global panel discussion during which they will be discussing specific solutions for companies to solve gender equality issues that arise in the workplace. See their event page for more details and registration. 

When: Jan. 29 (21:00 JST)
Where: Online meeting, via Zoom

7. Tokyo University free online courses

An excellent opportunity for all eager learners! MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) are free online courses for anybody who wants to learn and Tokyo University is contributing, too. The prestigious university currently has 15 courses that are available on Coursera and edX platforms, and some are one-time courses, while others take more time and commitment. A few of the shorter-term courses you might like include: Words Spun Out of Images: Visual and Literary Culture in Nineteenth Century Japan taught by the famous in Japan academic and TV commentator Robert Campbell, and Visualizing Postwar Tokyo, Part 1 and Part 2. Check out more of their online classes here.

When: Depends on the course taken
Where: Online courses, via Coursera and edX

8. Online Cooking Classes with Air Kitchen Live

AirKitchen Live has a mission to connect the world through cooking during the pandemic and beyond and is achieving this by offering a long list (we’re serious) of online cooking classes with hosts from Japan and around the world. From lovely panda obento to gyoza from scratch and Carbonara taught by an Italian chef, you have a lot of options to choose from, but the best thing is that you’ll never wonder what to cook next. There is also a good selection of vegan recipes and such for people with different dietary preferences. Participants will be provided with a list of all necessary ingredients and cooking supplies prior to the class and when the food’s ready, you can sit down and enjoy the meal along with all other participants. A genuinely international meal! Book your cooking class directly on their website.

When: Varies according to each class
Where: Online (via Zoom or Skype)
How much: Varies according to each class

Have we missed a great event? An online seminar we should include? Let us know at [email protected]