National

Hiroshima students working to re-create Yamato for virtual battleship tour

Kyodo

Using virtual reality technology, high school students in Hiroshima Prefecture are working to breathe life into an Imperial Japanese Navy battleship that was dispatched to a watery grave by U.S. forces during World War II.

The VR tour of the Yamato, one of the largest battleships ever built, will be completed around this summer and enter use at the Yamato Museum in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, where the vessel was built.

By using VR technology, which employs images, sounds and vibrations, visitors will be able to hear the booming of the ship’s cannons while standing on the digitally re-created deck of the Yamato. After the smoke clears, the main battery of the 263-meter battleship will emerge before their eyes.

The project was undertaken by students at Fukuyama Technical High School last November as part of efforts to reproduce the legacies of the war.

In re-creating the Yamato, the students interviewed former crew members and examined a scale model at the ship’s museum. This allowed them to reproduce its main armaments and the chrysanthemum crest on the bow in detail.

“New technology enables us to experience images realistically. We want to convey the tragedy of war to many people,” said third-year student Tsubasa Hirata, 17.

The Yamato, completed in Kure in December 1941, was sunk by U.S. warplanes in the East China Sea off Kagoshima Prefecture while headed to Okinawa for a last-ditch mission.

“It feels like we are actually standing on the deck of Yamato,” said Hiroshi Shintani, a curator at the museum. “It provides history lessons by letting us consider why we had to build such a huge battleship.”

The high school is also planning to develop a VR tour for a shopping district in Hiroshima so people can see what it was like before the city was A-bombed on Aug. 6, 1945. The area later became Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The Hiroshima industrial promotional hall, now known as the Atomic Bomb Dome, will also get the VR treatment.