• Reuters

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Forced to cancel a popular on-site tour due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bank of Japan has 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 was 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 percent were overseas travelers.

“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 site of cultural heritage.

The tour is only available in Japanese but one with English-translated instructions will be available later this month, the BOJ said.

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