As the coronavirus pandemic limits people's ability to travel safely, a popular Japanese tourism destination is hoping to fill in the gap via Nintendo Co.'s smash-hit life simulation game Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Sado Island in the Sea of Japan is host to a number of well-known tourism spots — including a gold mine that is set to be a UNESCO World Heritage site — and such sites are featured in the virtual version of the island as well.

Jointly developed by the Sado city office and Niigata Prefectural Government, the project marks the first time a remote island in Japan has used the game to promote its appeal. It was introduced amid calls for people to stay home over Christmas and New Year's due to the pandemic.

According to the city, there are six areas on the island that players can explore, including a "rice paddy art area" featuring an image of ibises created using rice of various colors. Sado hosts a conservation center for the endangered bird.

Players can dig for riches in a gold mine area, interact with a character based on the Japanese crested ibis, download a T-shirt featuring the island for their character to wear and take commemorative photos while taking a trip on one of the island's unique tub-shaped fishing boats.

The password, or what the game calls a Dream Address, needed to visit the in-game island can be found on the city's official website.

"We utilized many items to recreate the (island's) landscape. We hope people will come and check out the real island when the pandemic ends," said an official from the city.

The popular tourist destination Sado Island is rich in natural beauty. | KYODO
The popular tourist destination Sado Island is rich in natural beauty. | KYODO