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New Japan, Old Japan / Virtual world attracts real people

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A frightened customer sinks to her knees during a virtual reality (VR) game that involves riding a standing scooter through a dinosaur-infested jungle, at VR Zone Shinjuku in Tokyo on Aug. 18.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer“Oh no, I can’t! I’m going to slam into it!”

Cries like this were heard here and there at VR Zone Shinjuku — one of Japan’s biggest amusement parks offering virtual reality, or VR, experiences. Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. opened the facility last month in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

Wearing special goggles and other devices, visitors feel as if they have been put into computer-created virtual worlds of either animated or real-life images. They get a 360-degree view as they look up and down and turn around.

The two-story facility has more than 3,500 square meters of floor space. There are nearly 100 sets of equipment, including more than just goggles and headphones, that immerse visitors in virtual worlds by shaking the ground and moving the air, for example.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A woman learns combat techniques in a VR experience featuring “Dragon Ball.” Facing an air-gun type of device, she feels as if she is being attacked by an imaginary opponent. The screen on the right shows what she sees through the goggles she is wearing.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A woman tries out lure fishing in a VR nature scene. She can even feel the tug on the fishing line. The screen on the left shows her view.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A visitor tries a VR activity that requires her to rescue a kitten by walking along a wooden board 200 meters above the ground.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    VR Zone has nearly 100 sets of equipment on two floors.

A variety of experiences are possible. In one, visitors sit in a chair, while in another they sit on a pedaling machine. One of the devices looks like a go-cart.

You can even dip into the world of the famous manga and anime “Dragon Ball.” In the VR world, the manga’s protagonist Son Goku teaches visitors how to launch his Kamehameha energy attack.

The facility currently offers a total of 12 VR attractions. In one, visitors pedal “winged” bicycles that seem to fly through the air.

“Our company has two strengths: One is the auxiliary devices [that complement the main VR machines] in which we have brought together all of our know-how. The other is the wide variety of characters for which we have obtained copyrights,” said a public relations official of Bandai Namco.

“Our goal is to make this facility a place where adults can get together, forget reality and express wild emotions in front of others,” the official added.

A 21-year-old university student from Tokyo experienced an attraction that enables visitors to ride a Segwaylike standing scooter through a forest filled with dinosaurs. While playing, she dropped to her knees in fright.

“It was pitch-dark, and I could hear the dinosaurs’ footsteps approaching from different directions while the ground shook.

“I knew I was in Shinjuku, but I found it quite real. It was scary,” she said.

The facility will be open through March 2019. The company estimates it will thrill and amaze about a million visitors during that period.

The basic entrance fee is ¥800. There is also a ¥4,400 ticket that covers the entrance fee and four activities.

Bandai Namco opened a smaller version of the Tokyo facility in London this month. It will eventually open more than 20 branches worldwide, including one in Kobe scheduled to open in September.

(New Japan, Old Japan is a series exclusive to The Japan News)Speech


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