Minamata exhibits are now accessible through virtual reality tours

MINAMATA, Kumamoto Prefecture: forced to close or cancel on-site visits due to the new coronavirus pandemic, the exhibition facilities dedicated to Minamata disease created virtual here so that viewers can know one of the worst ecological disasters that have fallen in Japan.

With the click of a mouse, visitors to the websites of the three facilities can make online visits to each of them to see the screens, although the exhibits are currently inaccessible to the public due to the temporary closure.

The Minamata Disease Archives of the Ministry of Environment, Kumamoto Prefectural Center for Environmental Education and Information and the Municipal Museum of Minamata Disease released online visit services on September 1st.

“We hope that many more people will enjoy our exhibits through virtual reality before, which we hope will inspire them to visit these facilities in the future,” said Takehiro Tsuchiya, division head of the International Information of the Ministry Minamata National Institute. Illness.

Minamata disease, a neurological disorder caused by severe mercury poisoning, was first officially recognized in 1956 after residents of Minamata, Kumamoto prefecture, began to become ill.

The cause was sought after the release of methylmercury in industrial wastewater of a chemical factory owned by Chisso Corp. which contaminated fish and other marine products.

The three facilities are located on a hill in the grounds of the Minamata Eco Park. In a typical year, approximately 40,000 people visit as part of programs to reflect on environmental and social issues.

However, the number of visitors plummeted to less than 10 percent of usual levels last fiscal year after the pandemic hit and steps were taken to restrict people’s movements to contain the spread of the pandemic. new coronavirus.

This motivated operators to look for other ways to make exposures accessible to homes and schools during the health crisis.

The three facilities in June this year contacted the Virtual Reality Innovation Organization (VRIO), a Tokyo-based organization that creates virtual reality images of museums and tourist facilities in Tokyo. all over the country, to create virtual site visits.

The VRIO decided to work for free on the project.

In mid-August, VRIO Representative Director Shigeru Yokomatsu, 58, and other staff members spent several days filming footage at the three facilities, using a special camera to provide 360-degree views.

Virtual reality tours allow visitors to travel in any direction they want inside the buildings to see the screens. The images can be enlarged to make it easier to read the descriptions of the exhibitions.

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