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virtual, Japan, Edo period, samurai, shogun

Bringing an Ancient Japanese City to Life in an Immersive Virtual World


Have you ever wondered what it would be like if there was a parallel world in which the ancient Japanese Edo period existed today, where the modern world and the Shoguns could converge? With the Edoverse – a virtual recreation of this time period – you won’t have to imagine it but live every aspect of it in the finest detail.

The Edoverse promises a unique experience comparable to the world building of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, with breathtaking architecture, cultural idiosyncrasies and fantastical heroes and villains. But here, every fine detail in the user’s story will have credible roots in real history.

A reconstruction from the Edoverse. (Sequin AR)

A reconstruction from the Edoverse. (Sequin AR)

What is the Edo period?

The Edo period (also known as the Tokugawa period) refers to the 264-year span of Japanese history between 1603 and 1867, often known as the final years of ‘traditional Japan’. During this time, Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa shogunate, the most powerful central government Japan has seen to date, ending countless conflicts and ushering in over 250 years of stability to the country.

This period coincided with disruptive moments in history such as the English Civil Wars, the Civil War in the United States, the Crimean War in Russia, the creation of the Reich in Germany, and even the fall of the Ming Dynasty in China. But through all of these, Japan remained at peace. The cultural achievements amongst the elite classes of Edo during this period were groundbreaking. So much so that this era is still admired today, and when one speaks of Japanese high culture it is mostly in reference to Edo.

Marked by peace, political stability, and vast economic growth, the success of this period was widely made possible by the Samurai warrior class who relocated to the capital and became the principal governance of society at the time. Through strict order enforcement, which included an austere removal of any movement between classes, the Shogun governance guaranteed a time of significantly lessened conflict.

The Edoverse, will primarily take place in the region’s capital - the city of Edo (present day Tokyo). Here, the Tokugawa Shoguns boasted a population of over one million during the 1700s, and became a bustling central hub for the country. The Edo period was one of high class and wealth that became legendary throughout the world, even if foreign lands had become off limits in the opinion of Tokugawa.

To many Japanese people today, the life and culture of Edo is viewed with nostalgia, and the extravagant creations of the people of Edo still fascinate people around the world. The possibility of traveling to - and living in - the lost city of Edo has a lot of appeal to enthusiasts of the era. The Edoverse’s resurrection of the Edo period in a digital world aims to preserve the memory of ancient Japanese culture, particularly the Tokugawa Shoguns. Historians are afforded the opportunity to relive this acclaimed period within a highly authentic and livable environment

Both ancestors of the period and historians have laid the foundation of knowledge upon which today’s metaverse builders - Sequin AR - have constructed a virtual world where people can fully immerse themselves in the culture, from anywhere in the world. Not only is the Edo period being remembered; it’s being re-lived, relearned and restored beyond the geographical constraints of the physical world. 

A reconstruction from the Edoverse. (Sequin AR)

A reconstruction from the Edoverse. (Sequin AR)

Can the Edo Era be Resurrected in a Metaverse?

The Edoverse Foundation, headed up by a committee of experts and advisors including the 19th Head of the Tokugawa Shogunal Household, Iehiro Tokugawa, is partnering with metaverse-as-a-service company Sequin AR to make this idea a reality. Sequin AR will be building an unparalleled and authentic recreation of the Edo period utilizing its proprietary metaverse technology, along with Unreal Engine 5, blockchain, and the combined historical accuracy of the committee.

Together, they are bringing this extraordinary period in Japanese history to life in a fully livable virtual world, proving that the future of the metaverse can be rooted in ancient history.

The metaverse is still a largely undefined space, with new worlds being established every day. However, it is often referred to in its simplest form as a sequence of virtual worlds where humans, as avatars, interact with each other in a three-dimensional space that mimics reality.

Metaverse worlds aim to mimic the principles of reality, as places where multiple users can converge at one time in one unified experience. The Edoverse will be realized as a world in which users can interact in a virtual space styled as authentically close to the Edo period as possible.

There are often misconceptions surrounding the metaverse as a purely gamified experience. But the metaverse can be as much a method of exploring ancient history within a virtual environment as it is about gaming. Although the Edoverse will enable users to converge and play together in a virtual space, it is primarily a method exploring a period in history in ways that have never been possible before.

Iehiro Tokugawa, the 19th Head of the Tokugawa Shogunal Household and advisor on the project, has always had the ambition of recreating the historical city of Edo for cyberspace users. Since the dawn of computer-generated images, his ultimate goal has been to bring this revolutionary period of Japanese history and culture to life, in an environment that allowed for a high-fidelity experience.

This is only possible thanks to the Edoverse Foundation’s heritage, and access to the most thorough recordings of city life in Edo during the period. The physical city, Edo, was largely preserved right up until 1945, therefore documentation of its historical composition could be relied upon to guide authentic virtual reconstruction. With the technology made available through Sequin AR, the Edoverse Foundation has been able to extrapolate all of the information available to create a virtual world steeped in history and, most importantly, in authenticity.

A reconstruction from the Edoverse. (Sequin AR)

A reconstruction from the Edoverse. (Sequin AR)

No Two Experiences in the Edoverse Are the Same

The Edoverse won’t simply bring the world of Edo to life, but the art of the time too. The term Edo not only refers to the time, but also its specific aesthetics - from wooden prints and scrolls, to sculpture and textiles. Reimagining these aesthetics is part of the digital reconstruction of this iconic era.

The virtual real estate within the Edoverse can be expanded and cleared for new housing construction, or for new businesses. Buying and selling under the specific laws and customs of the period will enable users to raise their position and acquire new roles much faster.

The Edoverse Foundation is authentically reproducing the specific economies of Edo, meaning that anything can be traded and utilized under the constraints of the period. This allows for real-world businesses of today to enter the metaverse and be reimagined in Edo-form.

Ultimately, the Edoverse is about structure and authenticity. It is a recreation of the political and societal structure of the period that users can experience as faithfully as possible.

Edo was historically the number-one destination for tourists and fans of ancient Japan. The city was always full to the brim with brand new inhabitants learning about what opportunities awaited, what famous landmarks could be seen and what cultural activities could be found. The Edoverse will recreate the visual aspects of this tourist experience in full, within a state-of-the-art three-dimensional experience, so that the virtual tourists of today can fully immerse themselves in their Edo-period lives.

Top image: A reconstruction from the Edoverse. Source: Sequin AR

By Robert DeFranco, CEO Sequin AR

Robert DeFranco's picture


Robert has delivered billions of metaverse and virtual production content views in collaboration with the likes of Super Bowl, Macy’s, Madonna, Apple+, Mariah Carey, and CBS. With over 25 years’ experience building SaaS, entertainment, and AR organizations, he’s committed to... Read More

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