Augmented reality and multilingual explanations introduced as Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward reopens after refurbishment

The exterior of the Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward, where the vivid blue-gray and yellow colors have been restored

The ‘Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward’, a designated important cultural property of Japan located in the city of Hakodate in southern Hokkaido, reopened on April 26 after refurbishment work was completed. Augmented reality (AR) technology – with which explanations of exhibits are provided on a Smartphone screen that has been swiped over a code – has been newly introduced to the hall’s interior, making multilingual guidance possible. Refurbishment work includes faithful reproduction of the original architecture of when the building was originally constructed as an assembly hall for city residents in 1910.

 When a Smartphone or tablet device is swiped on a special code displayed in the AR point of the 2nd-floor hall, which has approximately 460 m2 of floor space, animated images of Meiji-period people holding expositions and parties are superimposed on the screen, which displays actual images of the room. A company employee visiting the hall from Saitama prefecture in early May said “You can see how the room was used in a lively manner at the time.”

 Public wireless LAN Wi-Fi has been newly installed inside the hall, and AR points have been established in 12 locations. The AR can be utilized by downloading a free app onto a Smartphone or the like. When the device is used to read a special code at each AR point, viewers can enjoy animations and images with written explanations of how the rooms were used, and the resplendent atmosphere of the furniture such as the tables and chairs within them.

 The AR explanations are not only in Japanese but in a total of five languages, with English, Chinese (simplified and traditional) and Korean also available. “The foreign language guidance is substantial, and easy to understand,” said an English teacher from the UK currently residing in the town of Shimizu in the Tokachi region, who visited the hall at the end of April.

 The costume section, popular among visitors to the hall, has also been renewed. Visitors can choose from a selection of approximately 100 costumes and take photos freely while wearing them within the hall. As well as western-style costumes such as dresses and the like, hakama and other Japanese-style clothing has also been prepared.

 As the hall opens to the public for the first time in two-and-a-half years, thorough Coronavirus measures, such as temperature checks and the sanitization of hands with alcohol have also been implemented. During the long holiday period immediately after the reopening, the hall was visited by approximately 4,000 people.

 Admission fees are 300 yen for adults and 150 yen for school and university students.

The 2nd-floor hall in which animations reproducing Meiji-period scenes can be enjoyed
In the costume section, both western- and Japanese-style clothing can now be enjoyed
The billiardroom near the entrance of the Public Hall, where billiards was played in the initial period after construction. During this refurbishment, a table modeled on a billiard table was installed along with panels introducing the history of Hakodate and the hall.
At the reopening on April 26, a commemorative concert was held in the 2nd-floor hall. After reopening, the hall became available for private bookings for the first time in approximately 40 years. For a fee, the hall can be used for a wide range of applications, including concerts and meetings.


Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward