Feel like a virtual visit to Japan? You can try Google Street View, or you can get on all fours with Cat’s Street View.
The city of Onomichi in southwestern Hiroshima Prefecture now has a website through which users can explore its shopping arcades and backstreets as — you guessed it — a cat.
Hiroshima Cat’s Street View features 360-degree imagery with a point of view that’s low to the ground and a cursor in the shape of a paw print. The site has ambient street noise punctuated by meows.
Cat’s Street View is another example of how consumer-grade 360-degree cameras, such as the Ricoh Theta m15, are opening up interactive possibilities such as panoramic augmented and virtual reality apps.
Virtual visitors can navigate through a long covered arcade, clicking on signs that appear above shops, which have descriptive blurbs and hyperlinks to their websites. When other felines appear, they also have clickable icons that open up windows with information about them.
The website, only available in Japanese for now, is part of a tourism promotion push for Onomichi, which is famous for its many cats.
The site also features a local “cat trail” where pusses hang out and the Maneki-neko Art Museum, dedicated to the “beckoning cat” figurines often displayed in Japanese restaurants and shops for good luck.
“Onomichi used to be a prominent fishing port, which is probably why it attracted many cats,” a tourism official said.
Celebrated in everything from medieval “ukiyoe” woodblock prints to hit video games such as Neko Atsume, cat adoration is practically a national pastime in Japan.
A calico known as Tama-chan that was appointed stationmaster of a rural train station had thousands of fans and drew international headlines when she died earlier this year. At her funeral, it was announced that Tama-chan would be honored as a goddess.