Mia Nakaji Monnier
September 13, 2015 8:00 am

It’s one thing to be guided around a new city by a local. It’s quite another thing — and arguably much more interesting — to be shown around by a local cat. Lucky for us, that’s exactly what the tourism board of Japan’s Hiroshima prefecture decided to do with their latest creation, the Hiroshima Cat Street View.

Just as it sounds, Cat Street View is an interactive map similar to Google Street View, except that it’s created from the perspective of cats. That means its vantage point is closer to the ground, for one thing. It also means you can meet other local cats along the way. This is the perfect answer to the recent obsession — in Japan and the U.S. alike — with Neko Atsume, the iPhone game that lets you meet and collect photos of illustrated cats. But here, the cats are real (and really adorable).

Whenever you see one of these friendly neighborhood cats on the map, you can click on the orange icon above its head for its profile. This shy-looking feline is named Iriko, or sardine (“Because I love sardines”).

This one is named Koume, which means Little Plum! How sweet are she and her human?

Right now, the profiles — along with the rest of the map — are all in Japanese, but its creators say that expanded language options are coming soon.

Of course, there’s still something to gain for map users who can’t speak Japanese. The map goes through a small part of Onomichi, a coastal city in Hiroshima prefecture, and it gives a sense of what it’s like to wander down a Japanese street. One route explores an indoor shopping alley, which are very common throughout Japan. There, you can browse coffee shops, see what kinds of clothes are being sold in boutiques, and get a glimpse at the people running their errands.

Another route, called Neko no Hosomichi (or Cat Alley), goes through a local park, past picturesque Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.

The map comes with sound, and in the Neko no Hosomichi section, that sound is of cicadas, the noisy bugs that are ever-present in Japan in the humid summers. After just a few minutes of exploring the map, I was already nostalgic for Japan, where I lived for a year in college. Other local tourism boards, take note! If you’d like to inspire curiosity about your city, just add cats.

See the map for yourself and start meeting local cats here.

(Images via Cat Street View.)

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