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Hiroshima’s Street View for Cats is basically an RPG

“Japan just created a Google Street View for cats,” reports Vox’s Margarita Noriega, which sounds like a pretty good deal. A series of maps and visualizations created by Hiroshima prefecture’s tourism board, show a number of popular routes from the just-above-ground POV of a feline. As you stroll through marketplaces and other thoroughfares in street view, abstracted cat icons indicate the homes of other furry friends.

These maps are of no use to Hiroshima’s cats 

These maps are, of course, of no use to Hirohsima’s cats, which may appear online with alarming frequency but cannot actually navigate the internet. As the Wall Street Journal reported:

“We were seeking to introduce a different way to look at our cities and offer a view of the streets that wasn’t available before,” a Hiroshima tourism official said. They decided on a cat’s-eye view because Onomichi, a port town known for its large number of cats, is also home to a museum dedicated to Japan’s ‘maneki-neko’ cat dolls, the official said.

Hiroshima’s cat maps are not useful for navigation in any traditional sense, but that doesn’t mean they are without uses. They allow you to view the world from a different perspective. As Vox’s Margarita Noriega noted, “I learned two lessons about the nature of cat lifestyles by browsing the maps. First, everything is a door. … Second, roads are entirely too big when you’re so small.” These lessons, incidentally, are similar to those that can be gleaned from Dog Park developer Kevin Cancienne’s “City Dog.” Dogs and cats: not so different after all.

The cat maps, as with early, inaccurate maps, are primarily useful as cultural artefacts. Want to know how a self-driving car thinks? Look at its maps. The same holds true with cats. “The Japanese Internet cat has become a crucial proxy,” Gideon Lewis-Kraus wrote in his lovely feature on the nation’s famous cats. “People who feel inhibited to do what they want online are expressing themselves, cagily, via the animal that only ever does what it wants.” In that respect, Hiroshima’s cat Street View ultimately functions like a limited RPG, immersing you in a world you may have missed out on.

You can check out Cat Street View here.