ODATE, JAPAN - The northern Japanese city of Odate has kickstarted a project to encourage more tourists to visit and learn about the place through the eyes of two Akita dogs, reported The Asahi Shimbun on Thursday (March 15).
Odate, which is the birthplace of Akita, also known in Japan as the Akita-inu, a breed of Japanese dog, has been promoting itself as the hometown of Hachiko, the famous dog who displayed extraordinary loyalty by waiting for its owner at Tokyo's Shibuya train station for nine years after his death.
In a tie-up with Google Street View, the city is tapping on two adorable canines, Ako and twin sister, Asuka, to provide a tour of the city's attractions through the dogs' perspective.
Users of the map searching service will soon be able to see images taken by small and lightweight 360-degree cameras mounted on the dogs in Odate.
As Google Japan explains: "Odate city wanted to give visitors a snapshot of the local area and, since Akita dogs are such an important part of the city's history and culture, they called on the help of a hardy pair of working Akita dogs - Ako and Asuka - to give their own unique perspective of a dog's life in Akita by strapping a small camera to a dog-friendly harness on their backs."
Ako and Asuka, who serve as "tourism promotion stationmasters" at Odate Station, went for a stroll in late February with their owners leading them on a leash and visited local attractions, including a bronze statue of Hachiko set up in front of the station and a museum featuring the Akita dog breed, Asahi Shimbun said.
They also captured images at a snowfield surrounded by mountains, and the Rokenjinja shrine, which honours another dog that showed great loyalty like Hachiko.
Google has been working with the Akita prefectural government since 2017 to introduce noted tourist destinations in the prefecture on Street View.
Previously, photos for Street View were typically shot by dedicated camera-mounted cars running on streets, but smaller devices have allowed bicycle riders and walkers to take images for the map service.
Images of mountain trails on Mount Fuji, the Kumano Kodo ancient pilgrimage route and other tourist spots, as well as photos of Tokyo Station and Haneda Airport, have recently been released on Street View.