At the end of 2008 I went back to Tokyo for another three months, to continue the japanese course I did earlier at the beginning of the year.
Together with a couple of friends we rented a very nice 2DK (if memory serves) apartment from a good company, whose services I required later on to find suitable accomodations on the following three months. Anyway, after picking the apartment I decided to study the surroundings a bit, just to check the area (a neighborhood of Setagaya named Yōga) and see what was in the surroundings of our building.
I was amazed to find out that Google Street View allowed me, almost literally, to walk the surrounding streets and I could therefore notice the presence of a supermarket, combinis, a ramen restaurant on a corner, a small クリーニング (cleaning) and many other shops. I was able to memorize the way to the nearby station entrances, and even find a pizza restaurant (which we visited during our stay, not very italian, but not so bad anyway).
When we arrived in Tokyo, once we reached Yōga, we found a lady from the renting company that accompanied us to the apartment, but I could have gone by myself, since I immediately recognized the streets, buildings and some of the shops from the 360° pictures I could see thanks to Street View. Felt sort of weird to recognize places I’ve never been to, and know what was behind the next corner.
Street View has growth considerably since then, and a few friends told me they actually saw the Google Street View cars in their cities… even my chief at work told me recently his mother noticed the car passing in the streets of his small town (Vetto, located in the hills near my hometown). The car, he said, took a picture of his mother sitting near the entrance of her home.
Every time I plan a trip somewhere, now, I use it to know how to reach useful spots in advance, where to park a car, and so on… if even Vetto is now photo-mapped, there’s a good chance one can find remote places as well. As long as the Google car could reach them…
Last but not least, periodically they launch some interesting projects, gathering images from different places of the same country or geographical area, to create some sort of travel guides… you can follow the news from the Google team on this blog: Google Lat Long.
A couple days ago they launched a new page dedicated to Japan: the Street View guide to Japan – Cherry Blossom Season Edition. If you ever wondered how does the sakura season change the lo0k of the country of the Rising Sun, well… take a look around!