Neko Atsume at The Next Level: Take a Kitty-Eye Tour of Hiroshima!

Neko Atsume at The Next Level: Take a Kitty-Eye Tour of Hiroshima!

by Michelle "Ms. Geek" Klein-Hass

Hiroshima Prefecture has a problem. It's a charming part of Japan, it's rustically beautiful, it's a place where people should visit. However, it's got a very high-key, emotional historical event in its backstory. Never mind that there's more to the prefecture than just the City of Hiroshima, never mind that Peace Park is not the only point of interest there.

However, the Japanese love cats, and so do everyone else on the planet. And Hiroshima Prefecture has cats galore. How about taking a tour of two of Hiroshima Prefecture's most charming towns, Onomichi and Takehara? And how about taking it from a kitty's eye view?  Yes you can! And basically both of these tours are like a game of Neko Atsume or a game of Pokemon GO. There are 95 cats in the Onomichi tour, and so far there are 27 cats in the Takehara tour. The Onomichi tour expanded a couple of times since it first went up last year, so it is quite likely the Takehara tour will eventually cover more area and include more cats.

One thing though: the entire tour is in Japanese, with no English translations. This is either a bug or a feature, depending on whether you are just casually cruising around the virtual tour visually, or whether you use the tours as a tool to strengthen your Japanese reading skills. Certainly the latter would be quite useful to the Nihongo learner.

The Onomichi tour is largely on flat ground, but in Takehara, you will have to jump onto roofs to visit with some of the cats. Luckily, the paths that you can take are clearly marked. Follow the (quite literally) yellow brick road, and you will be able to see what you can investigate during your travels.

Blue markers are for points of interest.

Red markers marked with a "play" button are embedded videos. Here's an example of one of the videos you will uncover in your travels.

And green markers will either show you a static picture of something off the beaten path or will change the view from night to day or vice-versa. You need to pay attention to the green markers in particular, and not forget to hit them, because some cats show up at night, and some show up by day. Also, don't forget to have your speakers on as you play, because in both games, you will hear an audible "meow" (nyan in Japanese!) when a cat is within range. Especially in the new Takehara tour, the cats are not visually obvious, or might be right behind you. Take advantage of the map in the bottom left corner, too, because there are little icons that are miniatures of the markers that will point you to places you need to go to "collect" cats.

Like Pokemon GO, these cat's eye view tours often require powers of observation to find hidden cats. Unlike the wildly popular Pokemon catching game, you can be a couch potato and not have to physically walk around to use the game, since it runs in your browser.

However, no matter how hard you click, you will not be able to make dog sightings count as "caught" cats. This is a cat game, not a dog game, sorry dog people!

Perhaps the next step will be a version of the game that will work like Pokemon GO, as an app, and use your mobile phone to roam the streets of another charming town in Hiroshima, no matter where you are, and be able to walk around the streets by actually walking.

One thing for certain: after playing these games you're going to want to put picturesque Hiroshima prefecture on your list of places to visit in person in Japan. Don't forget the kitty treats!