The postcard can never replace the destination. But maybe a view of the street can replace the postcard, especially if no one has to send it to you.

While we introduced Street View as a way to better navigate the world through photos, people began using the 360-degree imagery on Google Maps to virtually see the world without taking a plane.

Historically, many of the most popular destinations on Street View have been the flagship European sites that lure tourists in flocks from around the world: Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Rome’s Coliseum, and the U.K.’s Stonehenge are world-renowned tourist destinations and some of our best-loved locations on Street View.

Now Asia’s getting a larger slice of the world’s virtual tourism, with Japan emerging as Asia’s leader when it comes to online visitors. What’s surprising is how many sites that haven’t been popular offline became online hits.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular Asian places on Street View that attract visitors from around the world, including the regional top ten, as well as the top ten locations in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.

Mount Fuji and Osaka Castle were already prime destinations for tourists; yet the abandoned coal mines at Hashima Island — hardly a household word — emerged over the past year among the ten Asian destinations that attracted the most global traffic.

Other Asian sites whose panoramas are attracting virtual tourists from around the world in large numbers include these from Taiwan and Singapore:

As the map makes clear, the rise of the Asian Internet is adding some balance to the world’s culture. Even if a visit to a 360-degree panorama can’t replace a visit on foot, it can at least make Asia’s most astonishing vistas seem as immediate as the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building.

Posted by Ulf Spitzer, Street View Program Manager