After close to a year of driving those odd-looking cars down countless highways and back lanes, Google has finally launched its Street View service for Google Maps in two new territories – Japan and Australia.

While the Aussie launch appears to have been greeted mostly positively, the close-up photos of Japanese street scenes seem to be less welcome in the notoriously conservative nation.

Clear breaches

Japanese-language blogs are rapidly filling up with criticism of the US service and its implications for privacy infringement.

One prominent Japanese blogger, Junya Kondo – an internet CEO who runs a social-bookmarking site called Hatena – drew attention to an image of a Tokyo street where he was able to recognise a friend.

That's in spite of a Google supposedly undertaking to blur out people's faces, car licence plates and other sensitive subjects.

Although the service is in its early days in Japan, widespread coverage of cities outside Tokyo, including Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka, is sure to lead to plenty more problems before long.

Google has traditionally found Japan a tough nut to crack, particularly in search, where it remains a distant second behind Yahoo Japan, a wholly owned subsidiary of the troubled US firm.