Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps

Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps


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Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps by Karen Wigen

Miles of shelf space in contemporary Japanese bookstores and libraries are devoted to travel guides, walking maps, and topical atlases. Young Japanese children are taught how to properly map their classrooms and schoolgrounds. Elderly retirees pore over old castle plans and village cadasters. Pioneering surveyors are featured in popular television shows, and avid collectors covet exquisite scrolls depicting sea and land routes. Today, Japanese people are zealous producers and consumers of cartography, and maps are an integral part of daily life.
But this was not always the case: a thousand years ago, maps were solely a privilege of the ruling elite in Japan. Only in the past four hundred years has Japanese cartography truly taken off, and between the dawn of Japan’s cartographic explosion and today, the nation’s society and landscape have undergone major transformations. At every point, maps have documented those monumental changes. Cartographic Japan offers a rich introduction to the resulting treasure trove, with close analysis of one hundred maps from the late 1500s to the present day, each one treated as a distinctive window onto Japan’s tumultuous history.
Forty-seven distinguished contributors—hailing from Japan, North America, Europe, and Australia—uncover the meanings behind a key selection of these maps, situating them in historical context and explaining how they were made, read, and used at the time. With more than one hundred gorgeous full-color illustrations, Cartographic Japan offers an enlightening tour of Japan’s magnificent cartographic archive.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226073057
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 03/16/2016
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 826,836
Product dimensions: 8.80(w) x 11.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Kären Wigen is the Frances and Charles Field Professor of history at Stanford University. Sugimoto Fumiko is professor of history at the University of Tokyo’s Historiographical Institute. Cary Karacas is associate professor of geography at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.

Read an Excerpt

Cartographic Japan

A History in Maps

By Kären Wigen, Sugimoto Fumiko, Cary Karacas

The University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2016 The University of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-226-07305-7


Japan and a New-Found World

Joseph Loh

Sumptuous folding screens provided elite Edo-period viewers with a map of a newly discovered world and a wondrous glimpse of places and peoples in faraway lands. On the pair shown here, one screen reproduces a European map of the world. A multitude of colors demarcate continents, countries, and regions. Palace-shaped cartouches mark cities and places of perceived inhabitation; European galleons traverse quilt-patterned seas. Spherical inserts show the polar regions, lunar and solar eclipses, illustrations of wind and compass roses, and latitudinal lines marking the equator and the tropical zones. Spouting whales share the high seas with mythic sea creatures and others that are half human, half monster. In the upper region of the North American continent, the artist has rendered mountain ranges in hues of green, brown, and gray to convey atmospheric distance and depth. The Japanese archipelago appears on the right edge of the map; below it, a circular insert expresses Japan's placement in relation to China, Korea, and North America. The paired screen shows views of the four cities of Lisbon, Seville, Rome, and Constantinople (Istanbul). Along the top are images of aristocrats in fancy dress and noblemen on horseback. Both screens make luxurious use of rich pigments and gold leaf.

This pair of monumental screens from the collection of the Kobe City Museum represents a hybrid art form: one that took pictorial elements from European portolanos (nautical charts), printed maps, and book illustrations and used them to embellish a traditional Japanese medium, the paired folding screen. Before he was finished, the designer of this particular set had drawn on at least six separate printed or painted sources. His view of Rome is based on the 1610 Vita beati patris Ignatii Loyolae, for instance, while the other three cities are apparently adapted from a famous late sixteenth-century Latin compilation called Civitates Orbis Terrarum or Cities of the World. Another European source provided decorative motifs and embellishments, while a domestic map must have been consulted for Japanese geographic features.

This lively mingling of Japanese and Western forms resulted from the unprecedented trade, religious engagement, and cultural exchange between Japan and Europe during the century from 1542 to 1641. The European traders and Christian missionaries who visited Japan during this time introduced a wide range of European visual imagery and pictorial techniques into the repertoire of Japanese artists. Historians have designated the resulting works as Nanban, or "Southern Barbarian," art: that is, Japanese art bearing a connection to European sources through visual design, subject matter, or context of production. Roughly twenty of the surviving multipanel folding screens from this period feature Western maps of the world. In making them, Japanese artists adapted material from European atlases and printed maps by such pioneers as Ortelius, Mercator, and Blaeu. As a genre, the Nanban map screens are among the earliest examples of Japanese visual culture shaped by European cartographic science, geographic knowledge, and overseas trade and exploration.

Following conventional Japanese practice, artists typically painted two screens to create a paired set. Their themes vary greatly, ranging from a map of Japan to European city and town views to depictions of foreign battles or Portuguese trading ships in Japanese ports. Despite being reminiscent of European models, these painted works are not mechanical copies of European maps. Rather, they are pictorial displays of stunning invention, in which Japanese artists confronted new subjects, motifs, and ideas and imaginatively transformed them to suit Japanese sensibilities. Being so radically new, and with patrons probably willing to pay handsomely for such works, the genre had no rules and few limits.

Three main groups of artists appear to have been responsible for the surviving screens from this era. One group was evidently connected to the Jesuit seminary that was active in Japan from 1590 to 1614, a second belonged to the more traditional Kano school (an influential painting lineage with origins in the fifteenth century), and a third consisted of anonymous town artists. In the case of the screens considered here, the artist must have had access to the Jesuit community, given the large number of sources from which the composition was built. He may also have received some measure of direct instruction from a European artist. This is suggested by the delicate brushwork in richly applied pigment intended to simulate European oil painting, the application of Western techniques such as modeling and shadowing, the distinctive quilted wave pattern, and the rendering of ships and topography.

The only patrons able to afford such luxurious objects were members of the ruling elite: warriors, abbots, court aristocrats, members of the imperial house, or rising merchants in the growing urban centers. In the case of Nanban art, some screens are known to have been commissioned by Christian missionaries. They might serve as lavish gifts for influential warlords or Japanese merchants, or as commodities to gain favor or mark the closure of significant business transactions. But wealthy Europeans appreciated these impressive objects as much as their Japanese counterparts did, and not a few were made as export objects destined for the palaces and salons of Europe. (This pair, in fact, only returned to Japan after a Japanese art dealer discovered them in Paris in the 1930s.) Monumental and impractical for travel, they were probably not meant to serve as a proper map or to be used anywhere outside the confines of an official reception room. Their main purpose would have been to impress viewers as dramatic centerpieces or backdrops for conversation in carefully controlled display environments and social situations.

Images like these capture an early Japanese comprehension of Western knowledge and an acceptance of a new cartographic vision of the world. But acceptance did not rule out creative adaptation. Artists routinely increased the size and prominence of Japan in proportion to the Asian continent and rendered the Japanese archipelago in greater detail. On some screens (as here), Japan is given further emphasis through special insets; others situate the Pacific Ocean or East Asia at the dramatic focal point of the composition, effectively putting Japan near the center of the globe. While offering stunning views of faraway places, such images assured seventeenth-century Japanese viewers of their own privileged place in the world. As objects of high culture, map screens such as these served simultaneously to locate Japan in a newly expanded world, legitimize the authority of their proud owner, and articulate Japanese identity in relation to peoples of other lands.


The World from the Waterline

Peter D. Shapinsky

Only a handful of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Japanese nautical charts of Asia survive, but their rarity should not blind us to their immense historical significance. These hybrid maps represent the dawning of a global, sea-centered view of the world. They emerged out of an environment of unprecedented cross-cultural experimentation, one where ship captains and cartographers alike integrated knowledge from Chinese, European, Japanese, and Southeast Asian sources to produce maps that reflect mariners' geographic perspectives and concerns. Most of the extant nautical charts made in Japan during this period originated in the so-called vermilion-seal trading system: a regime of chartered trade, created by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and continued by the early Tokugawa shoguns, that used official red seals to license and regulate commercial traffic with China and Southeast Asia between the 1590s and 1630s. A few copies of what may well be earlier Japanese nautical charts exist in modified form in Korean and Chinese compilations, and we have several copies of lost vermilion-seal maps that were made later in the Tokugawa period. But after the Tokugawa outlawed overseas travel in the late 1630s, charts only survived if they could take on new functions for their owners. The map shown here is a Japanese nautical chart once owned by the Kadoya family of sea merchants who were active in the vermilion-seal trade with Southeast Asia (fig. 2.1). It exemplifies both the processes of cross-cultural cartographic conversations that produced sea-centered visions of the world and the contingencies that enabled a few such maps to survive.

The Kadoya chart, like other vermilion-seal maps, was based on contemporary Portuguese portolan charts used for navigation. Portolanos first emerged in the Mediterranean world in the thirteenth century, about the time the compass began to see widespread use in Europe, and remained a dominant form of European maritime mapping well into the seventeenth century. Portolan charts are best understood as repositories of seafaring knowledge with no particular national allegiance. The Kadoya therefore invites a global reading of the charts as cartographic tools that could meet the needs of pilots worldwide. These were maps attuned to contemporary navigational practices, grounded in the experience of local pilots and constructed from the waterline.

To make the Kadoya chart, the anonymous drafter first acquired a bleached piece of vellum and lightly sketched a large "hidden circle" on it using a lead pencil. Around that circle he spaced sixteen equidistant starbursts radiating color-coded compass direction lines (known as rhumb lines): black for primary compass directions, green for secondary, and red for tertiary. Next, the mapmaker overlaid red representations of coastlines atop the rhumb lines. Reversing the land-centeredness of many maps, here the inland areas were either left empty or given over to ornamentation. Seas, coasts, and littoral regions were the primary focus. Particular littoral regions were exaggerated and drawn well out of scale with the rest of the map, either to highlight locations of interest to the patron or to show areas that required complex navigation. After that, the drafter wrote place-names perpendicular to the coasts in black ink. This removed any need for fixed orientation, allowing a navigator to simply trace itineraries from point to point following the relevant compass headings. Navigational information was encoded in various ways, by adding dots for shoals, a Spanish scale of miles, and lines of latitude, including the equator and tropics. Finally, the reverse side of the map reveals an unfinished attempt to translate the Ptolemaic cosmological system of celestial spheres to Japan. Someone has inscribed eleven white concentric rings. Inside each ring should have been inscribed a particular astronomical feature, beginning with the orbits of the moon, several planets, and the sun, followed by the firmament (the abode of the stars), and then three heavens. But the diagram on the reverse of the Kadoya contains only a solid white circle between the first and second rings (to indicate the moon), and a solid red circle between the fourth and fifth rings (the sun). Contemporary European navigational materials were often paired in a similar way with explications of Ptolemaic cosmology.

It is likely that a single, no-longer-extant Portuguese portolan chart provided the base map for all known Japanese charts. One nineteenth-century copy even bears the Portuguese inscription "made by Sebastio" (Sebastio a fez). On the Kadoya map, Portuguese influence can be seen in the design of the compass rose, the scale of miles, the latitude depictions, and the flag indicating possession of Macao (from 1557). This last has been given an impressive pole extending from the island to the top of the map, perhaps signifying the importance of this colonial entrepôt for Portugal and regional trade.

Nevertheless, portolan charts were flexible tools that could easily be adapted to local circumstances and integrated into different navigational cultures. In contrast to modern scaled and gridded maps, they lack a single unifying projection and do not attempt to account for the curvature of the earth. Instead, drafters assembled local navigational lore gathered piecemeal by pilots (some mapmakers worked as pilots themselves) with the understanding that their charts would be used in conjunction with written itineraries, astrolabes, prayers, and other navigation tools.

Such characteristics made portolan charts compatible with contemporary East Asian navigational and cartographic practices. When European travelers reached Asian waters in the early sixteenth century, they joined sophisticated preexisting trade networks. These sea-lanes teemed with Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian, and Ryukyuan seafarers whose navigational cultures in some ways resembled their own. Like their Portuguese or Spanish counterparts, East Asian crews traced routes on maps in accordance with written itineraries, followed compass headings, measured distance with time, and found prayers efficacious at sea. Cross-cultural mixing continued aboard vessels commissioned in the vermilion-seal trade, for which the Tokugawa issued licenses to Chinese and Europeans as well as Japanese shippers. The resulting cosmopolitan environments produced creolized languages, hybrid shipbuilding practices, and cross-cultural fusions in the fields of navigation and cartography.

The Kadoya and other Japanese portolan charts thus reveal a fascinating mixture of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Southeast Asian, and Portuguese influences. Place-names, written primarily in Japanese phonetic script, include Portuguese toponyms alongside Chinese, Japanese, and Southeast Asian names that were in common use throughout the Asian trading world. Comparing the depiction of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese coastlines here with those on contemporary European charts reveals the integration of considerable local knowledge. Subtle differences among extant Japanese charts also attest to cotinued efforts by cartographers involved in the vermilion-seal trading system to update and refine their geographic content over time.

Although it is not clear how or when the Kadoya family acquired this map, it was produced in the same vermilion-seal spheres of interaction in which they actively participated as traders. Rising to prominence as shipping merchants based in the Ise port of Ominato in the late sixteenth century, they were thereafter enabled by Tokugawa patronage to add overseas trade to their domestic connections. Their commercial network linked their home in Ise with the Japanese ports of Sakai and Nagasaki and eventually the southern Vietnamese entrepôt of Hoian. One scion of the Kadoya house, Eikichi, traveled to Hoian in the 1630s and married into the Nguyen family, a powerful clan that made a practice of adopting and intermarrying with Japanese merchants in order to promote their commercial connections with Japan. Eikichi eventually became head of the "Japan Town" in Hoian. There, as in Nagasaki, as well as on the sealanes connecting the two ports, he would have encountered Chinese, Dutch, English, Portuguese, and Spanish pilots and merchants. Only a few years after his arrival in Hoian, the Tokugawa shogunate abruptly put an end to the vermilion-seal trade, and Kadoya Eikichi was only able to maintain connections with Japan by entrusting his goods and letters to a network of Chinese shipmasters and merchants who carried them to specific Japanese agents in Nagasaki.

The Kadoya chart was physically modified to fit this Japan–China–Southeast Asia trade network. Whereas most Japanese portolan charts follow the Portuguese original and extend from Japan in the east to the Arabian Peninsula and Africa in the west, the designer of this particular version has cut off everything west of the Straits of Malacca, focusing on the areas frequented by the vermilion-seal trade. The region bounded by the southern Chinese province of Guangzhou and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam is particularly magnified. At least one pilot found such detail helpful. Closer examination of the Kadoya chart reveals two lines of pinholes, suggesting the use of a divider compass to chart a course between Nagasaki and Hoian. Eventually the chart was remitted to the Kadoya in Japan, where the family labeled it for posterity as "a map used for crossing to foreign countries, made of bleached cowhide."


Excerpted from Cartographic Japan by Kären Wigen, Sugimoto Fumiko, Cary Karacas. Copyright © 2016 The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
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Table of Contents

A Note on Japanese Names and Terms

Kären Wigen

I. Visualizing the Realm: Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries

Introduction to Part I
Sugimoto Fumiko

Japan in the World

1. Japan in a New-Found World
Joseph Loh

2. The World from the Waterline
Peter D. Shapinsky

3. Elusive Islands of Silver: Japan in the Early European Geographic Imagination
Oka Mihoko

4. Mapping the Margins of Japan
Ronald P. Toby

5. The Creators and Historical Context of the Oldest Maps of the Ryukyu Kingdom
Watanabe Miki

6. The Introduction of Dutch Surveying Instruments in Japan
Satoh Ken’ichi

7. The European Career of Ishikawa Ryusen’s Map of Japan
Marcia Yonemoto

8. A New Map of Japan and Its Acceptance in Europe
Matsui Yoko

Domestic Space

9. The Arms and Legs of the Realm
Constantine N. Vaporis

10. Visualizing the Political World through Provincial Maps
Sugimoto Fumiko

11. Fixing Sacred Borders: Villagers, Monks, and Their Two Sovereign Masters
Sugimoto Fumiko

12. Self-Portrait of a Village
Komeie Taisaku

II. Mapping for the Market

Introduction to Part II
Kären Wigen

Mapping the City

13. Characteristics of Premodern Urban Space
Tamai Tetsuo

14. Evolving Cartography of an Ancient Capital
Uesugi Kazuhiro

15. Historical Landscapes of Osaka
Uesugi Kazuhiro

16. The Urban Landscape of Early Edo in an East Asian Context
Tamai Tetsuo

17. Spatial Visions of Status
Ronald P. Toby

18. The Social Landscape of Edo
Paul Waley

19. What Is a Street?
Mary Elizabeth Berry

Sacred Sites and Cosmic Visions

20. Locating Japan in a Buddhist World
D. Max Moerman

21. Picturing Maps: The “Rare and Wondrous” Bird’s-Eye Views of Kuwagata Keisai
Henry D. Smith II

22. An Artist’s Rendering of the Divine Mount Fuji
Miyazaki Fumiko

23. Rock of Ages: Traces of the Gods in Akita
Anne Walthall

24. Cosmology and Science in Japan’s Last Buddhist World Map
Sayoko Sakakibara


25. Fun with Moral Mapping in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Robert Goree

26. A Travel Map Adjusted to Urgent Circumstances
Kären Wigen and Sayoko Sakakibara

27. Legendary Landscape at the Kitayama Palace
Nicolas Fiévé

28. New Routes through Old Japan
Roderick Wilson

III. Modern Maps for Imperial Japan

Introduction to Part III
Cary Karacas

Defining the Borders

29. Seeking Accuracy: The First Modern Survey of Japan’s Coast
Suzuki Junko

30. No Foreigners Allowed: The Shogunate’s Hydrographic Chart of the “Holy” Ise Bay
Suzuki Junko

31. Indigenous Knowledge in the Mapping of the Northern Frontier Regions
Tessa Morris-Suzuki

32. Mamiya Rinzo and the Cartography of Empire
Brett L. Walker

33. Outcastes and Peasants on the Edge of Modernity
Daniel Botsman

Transforming the Cityscape

34. Converging Lines: Yamakawa Kenjiro’s Fire Map of Tokyo
Steven Wills

35. Mapping Death and Destruction in 1923
J. Charles Schencking

36. Rebuilding Tokyo after the Great Kanto Earthquake
André Sorensen

37. Shinjuku 1931: A New Type of Urban Space
Henry D. Smith II

Managing an Empire

38. Mapping the Hojo Colliery Explosion of 1914
Brett L. Walker

39. Cultivating Progress in Colonial Taiwan
Philip C. Brown

40. Showcase Thoroughfares, Wretched Alleys: The Uneven Development of Colonial Seoul (Keijo)
Todd A. Henry

41. Imperial Expansion and City Planning: Visions for Datong in the 1930s
Carola Hein

42. A Two-Timing Map
Catherine L. Phipps

43. Visions of a New Order in the Asia-Pacific
David Fedman

IV. Still under Construction: Cartography and Technology since 1945

Introduction to Part IV
Kären Wigen

Up from the Ashes

44. Blackened Cities, Blackened Maps
Cary Karacas and David Fedman

45. The Occupied City
Cary Karacas

46. Sacred Space on Postwar Fuji
Andrew Bernstein

47. Tange Kenzo's Proposal for Rebuilding Hiroshima
Carola Hein

48. Visions of the Good City in the Rapid Growth Period
André Sorensen

Growing Pains in a Global Metropolis

49. On the Road in Olympic-Era Tokyo
Bruce Suttmeier

50. Traversing Tokyo by Subway
Alisa Freedman

51. The Uses of a Free Paper Map in the Internet Age
Susan Paige Taylor

52. Tsukiji at the End of an Era
Theodore C. Bestor

New Directions in the Digital Age

53. Probabilistic Earthquake Hazard Maps
Gregory Smits

54. Citizens’ Radiation Maps after the Tsunami
Jilly Traganou

55. Run and Escape!
Satoh Ken’ichi

56. Postmortem Cartography: “Stillbirths” and the Meiji State
Fabian Drixler

57. Reconstructing Provincial Maps
Nakamura Yusuke

58. The Art of Making Oversize Graphic Maps
Arai Kei

Sugimoto Fumiko

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