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Cartographic Japan

A History in Maps

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.

336 pages | 111 color plates, 1 table | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2016

Art: Middle Eastern, African, and Asian Art

Asian Studies: East Asia

Geography: Cartography

History: Asian History


"Cartographic Japan constitutes a significant addition to the academic literature on the history of Japanese mapping. Much like the works it describes, the volume may also be treasured as a piece of art and collector’s item in its own right. In appearance it is similar to an atlas: oversized, with slick heavy pages laden with full-color reproductions of historical maps....Inspired by the equally beautiful and sweeping Mapping Latin America: A Cartographic Reader (University of Chicago Press, 2011), Cartographic Japan is a deeply rewarding compilation of maps and the scholars who appreciate them. The result will be enjoyed not just by researchers in the field of Japanese studies but by all map lovers and bibliophiles."

Los Angeles Review of Books

"Written for a general audience, this remarkable volume is intended to introduce readers to the 'treasure trove of colorful materials' that make up 'one of the world’s most diverse and spectacular cartographic archives.' Each of the 58 short chapters focuses on a particular image—a tourist map of Edo, a Buddhist conception of global geography, a coastal survey, an outline of the destruction of Hiroshima, a digital rendering of radiation from the 3/11 nuclear disaster—accompanied by a few pages of descriptive text highlighting the map’s historical (or possibly social, political, cultural, or religious) context. Scholars of Japan will recognize a veritable who’s who of contributors, among them Ronald Toby, Marcia Yonemoto, Constantine Vaporis, Kären Wigen, Mary Elizabeth Berry, Henry D. Smith II, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, and Theodore Bestor. Given rising scholarly interest in material and popular culture, as well as Japan’s centuries-old mapmaking tradition, this is an endeavor both timely and timeless. Moreover, it is a beautiful book, with color photographs throughout. An enchanting and even poignant volume that should find a ready home in any college or university library. Essential."


"This capacious and thoughtful volume is simultaneously three books. It is an illustrated collection of essays on Japanese cartography for a broad audience; it is a skilfully curated cartographic trove dating from the late sixteenth century to the present day; last but not least, it offers a unique template for teaching the history of Japan through maps, both in the context of East Asia and within larger world history."

Imago Mundi

“A treasure trove of short essays on the history of mapping, Cartographic Japan offers a rich range of insights in the mapping of Japanese history across a remarkable range of scales. Among them are neighborhoods, markets, workplaces, cities, regions, colonies and empire, cosmology and religion, and of course various apprehensions of the nation-state.  This book belongs on the shelf of anyone who teaches about Japan or who is fascinated by its history, as well as all those fascinated by the search for meaning in maps.”

Andrew Gordon, Harvard University

Cartographic Japan revels in how deeply maps have been embedded in organizing Japanese society and its literal and figurative boundaries, shaping knowledge and policies, and even saving lives, for the past fifteen hundred years.  Whether carefully describing original mapmaking traditions or explaining why historical maps reprinted in the 1960s unleashed controversy, the fifty-eight short chapters and accompanying illustrations bring Japanese history to life in stories spanning space and time. The authors of this important and ambitious contribution offer scholars, students, and map buffs alike a privileged seat at the banquet table of cartographic history, with access to the plans, hopes, and dreams of an impressive range of Japanese leaders, intellectuals, merchants, and citizens and a handful of the foreigners who made maps matter.”

Jordana Dym, Skidmore College

“If a picture paints a thousand words, this book shows how maps tell countless stories of Japan’s past. Not only do the fifty-eight short essays and multitude of illustrations in Cartographic Japan offer windows into particular moments in Japan’s history, but they also form fascinating visualized narratives. It is an innovative and enjoyable approach to imagining Japan’s past beyond simply the pragmatic function of these maps.”

Thongchai Winichakul, University of Wisconsin–Madison

"Cartographic Japan is a visually stunning and historically detailed compilation that illustrates this inherent power in maps and mapping while telling the story of one country’s history and place in the world."

Historical Geography

"Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps, from the University of Chicago Press, is expressly intended to open a window for the non-Japanese reader on a sweeping landscape of Japanese cartographic artifacts, history, and scholarship."

Cartographic Perspectives

"If you’ve ever wondered why Japanese cities have no street names, or why many modern tourist maps are cartoonish with no scale or positional accuracy, the book’s discussions of the roots of such phenomena should be of interest. . . .Cartographic Japan is thus an exploration to be welcomed—primarily for its informative and enriching text and additionally for the artistry contained in the maps it presents and the individual histories of these snapshots in time."

Monumenta Nipponica

"The book is neither a history of maps nor a history of Japan, but rather an exercise in what it means to think about Japanese history with maps, a rewarding experience that made this reader realize that teaching or writing about Japan without regular reference to historic maps is no longer an option."

The Journal of Japanese Studies

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

About the Authors


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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