Britain had the Ordnance Survey, France the Cassini family. Japan had Inō Tadataka (伊能 忠敬, 1745-1818), who over a series of expeditions in the early 19th century conducted a systematic survey of Japan using modern techniques. Writing for Nippon.com, Inō’s biographer, Hoshino Yoshihisa, writes a long introduction to Inō’s life and work that is well worth the read. [Tony Campbell]
For more on the history of Japanese cartography, see Cartographic Japan, a collection of academic essays edited by Kären Wigen, Sugimoto Fumiko and Cary Karacas that was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2016.
A map recently donated to the Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of History has been dated to the mid-14th century, making it one of the oldest maps of Japan, The Mainichi reports. “It was previously believed that a map in the ‘Shugaisho’ encyclopedia from 1548 was the oldest known map covering the whole of Japan. While Ninna-ji temple in Kyoto also holds a map of Japan dating to 1305, it does not cover the western part of the country.” The map is on display at the museum until September 24. [Tony Campbell]
Two related map exhibitions are taking place right now in the Netherlands. Mapping Japan runs until 26 November at the Japan Museum SieboldHuis in Leiden. Its focus is on 18th- and 19th-century Japanese maps from the Leiden University Libraries’ collections. “The impressive scroll painting of the Japanese coast and the personal maps belonging to Philipp Franz van Siebold (on display for the first time) are unquestionably the highlights of this exhibition.” (Possessing those maps got Siebold in considerable trouble in Japan.) Also in Leiden, Mapping Asia runs until 14 January 2018 at the Museum Volkenkunde. Its focus is on the objectivity (or lack thereof) in cartography, and features maps of both European and Asian origin. One highlight is a digitally reconstructed map of the Chinese Empire. [WMS/WMS]
In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Miriam Kingsberg reviewsCartographic Japan: A History in Maps (University of Chicago Press, March 2016), a collection of essays on the history of Japanese mapmaking edited by Kären Wigen, Sugimoto Fumiko and Cary Karacas (see previous entry). “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.” Amazon, iBooks. [WMS]
Meanwhile, a seventeenth-century map of a legendary Japanese fortress has been discovered in a museum’s collection of paintings, the Asahi Shimbun reports. [WMS]
Opening this Saturday, 25 June at the Art Institute of Chicago and running until 6 November, Unique Perspectives: Japanese Maps from the 18th and 19th Centuries “showcases the beauty of Japanese printmaking. The 18th- and 19th-century maps on view feature the world, the Japanese archipelago, and the country’s major cities, including Osaka, Yokohama, Edo, Nagasaki, and Kyoto. Highlights include works from trustee Barry MacLean’s comprehensive collection.” [WMS]
An exhibition at the Chidō Museum in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture features a huge (11 m × 5 m) mid-17th-century map of northeastern Japan, the Asahi Shimbun reports: “It is a copy of the Dewa Ikkoku no Ezu picture map, which was jointly compiled by feudal domains controlling the region stretching from today’s Yamagata Prefecture to neighboring Akita Prefecture.” [WMS]
Oftentimes in Japan, I had no idea where I was going. The moments when I did felt like a perfect alignment of puzzle pieces that made the in-betweens worth it. I imagined myself like those ancient cartographers, trying to make sense of the jumble of crepes and onigiri, shrines and skyscrapers, neon and origami. I made my own maps, rewriting them over the ones I had hastily constructed on the flight over. I began to understand how mapping a place, even sketchily, can feel like owning a piece of it.