Cartography of Japan

Elizabeth Borneman


Japan has a long history of producing extraordinary maps going back thousands of years. The early Japanese put emphasis on the importance of mapping their country as well as the places around them, filling in the blanks of the world around them piece by piece. Maps and their creation, what they depict, and who was creating them can bring a great amount of insight into a culture and the development of a specific people group.

A New Book About Japanese Maps

A new book has surveyed maps created by cartographers in Japan spanning 500 years. Experts in art history, geography, social sciences, and more got together to more specifically analyze this collection of maps in order to better understand the act of putting three dimensional objects into a two dimensional format.  

The book is edited by  Kären Wigen, a geographer and historian at Stanford; Sugimoto Fumiko, a historian at the University of Tokyo; and Cary Karacas, a geographer at the College of Staten Island.

Influences in Cartography Between the East and the West

The book also discusses cartographic knowledge transfer from the West to the East and vice versa. Experts tracked cartographical influences from places like the Netherlands to Japan, and from Japan to other locations in Europe.

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The sharing of cartographic knowledge influenced the maps that were available to different interacting people groups and can be seen in the maps that came out of that particular time period.

Cartographic Japan contains maps in addition to diving into the religion, traditions, cultural changes, and political climate of the time period from which the maps come from. The maps take into consideration the events surrounding World War Two and how that significant event dramatically impacted the influence of the government in the cartographical efforts of geographers around 1945.

The book will interest anyone who wants to learn more about Japan throughout the centuries as well as anyone looking for more information about the influence of cartography on this particular area of the world.

Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps
edited by Kären Wigen, Sugimoto Fumiko, Cary Karacas
University Of Chicago Press (March 16, 2016), 336 pages.
ISBN-10: 022607305X, ISBN-13: 978-0226073057

The book cover for Cartographic Japan showing a historical map of some of the Japanese islands.

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About the author
Elizabeth Borneman
My name is Elizabeth Borneman and I am a freelance writer, reader, and coffee drinker. I live on a small island in Alaska, which gives me plenty of time to fish, hike, kayak, and be inspired by nature. I enjoy writing about the natural world and find lots of ways to flex my creative muscles on the beach, in the forest, or down at the local coffee shop.