People of Many Nations


During the nearly two centuries of restricted foreign contact during the Edo period (1600–1868), the Japanese people still maintained a curiosity about foreign cultures. This map, published in the early 19th century, depicts an enormous archipelago representing Japan at the center of the world. Inset images and descriptions of foreign people, the distance from Japan to their lands, and differences in climate are noted. The locations listed include the “Pygmy country, 14,000 ri” (1 ri = 2.4 miles), “Woman country, 14,000 ri,” and “Black people country, 75,000 ri.” In the lower right, America is said to be populated by “people who are taller than in our country, white and beautiful… the further south you go, the bigger people become; at the southernmost end of South America lies the Chiika-koku (country of tall people).” The descriptions give a sense of the limited geographic knowledge and the stereotyped portrayals of foreigners in Japan in this period.

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1 print on hōsho paper : woodcut, color ; 33 x 44 centimeters (block), 35 x 47.5 centimeters (sheet)


  • From series entitled: Bankoku jinbutsu no zu (People of many nations).

Last updated: February 12, 2016