Imari-ware Plate with Map of Japan


This map is based on one of the oldest maps, attributed to the monk Gyōki (668–749), which attempted to depict the entire country of Japan. The Gyōki map was reproduced for centuries in commercial maps and used on ceramic plates. Numerous versions of these Imari-ware map plates were made in the early 19th century. The highly stylized design of the map indicates that little precision was required for the purposes of ceramic decoration. Along with the names of Japanese provinces and their relative locations, the map shows Korea, the Ryukyu Islands (including Okinawa), and such imagined lands as “women’s country” in the south and “pygmy land” in the north. The map is not drawn to scale. North is orientated to the right, and the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu are shown. Although Edo (Tokyo) became the official capital of Japan with the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603, this depiction places Kyoto in the center, an indication of the enduring symbolic significance of the old imperial capital.

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1 plate : color, ceramic ; 30 x 33 centimeters.


  • Map not drawn to scale.

Last updated: October 16, 2012