October 16, 2012

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.

Great Map of Japan

This map of Japan is a replica of a map that was first published in 1779 by Nagakubo Sekisui (1717–1801), the first of its kind to include latitude and longitude lines. The measurements allowed for a more accurate geographic representation than previous ornate pictorial maps. It was a commercial success and was reprinted and imitated numerous times into the Meiji era (1868–1912). This map includes major points of interest on the margins, including temples and shrines, old castles, and scenic landscapes. It also notes major thoroughfares and distances of sea routes, as well as a table of gun (districts) on the lower right. Five insets depict Japan’s various island groups.

Map of Bushū Toshima District, Edo

This work is a reprint of a cadastral map, originally produced around 1630–31, showing land ownership in central Edo (Tokyo). The original map is considered the oldest and most accurate extant plan of the city, and multiple reproductions of it were made until the end of the Edo period (1603–1868). The map has several defining features, one of which is that all text labels read in the same direction, in the style of modern maps. It also includes pictorial representations of significant areas such as Edo Castle, the reservoir, and major temples and shrines. The map is oriented with north toward the upper right. The box on the lower left is a chart indicating distances. Vertical distance is disproportionately greater than horizontal distance, which results in the exclusion of areas north of Edo Castle from the map. Only the residential quarters of the samurai and local townspeople in the immediate vicinity of the castle are shown. Edo Castle was built in the mid-15th century and a town started to form around it. Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616), founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, and his successors restored the castle and developed the city of Edo.

Reproduction of Chōroku-Period Map of Edo, with Later Additions

This map shows villages in the province of Musashi that later grew together to form the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo). Edo Castle, built in 1457, is placed in the center of the map, which includes shrines, village names, and a tameike (reservoir) constructed in 1606, which dried up around 1877. A brief historical background on the establishment of the city is provided in red letters on the lower left. The title of the map implies that it was modeled on a map from the Chōroku period (1457–59), made after the castle was built and before the town was fully established. Similar maps were reprinted in various iterations from the 18th century. The original map has not been found, however, and it is unclear whether any original actually was drawn during the Chōroku period. This map may have been a retrospective view of the district, made later as an imagined portrayal of the birth of the capital city or as a study of 15th-century history. The map is oriented with north toward the upper right.

Pictorial Map of the Tōkaidō Highroad

This pictorial map depicts the Tōkaidō Highroad which ran between the cities of Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. The original Tōkaidō Bunken Ezu (Scale map of the Tōkaidō) was drawn by woodblock artist Hishikawa Moronobu (circa 1618–94) in 1690, based on a survey of the road made in 1651. Various iterations of this map have circulated, including black and white prints and large scrolls meant to be spread out on a desk for armchair traveling. This version is painted with ink and watercolor on two smaller scrolls, suggesting it was intended as a practical guide for travelers. Distances are represented on an accurate scale, but directions vary depending on the area and are marked by compass squares. Included in the description are major cities, “stations” where worn-out travelers could rest or rent a horse, and advice on where boats were available. The map also notes places of interest, such as temples and shrines, scenic landscapes, and landmarks associated with historic events and local myths. Maps such as this were both practical tools for travelers and a reflection of commonly held views of geography, history, and mythical knowledge.

Map of Coastal Defense

In 1853, Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States Navy entered the port of Yokohama near Edo (Tokyo) with an intimidating fleet of steam warships. His objective was to open Japan’s doors to trade after nearly two centuries of restricted contact with the outside world. Perry’s visit prompted the Edo shogunate to reconsider, with feudal lords in the area, the method of coastal protection and to order the construction of forts around present-day Tokyo Bay. This okatame (coastal defense) map depicts the system of defense as it was in 1852 and provides information about the foreigners who had since arrived. The gridded chart pasted on the bottom of the map contains the hereditary crests and decorative staffs of the samurai (feudal lords) who were in charge of protecting the coastal areas under their administrative control. The map is oriented with north pointing to the lower left, positioning the capital city of Edo in the lower-left corner. The shogunate initially had planned to build eleven forts but managed to complete only five. The forts and their measurements also are shown on the lower left corner, standing between the foreign fleets and the capital city.