The Atlas of Eternal Peace, 萬世泰平圖説

The Bansei taihei zusetsu, 萬世泰平圖説 (Atlas of Eternal Peace) is a series of eleven maps by Hiyama Gishin. It was created in 1815, but covers the period from 1184 to 1615. Although the exact uses of the book is not known, from the title, we can propose possible uses of this map. Such as, a history book, recording the time leading up to the unification of Japan, reminding the readers of the struggle and hence to not repeat it again. Or, having experienced 200 years of peace since 1615, and following the adage that history is written by the victors, The Atlas of Eternal Peace, shows that the Tokugawa period is the period of eternal peace, bringing an end to years of warfare.

Cover page of the Bansei taihei zusetsu, by Hiyama Gishin.

The maps are printed by woodblock, and are bound in an accordion book form, which supports its proposed use, as it reads like a book, telling the history of Japan.  Each map has a title, place names (in squares), and names of the rulers in power, written on the image or in the surrounding areas. Each map is also preceded by a page of explanation, which could be useful if one is able to read Japanese.

Page preceding the Historical map of court nobles and samurai in 1184, 元暦元年公武沿革圖

As the maps detail the medieval period of Japan, each map is different from one another in terms of colour – which represents the power in that region, though there seems to be no direct link between a certain colour and a specific family or clan.

This blog entry aims to give some background context to a selection of maps within the series.

The first map is Genryaku gannen kōbu enkakuzu, 元暦元年公武沿革圖 (Historical map of court nobles and samurai in 1184).



 During this period of 1180 to 1185, was the Gempei war, in which the main powers were Minamoto Yoritomo and Taira Kiyomori. This war can be divided into three phases, during the first phase, Kiyomori defeated Prince Mochihito and his Minamoto supporter. However, Yoritomo, whom Taira had spared earlier on, began a campaign that would consolidate his power. The second phase is after the death of Kiyomori, when the war reached a standstill due to a severe famine affecting central and western Japan (Farris 2009, 108). During this point, there were three main powers, the Taira, 平 家 in red on the map, Minamoto Yoritomo 源 頼朝 (yellow), and a kinsmen of Minamoto, Minamoto Yoshinaka/ Kiso no Yoshinaka 源 義仲 (pink).  

In the middle of the map, there is a word 在京, which means within the capital, of which 源 行家(Minamoto Yukiie) and 源 義仲 (Minamoto Yoshinaka) are named. They were in control of the capital region, while the Taira were in the West and Yoritomo  in the Kanto region. There is also a little pink region within the red, they belong to two brothers of a branch of the  Ōga family, 緒方惟義 (Ogata Koreyoshi) and 臼杵惟隆 (Usuki koretaka), who were generals that aided the Taira during the Gempei war.

Finally, the third phase is when Minamoto Yoshinaka defeated Taira and Yoritsune under the orders of his brother, Yoritomo attacked and destroyed Yoshinaka, and Yoritomo became the Shogun. (Farris 2009, 108-9)

This is significant because Minamoto Yoritomo would establish the first Bakufu, the Kamakura Bakufu, which would lead to dual political system in Japan, throughout the medieval period.

The next map is Engen ninen ryōchō heiritsuzu, 延元二年兩朝並立圖 (Map of coexistence of the two courts in 1337)

The 1330s was a period of civil war, when Emperor Go-Daigo destroyed the Kamakura Bakufu, and Ashikaga Takauji established the Muromachi Bakufu.

Since the death of emperor Go-Saga in 1272, there was a long succession dispute that resulted in a pattern of alternating succession between the senior and junior lines. However, this ended with the Succession of Emperor Go-Daigo in 1318. He resented the Bakufu and  was determined not to abdicate early in favour of another emperor. With the approval of his father Go-Uda, one of the first steps he took was to abolish the practice of cloister government (Sansom 1965, 5). Though Go-Daigo would be in exile until 1333, his loyalist army under prince Morinaga and Kusunoki Masashige would expand their power base during this time. Nonetheless, it was Ashikaga Takauji, a general of the Bakufu, who turned against the Kamakura Bakufu, that allowed Go-Daigo to return to the capital without fear of capture (Sansom 1965, 16) and destroy the Kamakura Bakufu in 1333. Although Go-Daigo had returned to power, his government was so inept that Ashikaga took over the capital. Go-Daigo fled South and established the Southern Court, the remaining members of the imperial family in the capital, namely, those from the senior line, appointed Takauji as shogun (Mason 1997, 139).

War broke out between the Northern and Southern Dynasties from 1336 to 1394 (Farris 2009, 138) and this map indicates the division of power between the two courts during the war. The legend on the right in the map indicates that the areas in yellow belong to the Northern court while the ones in purple belong to the Southern court. The next map is a continuation of this map, and it shows that that by the end of the war, the Southern court would be defeated.


Jumping ahead to the tenth map is Tenshō jūyonen Toyotomi seienzu, 天正十四年豊臣征遠圖 (Map of Toyotomi expedition in 1586)

Oda Nobunaga was killed by his general Akechi Mitsuhide in 1582, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉), another general of Oda Nobunaga would complete the unification of Japan in 1590 (Mason 1997, 175-8). Toyotomi Hideyoshi is a very important figure in Japanese history as he unified Japan, which was a momentous task. After avenging Nobunaga’s death, he was in a very favourable position since no other general were in the same spot and there was no declared heir. Nobunaga’s land was divided among his generals, however, Hideyoshi retained Harima 播磨 and kept Yamashiro 山城, Kawachi 河内 and Tamba 丹波.

He would go on to take Kaga 加賀, Noto 能登, Etchu 越中, and Azuchi 安土 – in Ōmi Province (Sansom 1965, 313).

As the map is about his expedition in 1586, not all is under Hideyoshi’s control, However, most of the dark and light purple, belonged to Hideyoshi or his allies. In 1590, he would fight his last battle on Japanese soil, against the Hōjō at Odawara in Sagami 相模 (Mason 1997, 177) which is in the central green area of the map.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi is significant as he not only unified most of Japan, but also conducted a very thorough land survey (Sansom 1965, 318).

Finally, the last map is Genna gannen shikai ittō bandai chōkizu, 元和元年四海一統萬代肇基圖 (Map of the unity of the whole country in 1615)

After laying siege on Toyotomi Hideyori’s castle in 1615, and thus ending the house of Toyotomi (Sansom 1965, 398), the Tokugawa period began. However, Tokugawa Ieyasu had already became the shogun from 1603 to 1605.

This was because, when Hideyoshi died in 1598, his son and heir, Hideyori, was only five years old. Hence, before he died, he organised a council to support his heir until he came of age, which Ieyasu was a part of. However, Ieyasu broke his oath to Hideyoshi, and the battle of Sekigahara in 1600 was Ieyasu’s claim to power. After Sekigahara, Ieyasu started to develop a system of government that would command obedience throughout the country and establish his authority (Sansom 1965, 396). As a result, by 1603, Ieyasu’s influence was on the rise while Hideyori position weakened. Under pressure by Ieyasu, who by 1614, decided to end the line of Toyotomi, Hideyori started accepting offers of military aid by masterless samurais – rōnin. This became the immediate reason of the attack on Hideyori by Ieyasu. At the end of 1614, he led a force of 70,000 men to surround the castle, and laid siege in 1615. Hence fully controlling the entirety of Japan (Sansom 1965, 398).

Above the map of Japan is list the names of all the daimyos during this period, however, while Tokugawa Ieyasu’s name is not there, it is interesting to note that his original family name Matsudaira 松平, is listed. The Tokugawa period was a definitive time of Japan, and Tokugawa Ieyasu himself can be regarded as a self-made man, distinguishing himself in warfare and statecraft, known for his self-control and patience, and taking extreme care of his health thus allowing him to outlive his contemporaries to establish the Tokugawa group’s power (Mason 1997, 194).

In conclusion, the medieval period was characterised by power struggles, in which this book would be a helpful aid. Hiyama Gishin has also authored other atlases such as, the Honchō kokugun kenchi zusetsu,本朝國郡建置圖説 (Historical atlas of provinces and districts of our country) and Honchō kokugun kenchi Sankan enkaku zusetsu,本朝國郡建置三韓沿革圖説 (Historical atlas of provinces and districts of our country and Korea), both of which are in the UBC Tokugawa Maps Collection. These maps are also very interesting and worth checking out.



Farris, William Wayne. Japan to 1600: A Social and Economic History. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009.

Hiyama, Gishin. 4AD. Maps. Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era. Edo : Kitajima Chōshirō. doi:

Mass, Jeffrey P. “The Missing Minamoto in the Twelfth-Century Kanto.” Journal of Japanese Studies 19, no. 1 (1993): 121-45. doi:10.2307/132867.

Mason, R.H. P., and J. G. Caiger. A History of Japan. North Clarendon, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1997.

Sansom, George Bailey. A History of Japan 1334-1615. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1965.

“Chapter Eight Influential Retainers in the Ōtomo Household.” Pre-modern Japanese Resource Page. Accessed April 16, 2018. Sorin/Chapter Eight.html.                                                                                                         (for information on Ogata Koreyoshi and Usuki koretaka)