Edo Jo and Japanese Castle


The Japanese Castles

    The Japanese idea of Castles may not what we thought about castles( an individual building), they are actually whole compounds centered by the large multistory towers. It’s more like the idea of the palace. The Japanese castles were started in earlier centuries and made from wooden stockades. However, they were best known in the 16th century and made from wood and stone. This made the Japanese castles much stronger. There were two purposes of the Japanese castle, one is to defense the attacks, the other one is to display the wealth and power of lord. There were many key elements of the Japanese castles such as castle wall, bridges, gates, moats and castle towers. In addition, due to the defensive purpose, the minings, countermining and catapult bombardments were common to see in the Japanese castles. 

    There are totally three types of Japanese castles. The first one is mountaintop castles, it was called “Yamajiro” in Japanese. In the earlier century, the castles were mostly built on the top of mountains. One of the most significant reasons of this is the fortifications were not really advanced at that time. This made the terrain advantage extremely important to a castle. The mountaintop was easy to hold but hard to attack. Moreover, this type of castle not only provided a magnificent view but also shows the supremacy of lord.  The last but not least, the mountaintop castles are more easily to survive during the earthquakes.The Gifu castle and Iwakuni castle are excellent examples of the mountaintop castles. The two pictures below show the Gifu castle.

Figure 1: Gifu castle. Source:


kinkazan1.jpgFigure 2: view from Gifu castle. Source:

     The second type of Japanese castle is hill castles. They are also called hirayamajiro in Japanese. This type of castles was tended to build one the low mountain or big hill. It was started in the Sengoku period. This makes the location of castle more convenient. However, compare to the mountaintop castle, hill castle lack on view and more vulnerable to the earthquakes. As a result, the moats and walls around the castle were added during this time. In addition, for enhancing the defensive capability of the castle, there were more fortifications surround the castle.  One example of Japanese castle is Himeji castle. The picture below is Himeji castle.

Figure 3:Himeji castle. Source:

    The last type of castle is flatland castles. They are called hirajilo in Japanese. This type of castles started in the end Sengoku period and it was popular in Edo period. Since this type of castles was built in the flat area and it had no nature defense. As a result, it was always built really big.  However, this type of castles tended to bother by floods. The Edo castle is one of the flatland castles. There are many other flat castles such as Osaka castle and Nagoya castle. 

osaka-castle-2.jpgFigure 4: Osaka castle. Source:
JapanNagoyaCastle.jpgFigur 5: Nagoya castle. Source:

The Edo Jo

Edo_Castle.jpgFigure 6: Edo-Jo. Source:

 The Edo Jo is also called Chiyoda castle. As we said, it is a flatland castle. It was built by Ota Dokan in 1457. It “was one of the grandest and most elaborate castles in Japan.” I was well known for the ruggedness of the gates. 


1457 The Ota clan constructed a castle here.
1524 The Hōjō clan seized control of the castle from the Uesugi clan.
1590 Tokugawa Ieyasu became lord of the castle.
1592 The Nishinomaru enclosure was completed.
1606 The Honmaru, Ninomaru, Sannomaru and the outer enclosures were completed.
1607 The main tower & the Kitanomaru enclosure were completed.
1611 The Nishinomaru enclosure was extended.
1623 The main tower was rebuilt.
1624 The Nishinomaru Palace was renovated. It burnt to the ground 10 years later.
1629 Expansion of the castle commenced. It was completed 7 years later.
1639 The Honmaru Palace burnt down. It was rebuilt the following year.
1657 The main tower & the buildings of several enclosures burnt down.
1659 The Honmaru Palace & the Fujimi Turret were reconstructed.
1747 The Ninomaru Palace burnt down. It had been rebuilt just six years prior.
1838 The Nishinomaru Palace burnt down. It was rebuilt the following year.
1844 The Honmaru Palace burnt down. It was rebuilt the following year.
1852 The Nishinomaru Palace burnt down. It was then rebuilt.
1859 The Honmaru Palace burnt down. It was rebuilt the following year.
1863 The Nishinomaru & the Honmaru Palaces burnt down. The Nishinomaru Palace was rebuilt the following year.
1867 The Ninomaru Palace burnt down.
1923 The Fujimi Turret collapsed in an earthquake.
1945 The Ote Gate burnt down in WWII bombing.
1967 The Ote Gate was reconstructed.


cdm.tokugawa.1-0223022.0000full.jpgFigure 7: Tokugawa map of Edo Jo.Source:

Background of the map

    Figure 7 is the map I chose. It was created in 1854. It is a bird-eye-view map. Moreover, the colors of it are dusky. However, Some special places were used in bright colors. For example, the painter used red color to illustrate the gates and bridges. The blue color is used to illustrate moats. In addition, the yellow color is used to present the rooms. The four directions were given. Moreover, the map was drawn very detailedly. It not only contains the name of each room but also the true area. All of this information written into the Chinese characters.  The map wasn’t just planimetric map, it also illustrated the stone base of the building and windows for archers on the wall. 

View of Edo folding screen

a86a02eaa603b6e2e8df4ea6925da7a3.jpgFigure8:”View of Edo” (Edo zu) pair of six-panel folding screens (17th century)

    The screen is made by the 17th century. It combines by the left screen and right screen, each screen has 6 pieces, so totally there are 12 pieces. Each screen is 162.5 x 366.0 cm. The screen describes the Korean envoys came to the castle. It not only vivid in artistic expression but also has the historical value. It is treasuring up in the National museum of Japanese history and only displayed four weeks of a year (from later mid-April to mid-May) 


The Gates of Edo Jo

    The gates are the most important element of Edo Jo. As we see, It was illustrated by marked red in the Tokugawa maps of Edo Jo. The gates were not only the protection of castle but also seen as the symbols of power and authority. The size, materials, and design of a gate showed the power of lord. The gates of Edo Jo were basically made of wood. Since the castle was surrounded by the walls and moats, the gates were the breakthrough points during the war. As a result, the gates were used to be destroyed. Moreover, the gates tended to be preserved by soldiers. For example, the main gates such as Ote, tended to have 120 soldiers and sub-gates tended to have 30-70 soldiers.  If you interested in the gates of Edo Jo, there is an amazing album of Painting called”pictures of the 36 gates of the shogun’s castle in Yedo”


    This is the cover of “pictures of the 36 gates of the shogun’s castle in Yedo”. The words Yedo is the same as Edo. The album is published at the end of 19th century. Each painting of gate accomplished by the historical description.

19994962.jpeg Figure 10:$50i

19994963 (1).jpeg


     According to the description of album, This is “OTE-GOMON (THE MAIN CASTLE-GATE.) When the Shogun passed the gate, all the people were to be sent away (they being not allowed to take sight of the Shogun), except the Daimyo, who was the master of the guards, his Karo (1st class steward), and Rusui (a Daimyo s deputy keeping a castle or mansion).” (Bachmann ,2014)



    “The gate was called Hokuto-Kwaku (lit. : polar-star gate). The place outside the gate facing toward Hitotsugi was called Fujimi-Kwaku (probably from its having the view of the Mount Fuji)” (Bachmann, 2014)


“Since the disastrous fire, of 1806, which, however, did not destroy the gate or its bridge, the site of the residence of Matsudaira Noto-no-kami was made an open space for protection against fire.” (Bachmann)


    Hormaru means the central circle in Japanese, so it is the most inner and honorable place in the Castle. It contains the main tower and the residence of the lord. As we can see, in the “view of Edo” folding screen, the roofs and walls were inlaid by golden to show the honorable of the shogun



Donjon is the central tower. It is an 11-meter-multistory tower. It was destroyed during Meireki fire in 1657. Moreover, it isn’t restructured. As a result, there is almost nothing left now. The two pictures below shows the Donjon before Meireki fire and after it.

044.jpgFigure 15: the undamaged Donjon. 


Figure 16: the fire of Meireki 



Figure 16: Donjon today.


Edo Jo today

Today, Edo Jo is part of the Tokyo Imperial palace.  Part of it can be visited by travelers, and it is free.


“Edo castle”的图片搜索结果Figure 17:Edo castle today



last post: 10th April 2017




  1. Turnbull, Stephen R., and Peter Dennis. Japanese castles, 1540-1640. Oxford: Osprey Pub.,     2008. Print.
  2. “Japanese Castles.” Japanese Castles. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017. Castles
  3. “Edo Japan: A Virtual Tour — Edo-jo.” Edo Japan: A Virtual Tour — Edo-jo. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
  4. O’Grady, Daniel. “Japanese Castle Explorer.” Japanese Castle Explorer – Edo Castle – 江戸城. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
  5. “THE SHELF.” THE SHELF RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 10. Apr.

Shikoku Pilgrimage


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[1] 四国遍路情報サイト. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[2] 四国八十八ヶ所霊場会:四国八十八ヶ所霊場会公式ホームページ. (n.d.). Retrieved  April 10, 2017, from

[3] Hur, N (2017). Lecture on The Shikoku Pilgrimage: Its History, Culture and Traditions, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

[4] Nosco, P (2016). Lecture on Shingon Buddhism, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

[5] Shikoku Temple Pilgrimage. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2017, from

Bankoku Sōzu: Foreign Influence within an Isolated Society

Bankoku Sōzu

Click here to view these images in the UBC maps collection.

What is Bankoku Sōzu?

Bankoku Sōzu (complete maps of the people of the world) is the oldest Japanese map of the Tokugawa era collection. One side of this map depicts a colourful world map indicating different countries and continents. The other side of the map displays diverse ethnicities from around the world and labeled with their names and small explanations. The map triggers a viewer’s curiosity since it does not only include the real countries such as Portugal or Netherland but also the imaginary places like Dwarves and Giants. This double-sided map is one of the most significant Japanese historical texts as it exemplifies a cartographic influence of European countries and China and represents how Japanese has interacted with foreign nations around 17th centuries.


Our Question?

Japan was isolative when it comes to the politics and geographical sense around this period. By looking at this map, it is quite interesting to think how the Japanese people could have had known so much about outside of their island and started taking an interest in the other countries. For these reasons, in this post, we will analyze how the foreign nations have influenced the cartography in Japan and contributed to the creation of Bankoku Sōzu.


Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542 – 1616). Statesman and the founder of the Tokugawa dynasty of shoguns. Source:

Historical Background of Tokugawa Era?

Before we jump into the deeper look of the international relations in Japan, I would like to first introduce the characteristics of the Tokugawa era. Tokugawa era is also known as Edo period between 1600s – late 1800s in the history of Japan. Around this period, Japan was under the rule of Tokugawa shogunate and regional daimyos. The society has a very isolative foreign policy which was an inherited perspective from the predecessor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was suspicious about foreign cultures (Lu, 191). In particular, when Portuguese introduced the Christianity to the Japanese, the government were not willing to accept this exotic concept. Since the main idea of the Christianity was equality, it might disintegrate the social system and the government. However, based on the historical record, there actually was a rebellion against the oppression by the feudal lords in Shimabara around 1630s (Joseph, 1979). For this reason, as the government wanted to prevent their society from any potential disintegration, Portuguese and other Christian activities have started to be perceived as threats to the establishment of loyalty to Tokugawa clan. These have led to the persecutions against any Portuguese missionaries and the government has further initiated isolative policies against any foreign contacts including heavy taxations on the trading In particular, based on Arano’s research, “[the Dutch] was charged rent for their lodgings in their designated compounds and were required to pay a variety of taxes and other charges on incoming and outgoing cargo” as well (2013).


The Illustration of Dutch Man and Woman in Bankoku Sōzu


Selective Foreign (Dutch) Policies

Within these multiple restrictions, how the Japanese people have gained such extensive knowledge on the outside world? The answer could be found in the Japanese government’s selective interactions. In particular, foreigners were only allowed to stay in Nagasaki area under the inspection of local government. For instance, the government has created an artificial island named Dejima in order to accept the Portuguese missionaries. According to Marius, after the uprising in Shimabara, this artificial island was inherited only by the Dutch (2002).

Dutch personnel and Japanese women watching an incoming towed Dutch sailing ship at Dejima by Kawahara Keiga. Source: MIT Visualizing Cultures.

Although the artists of this map are unknown, considering that it was made in Nagasaki, it is possible to understand that this oldest map of Tokugawa era was created based on the knowledge of Europeans (especially Dutch) who have traveled around the world. Furthermore, Japan has frequently had a contact with them by sending their government officers and started learning about practical knowledge. They have further sent the scholars called “Rangakusha” to them and translated the Dutch scholarly books in the area of medicine, mathematics and physics (Cryns, 2005). Since Dutch has mainly aimed for gaining financial benefit throughout the trade, they were able to attain a differentiated treatment contrary to Portuguese. This has led for Dutch to maintain a continuous and exclusive relationship with this isolated Japanese government. As a result, this outstanding Western knowledge has contributed to the development of Japanese culture and further influenced the views of Japan towards the global nations.


The Illustration of Man and Woman in Ming Dynasty in Bankoku Sōzu

Chinese Influence

With this diverse access to the new geographical sources and subject introduced by these European traders, the Japanese people have tended to address these exotic concepts with a combination of art pieces. China, in this case, has shown the pathways to display these arts with their pictorial ideas. In particular, Matteo Ricci, who was born in Italy and sent to Beijing as Jesuit priest, has contributed the most when it comes to the development of cartography in Japanese history. Based on the historical context, “Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary working in China, may have had an influence in shaping Edo period mapping and an emerging Japanese world view in ways that he and no one else at that time could have imagined” (Loh, 178). One of his most representative maps, “A Map of Myriad Countries of the World” is visually associated with the making of Bankoku Sōzu. For instance, the shapes and the arrangements of some continents depicted in this map resembles Bankoku Sōzu’s.

Matteo Ricci, the first missionary welcomed into Beijing. Source:

Around this period, the Chinese dynasties have been obsessed with the idea of “Sino-centralism” and this has further created their world-view. The Chinese people have considered themselves as the centre of the world and the others as just the countryside of their continent. This perspective has further influenced their art piece including the maps.

Kangnido (Gangnido). Source:Dschingis Khan und seine Erben (exhibition catalogue), München 2005, p. 336/7

From the historical context, Chosun dynasty has maintained a tributary system to Chinese kingdoms and frequently interacted with them when it comes to the cultural norms. Corresponding to this theory, Chosun has created a map called “Gangnido” that the Chinese continent is located at the centre of the map. According to Bae, since Sinocentrism was the primary principle that regulated the daily lives of [Chosun] people, they viewed the world through the prism of Sinocentrism” (73).  However, Matteo Ricci had ambitions that he could use the map to impress the Chinese and convince them of the superiority of Western civilization and their glorious Christian culture (Loh, 2013). His eagerness to change this idea of Sinocentrism could be identified in this map (A Map of Myriad Countries of the World) as he did not care the location of the Chinese continent in the map.

Kunyu Wanguo Quantu, or Map of the Ten Thousand Countries of the Earth. Created by Matteo Ricci in 1602. Source:

Bankoku Sōzu is one of the most significant examples which have been influenced by the Chinese and Matteo Ricci’s cartographic style. In particular, both of Matteo Ricci’s map and Bankoku Sōzu use same characters “萬國” which means ten thousands countries and also stands for all of the countries in the world. Furthermore, the alignment and placement of the lands and oceans are parallel. These similarities represent that the Japanese and Chinese cartographic style have shared same world-view in a making of the map. As a result, we are able to identify that the Western concepts of the geography was influential to the Japanese cartography after the maps created by Matteo Ricci were introduced.


Although the Dutch was the only country allowed to stay in Japan as and do business as a Western civilization, the Japanese has not underestimated the presence of other foreign nations. By including all the nations that they have known and been informed through the knowledge from outside of the island into the art piece, Japan has started notifying the power of Western civilization and planning to learn it as well. As the early part of the post has mentioned that the Japanese government has stood a quite defensive and isolated position towards the other foreign countries during Edo period, they have initiated some restrictions on the interactions such as imposing a heavy tax or creating a high barrier to trade. However, when we carefully look at the maps of Tokugawa collection, we could find out many of their cultural aspects have been influenced by the foreign ideas. In order to not fall behind the other nations when it comes to the knowledge and cultures, they have tried their best to accommodate the others by protecting their sovereignty from any potential threats. Consequently, if we go back to the main question of this post that how come the Japanese people were able to achieve this Western knowledge and create this map called Bankoku Sozu when they were having an isolative stance against the other exotic nations, the answer could be the Dutch and Chinese influence in terms of the foreign knowledge and cartography.



Works Cited

Arano, Yasunori. “Foreign Relations in Early Modern Japan: Exploding the Myth of National Seclusion.” October 28, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2018.

Bae, Sung Woo. “Joseon Maps and East Asia.” Korea Journal 48, no. 1 (April 01, 2008).

Cryns, Frederik. “Translation of Western Embryological Thought in the Edo Period: Tsuboi Shindō and Malpighi’s Observations of Fertilized Eggs.” Japan Review, no. 17 (2005): 55-89.

Jansen, Marius B.. Making of Modern Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002. Accessed April 23, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.

SEBES, Joseph. “Christian Influences on the Shimabara Rebellion 1637-1638.” Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu 48, (1979): 136.

Loh, Joseph F. “When Worlds Collide—Art, Cartography, and Japanese Nanban World Map Screens.” Order No. 3548112, Columbia University, 2013.

Lu, David J. Japan: A Documentary History: V. 1: The Dawn of History to the Late Eighteenth Century. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 1996. 191

[Unknown]. 2018. M. Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era. [Nagasaki? : publisher not identified]. Accessed April 18. doi:



Sekai Bankoku Nihon Yori Kaijō Risū Ōjō Jinbutsuzu: 世界萬國日本ヨリ海上里數王城人物圖



The Tokugawa era is famous throughout the world as being the end of the warring states period and the development of a unified Japan. With the end of constant warfare, art and culture flourished leaving us today with a treasure trove of art and information. With the widespread use of the developing print industry, maps, art, literature, etc. were widely distributed and access to these became more readily available to commoners as well as the wealthier classes. Despite not actually being closed off from the rest of the world due to the Sakoku policies, Japan developed in its own unique way, which we can see by examining both the art and literature created during the time.

The main purpose of this project is to provide descriptions and translations of Tokugawa Era maps in order to make them more accessible to the general public. By making them more accessible we hope to educate people on how people in the past visualized the world around them, specifically from a Japanese point of view. In UBC’s Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era Collection, located both online and in the Rare Books and Special Collections department of the Irving K. Barber library, there is a specific map called Sekai Bankoku Nihon Yori Kaijō Risū Ōjō Jinbutsuzu. This posting will attempt to describe the previously mentioned map in comparison to other maps and how some descriptions bring about conflicts with modern generalizations.


Brief Background Information:

Sekai Bankoku Nihon yori Kaijō Risū ōjō Jinbutsu Zu is a map of all the countries of the world and pictures of the peoples, showing the capitals and their distances from Japan. The map was a woodblock print created by Eijudo, in Nagasaki during the 1850s, late Edo period; which is around the time that Commodore Perry’s ships came to Japan, as the later 1870s adaptation of this map features Perry’s black ships sailing to Japan from North America. The artists and/or cartographers who worked on this map is not known and very little is known about Eijudo. However, according to Professor Kazutaka Unno, the leading authority of Japanese maps in 1985, this map is loosely based on Mateo Ricci’s map of the world.


Map Characteristics:

At first glance the map is filled with distortions when compared to maps like the Bankoku Sōzu or modern ones. One such distortion is that of Japan, which is featured in the center of the map and is seemingly the same size as Europe. This focus on Japan as the center is similar to and could also be a reaction to the Japanese idea that Qing China had become stagnant and no longer the center of the world, while at the same time providing evidence of the emergence of early Japanese nationalistic ideologies. Other than this we see the area labeled as Asia being longer than it is wide and located in a more northeastern direction to Europe, which itself is distorted vertically. Next we can see that Africa, the second largest continent, is shown to be slightly larger in mass than Europe and smaller than North America, which has a similar mass to that of Eurasia.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 15.40.40

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 15.41.01

Australia does not appear as its own isolated landmass within this map; however, the way that Antarctica is distorted to the point where it almost reaches the Equator is possibly due to Australia being depicted as an extension of the Antarctic continent. Although today we view the North Pole as a solid landmass, it is made up of constantly shifting ice, which in this map possibly led it to be depicted as a cluster of smaller islands.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 15.43.46

Along with these distortions to the continents, the colours used seem to hold some sort of meaning. One possibility behind their usage in this way is to signify different forms of otherness that the Japanese population had knowledge of during this time; seemingly separating countries by what we would consider “ethnicities”. However, due to the lack of specific knowledge on the artist’s intentions and the variations in colour usage in other prints of the same map, it is difficult to say exactly why the colours were used in this way on this particular map.


On this map we can see that Africa is shaded in a dark teal, while with Europe the colour tan is used, and in Asia pink. Looking at Japan we see that there is a mixture of colours being used: tan with pink borders. This mixture of colours could represent the notion that although the Japanese relate to the countries labeled as “Asia”, they see themselves as a separate entity. Moving east we see that both North and South America are shown in blue. When looking at the depictions of North and South Americans, we can see that they are depicted very similarly, which could represent that, although there is knowledge on the two being separate, their type of otherness is seen as being the same.

Looking at the southern and northern hemispheres we see that the lack of colour being used to fill in the country is used to represent the colder climates. For example Antarctica does have pink and tan coloured borders, but it is still white; and also when looking at the portion of “Asia” that is depicted as being north of the Arctic Circle is white with a pink border, to show that it is still considered part of Asia. The North Pole is shaded in black and is labeled as夜人国, which translates to country of the night people. This is shown throughout various different maps and depicts the fact that the Japanese had knowledge that the Arctic Circle is a place were there are large periods of perpetual darkness.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 15.54.57


Writing characteristics:

When it comes to the written elements of this map it is important to keep in mind that the Japanese used in the 19th century was different than that used today. Classical Japanese although similar to modern Japanese, has a different set of character readings, grammatical structures, vocabulary, etc.; therefore we see in this map that the writing is a combination of kanji, Chinese characters, and katakana, phonetic alphabet, in the classical Japanese context. Because of this we see, for example, リウキウ, literally spelled in roman letters as ri-u-ki-u, but pronounced as ryu-kyu.

Something else that stands out about the writing is that no matter the direction it is written in, the writing is read left to right. For example the title of this map,世界萬國日本ヨリ海上里數王城人物圖 , is written as: 圖物人城王數里上 海リヨ本日國萬界世 on the map its self.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 13.38.58

Within each of the countries the Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 00.47.59 symbol is used to denote the names of each country’s major city while boxes are used for the continents. Countries and oceans, however, do not have any specific symbol denoting them.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 16.05.29

Distances between countries and japan are noted in several locations. Above the title on the left hand side is a yellow box, which serves as the primary location for distance notation. For North and South America they are written in between the two horizontally. Also next to the depictions of the different nations, both the name of the people and their countries distance from Japan are noted.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 16.08.07


Depictions of People: 

Within this world map there is the depiction of 12 nationalities, from which eight are existing countries and four are fictional. These depictions were also made to show the natural and cultural differences based on human characteristics such as skin colour, build, etc., which are based on the Jinbutsuzu, the accompaniment to the Bankoku Sozu, and show the artists’ opinions of that country’s distinguishing characteristics. Such depictions of people on maps are a unique characteristic of Edo Era maps as it is rare to see such depictions on maps from before or after. The existing countries include China, Korea, India, Vietnam, Tatar, South America, North America, and Holland; while the fictional ones are: Land of Giants, Land of Dwarfs, Land of Cyclops, Land of Women.

The nationalities displayed also follow the nation hierarchy established in Nishikawa’s Ka’I tsusho ko: China à Gaikoku à Gai’i à Holland’s trade partners à Others. We see this with the group of nationalities illustrated above the map’s title where India, Korea, Vietnam, and China are depicted. In the Japanese hierarchy of countries first in the list is China, followed by the Gaikoku category, which consists of countries, like Korea and Vietnam that are not part of China but are within its sphere of influence.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 23.18.29

After these two categories we have gai’i, which are both outside of the Chinese imperial system and trading partners with china, the main example being countries like Holland followed then by Holland’s trading partners.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 23.25.31

At the end of this gai’i category there are another thirty-six countries, which include the fictional countries, such as the Land of Giants. We see this hierarchy shown as the countries that fall under the gai’i category are spread out around the map, unlike China and those in the gaikoku category.

 Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 23.22.47



The Sekai Bankoku Nihon yori Kaijō Risū ōjō Jinbutsu Zu is a map created in the late Edo period, which depicts the world and people within it in such a way that it expresses the artist’s opinions and knowledge of the larger world. The world map has various distortions, shown through colour and country size, which could be representative of popular beliefs or ideologies within Japan at the time. The writing on this map is in Classical Japanese, written right to left and in a kanji-katakana combination, which is used to provide labels, descriptions, and distance information that the artist is trying to convey. Illustrations found around the map are provided in a hierarchal order to give a face to the “heard but not seen” people in foreign countries. Because of the artistic liberties taken with this map it is very likely that it was treated as something to be put on display or as an occasional reference, rather than for travel purposes.




Eijudō. “Sekai bankoku Nihon yori kaijō risū ōjō jinbutsu zu, 1850” University of British Columbia Library – Rare Books and Special Collections: Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era.

Gonnami, Tsuneharu. “Images of Foreigners in Edo Period Maps and Prints.” Open Collections UBC, Journal of East Asian Libraries, 1998,

Unknown. “Early Japanese Maps of the Word.” MYOLDMAPS,

Unknown. “Bankoku sōzu, 1600” University of British Columbia Library – Rare Books and Special Collections: Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era.

Yonemoto, Marcia. “Mapping Early Modern Japan: Space, Place, and Culture in the Tokugawa Period, 1603-1868.” University of California Press, 2003.


Heitengi (平天儀)

Heitengi is an astronomical volvelle, which is consisted of five parts; four of which are rotatable. By rotating the discs, you are able to figure out things like the paths of the sun, the moon, stars and the ebb and flow of the tide. The right page provides a general explanation of each components of the volvelle in Kanji and Katakana.

It was created in 1801(Kyowa 1st) by a Japanese telescope manufacturer, Iwahashi Zenbē (referred as Iwahashi Yoshitaka in the Tokugawa map collection).

According to Christie’s, one of Heitengi was priced at US$10,625, albeit our version at UBC seems slightly different.

Who was Iwahashi Zenbē(岩橋善兵衛)?

Iwahashi Zenbē(1756-1811) was born in today’s Osaka as a son of a fish dealer family. As mentioned above, he was a very famous telescope manufacturer in the late Edo period. His telescopes were quite well made (considered to be one of the best at that time) and they were used by many astronomers of the time. It even contributed greatly to the surveying project of Inō Tadataka who was working on the first map of Japan by using modern surveying techniques.  It is not certain how he was able to produce such good quality lens, however, reseachers speculate that he self studied through examining the Dutch telescopes. His telescope manufacturing business was succeeded to his family for five generations.

Heitengi Zukai(平天儀図解)

Heitengi Zukai was published the following year in 1802, as a supplementary book to Heitengi. This book gives the instruction of Heitengi in detail. It was also like a beginner’s guide to astronomy. It contained his view of the universe along with many illustrations.

Cover page of Heitengi Zukai
Pg.66-67 from Heitengi Zukai

First layer: 第一紙

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 0.32.18It is the smallest component of the volvelle and it shows the northern hemisphere from above(the north pole being the centre).

Japan and Africa are coloured in green. China, North America and Arabian Peninsula are in pink. The rest of the Asia and South America are in red. Korea and Europe are in yellow. However, it is interesting that Netherlands is purposely coloured in red.

Second Layer: 第二紙Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 1.03.17

It is described as 月ノ天 in the explanation on the right page. In the window, it indicates the phase of the moon. When it is almost completely black as in the picture on the left, it means that that the moon is waning crescent.

The pale blue part shows the ebb and flows of the tide. 満(man) is when the tide is at the highest. 干(kan) is when the tide is at the lowest.

Third layer: 第三紙 Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 1.04.18

It is named as 日ノ天 in the explanation on the right page. The inner circle(white) indicates the date in lunisolar calendar≒月齢(getsurei) + 1

The window of the outer circle(yellow) reveals 二十四節気 or a solar term in English. By rotating this disc, you are able to find the month of lunisolar calendar.

It also tells which constellations(depicted in the fourth layer) the sun is close to.

Fourth layer: 第四紙 Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 1.41.47

It is named as 二十八宿ノ天 in the explanation on the right page. 二十八宿 or twenty eight mansions in English is a Chinese constellations system. They are depicted in both Kanji and the actual drawing of the constellations.

The inner part of the circle is divided into a little over 360 scales. (I am not sure whether this signifies 360 degrees or 365 days.)

Fifth layer: 第五紙Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 1.42.33

This is the larget but the only circle that is not rotatable and it shows time and directions using the Chinese zodiac.

The top half of the circle is white, which signifies daytime. The bottom half of the circle is black, which signifies nighttime.

午 on the very top is horse, meaning south and 11:00am to 1:00pm.

子 on the very bottom is rat, meaning north and 11:00pm to 1:00am.


Let’s Use Heitengi!


I have created a video, which explains how to use Heitengi.

Click here to watch the video!



Date, Eitaro, ” lwahasi-Zenbei’s telescopes of 140 years ago 百四十年前岩橋善兵衛氏の作りし望遠鏡 (幕末天文学史特輯)” vol. 13 no. 142 (1933): 53-56. accessed April 22, 2018.

Kobayashi, Eisuke. “岩橋善兵衛” 江戸時代の天文学【10】vol. 21 no. 1 (2009): 20-24. accessed April 22, 2018.

“JAPANESE ASTRONOMY — Heitengi (Astronomical Volvelle). Izumi province?, southern Osaka: Iwahashi Kobodo, Jokyo 1 [1801].” Christie’s. Accessed April 22, 2018.

juntag00. “平天儀 演義.wmv”. Youtube video, 7:18. Posted [July 2010].


Edo no zu

The Edo no zu, also called as the Map of Edo which was created by Kōzaburō Kikuya in 1864 (Kikuya, 1864). In this map, it recorded the directions of the roads, castles, temples, and the shape of the moat or ocean found during the Edo period. On the map, one of the castles set in the center was indicated by two sets of kanji: “Oshiro” (castle 御城) and “nishinomaru”(西御丸). The Edo period, also called as the Tokugawa period and the pre-modern Japan. It had a long history and played an important historical role in Japan. It was created by Tokugawa Ieyasu. He moved in to the Edo castle. Also, he was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, which effectively ruled Japan from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. When he unified Japan, he created the government of Bakufu.

Under the rule of the Tokugawa shougunate, Edo grew and expanded into a major city. For this reason, Edo’s development was stable. This leads the society and the population grew rapidly. This also influenced the city planning feature in the Edo period. After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Edo was chosen to be the new capital of Japan and was renamed as Tokyo. This paper will discuss the unique features which were from the Edo no zu, includes the shape of moat, the housing planning/ city planning and the mons, to name a few, which were showing in the map.

First, the shape of the moat was one of the unique characteristic in the Edo no zu. In this map, it used the light blue color to tell the readers about the location of the ocean and the moat. Also, it spreads all over the city. Upon close inspection of the map, it is clear that the moats extend outward from the center of the map where the Edo castle is located. It spread out in a spiral form and in clockwise. “The daimyo’s castle was the most important feature, and was generally well fortified and surrounded by a moat (Sorensen, 2002, p.22).” During city planning and “urbanization,” the government uses moats and rivers as the markers or landmarks to separate different districts within the castle towns. However, the shape of moat which was in spiral form to extend outward from the center of the Edo castle, it did not influence the city development.

The other unique feature was the city planning, or housing planning. In Edo no zu, the Edo castle which was the most prominent in the map. it was centered in the map, so we can see the Edo castle very easy. In addition, we can see the Edo no zu’s housing density was unevenly distributed. Because of the Edo castle was centered, so the density was the lowest. Then the density was starting to increase from the Edo castle. Therefore, the housing density which was near the Edo castle was the highest. We can see the center of city in Edo which was near the Edo castle or the area of east that was having the high density. That means the population kept increasing, when the Edo’s development was very stable, so we can see those houses were not very big, and they made the spaces very tight. In addition, the right side (northeast & northwest) of the map which was focusing on the agriculture. That can see the government of Bakufu wanted to develop the agriculture.

The final unique feature of the map was about many small symbols which were marked by red dots. These red symbols were mon, or known as the clan symbols. They are also called kamon (family crest 家紋). They had different shapes and designs. Most of the symbols were focus in the center of the city, which shows the distributions of clan in the city.

“Kamon refers to a crest used in Japan to indicate one’s origins; that is, one’s family lineage, blood line, ancestry and status from ancient times (Kamon Symbols of Japan).” Japan has more than 20000 distinct individual Kamon. Kamon is a unique culture and tradition in Japan. A kamon was created to serve as a unique emblem that represented a family’s identity. Everyone should know about the sengoku period. In that period, all shoguns were having their own family crest, because the family crests can represent their family identity, such as Oda nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Those three shoguns who unified Japan. However, during the peaceful, tranquil, rather uneventful, Edo period, there were few hard battles fought among samurai so, the former practical role of Kamon, such as; distinguishing friend from foe in battle, had changed to be a kind of symbol of authority (Kamon Symbols of Japan). In Edo period, Kamon was used to show others the social status of the family and determine the social status and descent of others.

However, one of the kamon in the Edo period one must know, that was Tokugawa clan’s family crest, also called Matsudaira clan mon. The crest’s calls ‘mitsubaaoi’. This clan was a Japanese samurai clan. When the main Matsudaira line experienced a meteoric rise to success during the direction of Matsudaira Motoyasu, he changed his name to Tokugawa Ieyasu and became the first Tokugawa shogun. Then he formed the Tokugawa clan. However, the branches retained the Matsudaira’s name. Some of them were in daimyo status.

In addition, we can see many different clan’s crests or daimyo’s crests in the Edo no zu, such as Takeda clan, Imakawa clan, Matsudaira clan, Katakura clan and so on. Also we can see the government of Bakufu which was using the family crests to classify the social level. According to the Edo-Tokyo Transition: in Search of Common Ground (Smith, 2014), it says that the social hierarchy was very important for the citizen who were living in Edo. The daimyos could say that they were in the elite class and they also had a higher social level. In order to classify the daimyo class, the map had already marked the houses which belonged to Daimyos in red dots. From the map, theses dots show that the houses of daimyos are rather big in size. Their housing density were low. Most of the daimyos lived near the castle, because that could be more convenient for their works, and they could go to the Edo castle to meet Shogun easily. In contrast, the other lower classes citizens did not have too much power, so they had to live far away from the Edo castle. Therefore, we can understand the Edo castle, which symbolizes the highest power and highest social hierarchy, was located at the center of the city and holds the most prominent position on the map.

In 1868, the Meiji Restoration took over the Edo, so the Edo Bakufu had finished its 264 years’ domination. ”As a center for concentration of human activities, convenient accessibility to other areas was one of the most significant factors in selecting the site of a city and to allow the possibility of future expansion into a large urban settlement (Ichikawa, 1994, p. 193).” Since then, Edo is renamed as Tokyo, and it keeps developing to be a popular city till today.


Kikuya, Kōzaburō. (1864). Edo no zu. University of British Columbia Library. Retrieved from

Ichikawa, H. (1994). The evolutionary process of urban form in Edo/Tokyo to 1900. The Town Planning Review, 65(2), 179-196.

Sorensen, A. (2002). The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Routledge. Accessed from

Smith, H. D. (2014). The Edo-Tokyo transition: In search of common ground. In M. B. Jansen & G. Rozman (Eds.), Japan in Transition: From Tokugawa to Meiji (pp. 347-374). Princeton: Princeton University Press. Accessed from

Kamon Symbols of Japan, Brief Overview of Japanese family Crest “Kamon”, Encyclopedia Japan.


The Atlas of Eternal Peace: Bansei Taihei Zusetsu(萬世泰平圖説)

Bansei Taihei Zusetsu (萬世泰平圖説) is a book of maps that shows the changes in political power between 1184 CE to 1615 CE. It was compiled by Shiyama Gishinand in the fourth month of 1815 CE. It focuses on the Warring States Period; over half of the maps contained in the book are used to describe how this period began and led up to the reunification of the country. This post provides some basic knowledge of how the Warring States Period began and of the three individuals who lead during this period as based on the maps contained within Bansei Taihei Zusetsu.

Cover page of Bansei Taihei Zusetsu

Ōnin War (応仁の乱)

During the time of Ashikaga Yoshimasha, the eighth shogun of the Muromachi period, two deputies, Hosokawa Katsumoto (細川 勝元, 1430-1473) and Yamana Sōzen (山名 宗全,1404-1473), fought against one another to become the heir of the shogunate. Hosokawa supported Yoshimasha’s brother, Ashikaga Yoshimi(1439-1491), and Yamana supported the child of Yoshimasha. In 1467 CE, a war began in Kyoto, which led to a split between the powerful daimyōs. It quickly spread beyond the province and became known as the Ōnin War. This marked the beginning of the Warring States Period.

應仁元年東西干戈圖 (Map of battles between eastern and western powers in 1467 CE)

The map, Ōnin Gannen Tōzai Kankazu (Map of battles between eastern and western powers in 1467 CE), highlights the number of daimyōs from different local regions that joined this war.

Most of Hosokawa’s supporters came from Shikoku and the eastern side, shown in purple on the map. Yamana’s supporters came from the west and are shown in yellow on the map. This led to their respective armies being called the Eastern Army and the Western Army.

This war lasted for eleven years with neither side winning definitively to place their chosen heir to the shogunate. At its end in 1477 CE, regional rulers from the Western Army retreated and the Yamana forces were dismantled. The Ōnin War came to an end when the sons of Katsumoto and Sōzen reconciled. But this civil war marked the beginning of the end for the Muromachi shogunate as other dissenting forces emerged. It led to gekokujō, which means “overthrowing or surpassing one’s superiors” (Varley 196) and this occurred across several different regions. Many aggressive groups decided to fight for regional control rather than serve the existing lord. Therefore, Japan had entered the Sengoku Period, or the Warring States Period.

From a Japanese perspective, this period is recognized for the rise of local military warlords who began to carve up the land for their rule. They also had ambitions of ruling over all of Japan and establishing a true Japanese hegemony. Some view the period between 1560 CE and 1603 CE as an age of unification because warlords attempted to unify the country. In particular, the three main warlords of this period were Oda Nobunaga(1534-1582), Toyotomi Hideyoshi(1537-1598), and Tokugawa Ieyasu(1543-1616).

Oda Nobunaga (織田 信長)

The Warring States Period lasted for approximately 100 years and many people lost their lives. But nothing truly changed until Nobunaga took power. He quickly began “the process of breaking down the culture of lawlessness and medieval regionalism to unify the realm under a single, though never completely hegemonic, shogunal authority” (Walker 102).

弘治二年列國割據圖 (Map of rivalries between powerful barons in 1556 CE)

In 1551 CE, Nobunaga became the leader of the Oda clan and the Owari Province after the death of his father. But some members of the clan thought he was unfit to rule. In 1556 CE, Nobunaga faced hardship from both inside and outside the province.

Other powerful barons outside of the province, such as Takeda and Imagawa, had powerful forces that could threaten Nobunaga’s rule. These warlords wanted to invade because “most of the great barons had visions of national hegemony” (Sansom 273). In addition, Nobunaga had problems within his domain. His brother, Nobuyuki, rebelled against him. However, after many years, Nobunaga “eliminated all opposition within the clan and Owari Province” (Sansom 276). By 1560 CE, he defeated Imagawa Yoshimoto after the warlord had marched his army into Owari. This began Nobunaga’s “improbable climb to supremacy” (Walker 102).

天正十年平氏全盛圖 (Map of the heights of prosperity of the Heishi family in 1582 CE)

In 1582 CE, Nobunaga finally defeated the Takeda clan, which had caused him so many problems. After this, he controlled most of the central area of Honshū, shown in purple on the map, and had the most powerful daimyō in Japan.

He was very close to unifying Japan. He created many corps to eliminate his enemies and “rewarded his generals by gifts of territory” (Sansom 290), such as sending Hideyoshi and his corps to attack the Chūgoku region, shown in yellow on the above map. However, Nobunaga was unable to reach his goal as he died the same year. He had gone to help Hideyoshi after receiving a call for help. One of his men, Akechi Mitsuhide(1528-1582), betrayed and attacked him while he slept in Honnō temple. Nobunaga ended up committing suicide along with his son once he realized that he would be unable to escape. His desire for the “unification of Japan … [was] half accomplished” (McClain 45).

Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉)

One of Nobunaga’s generals, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, inherited his rule. When Nobunaga committed suicide, Hideyoshi was in the Chūgoku region warring against Mōri, as shown in the above map. On hearing of Nobunaga’s death, Hideyoshi quickly ended his fighting, making peace with Mōri, and brought his army to attack Akechi. With the aid of other Oda allies, Hideyoshi defeated Akechi’s army and killed him. In avenging Nobunaga’s death, Hideyoshi was the favourite to take over. By the next year, he defeated Shibata Katsuie, another contender for rule, at the Battle of Shinzugatake in Omi. Through this, “his position as Nobunaga’s successor [was] established” (McClain 46).

天正十四年豊臣征遠圖 (Map of the Toyotomi expedition in 1586 CE)

The map, Tenshō Jūyonen Toyotomi Seienzu (Map of the Toyotomi expedition in 1586 CE), reveals Hideyoshi’s control of Nobunaga’s previous territory throughout central Honshū. In addition, many other daimyōs had already surrendered to Hideyoshi, such as Mōri Terumoto(1553-1625) and Tokugawa Ieyasu, but were allowed to keep their land. After the defeat of Shibata Katsuie(1522-1583), Hideyoshi shifted his attention to the regions outside of his territory. In 1585 CE, he attacked Chōsokabe Motochika on Shikoku, which submitted to Hideyoshi. Through this, he controlled most of Honshū and Shikoku and “was steadily pursuing his military policy, which was of course designed to bring the whole Japan under his control” (Sansom 319).

He received a request for help from Ōtomo Sōrin(1530-1587) in his fight against Shimazu Yoshihisa(1533-1611), shown in green in the map. Hideyoshi believed this to be an opportunity to subdue the entire Kyūshū region. It took only a single battle for the Shimazu clan to surrender. After this battle, Hideyoshi controlled Japan and “put an end to the prevailing anarchy” (Sansom 329).

Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川 家康)

When Hideyoshi died in 1598 CE, Tokugawa Ieyasu became ruler of the most powerful daimyō. The Five Elders and Five Magistrates that Hideyoshi had created quickly broke into two parts, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari(1560-1600). Ieyasu saw that “he must at all costs maintain the unity which Hideyoshi had achieved” (Sansom 387). After the Battle of Sekigahara against Mitsunari, the emperor of Japan awarded Ieyasu the title of shogun in 1603 CE. He established the Tokugawa Bakufu to begin the Edo Period.

元和元年四海一統萬代肇基圖 (Map of the unity of the whole country in 1615 CE)

Once Ieyasu became shogun, there were still threats to his power. Hideyori, Hideyoshi’s son, had submitted to Ieyasu, but still had control of an army and generals at Osaka. Ieyasu wanted to establish a stable regime, which meant he had to get rid of Hideyori. He declared war on Hideyori in 1614 CE and defeated him in in the following year. Hideyori was killed at Osaka Castle and his army decimated. Ieyasu continued to eliminate his enemies and cement his power, gaining total control of the entire country as shown in the previous map.



This post provides basic knowledge of the Warring States Period in order to provide meaning and context to the maps. Based on the maps, we can see the entire Ōnin War played out. They also show how this led to the three warlords who attempted to end the fighting and unify Japan. It took approximately 60 years to assert control and about 150 years for the Warring States Period to truly end.





Sansom, George. A History of Japan, 1334-1615. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961. Print.


Varley, H. Paul. The origins of Japan’s medieval world: courtiers, clerics, warriors, and peasants in the fourteenth century. Edited by Jeffrey P. Mass. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.


Walker, Brett L. A Concise History of Japan. Cambridge University Press, 2015.


McClain, James L. The Cambridge History of Japan. Edited by John Whitney Hall, vol. 4, Cambridge University Press, 1991.


Middleton, John. “Oda Nobunaga(1534-1582C.E).” World Monarchies and Dynasties, (New York: Routledge, 2004), 692-94.


Wikipedia. “Sengoku Period.” Last modified March 29, 2018,


Wikipedia. “Kyūshū Campaign.” Last modified February 11, 2018,


Wikipedia. “Tokugawa Ieyasu.” Last modified March 11, 2018,


Wikipedia. “元和偃武.” Last modified March 21, 2018. %A6


Western Influence on Edo meisho no e

Throughout centuries, Japan was considered as one of the strongest countries among Asia in terms of modernization and cultural development. The history of Japan is often being studied by many scholars to determine the factors influencing its development, and some of these influential factors came from Western countries. Although the accurate time period of beginning of Western influences on Japanese culture is ambiguous due to different aspects of historical records, it can be asserted that the Japanese artists were under Western influences towards the end of Edo period, which was around late 19th century. According to Danielle, the Western artistic styles were introduced to the Japanese artists despite the isolationist policies, and “new Western-inspired artistic styles were incorporated into Japanese artwork effectively producing a novel and popular artistic tradition.” The Japanese maps and other paintings created during the Edo period often served to show how the Western influence had affected the traditional Japanese drawing styles.

The map, “Edo meisho no e,” was created by Kuwagata, Shoshin in 1803, and as the title suggests, the map is depicting the bird’s eye panoramic view of Edo city from the direction of Honjo during the Edo period. According to Kornicki, a professor of Japanese arts and literature in Cambridge university, suggested that the map’s bold composition fits the entire view of the city on a single page, along with wealth of information about noted spots. He also asserted that from the map illustration, it is evident that Edo was a city of water and greenery that made ingenious use of its river and ocean resources.

Before analyzing the influence of Western techniques on the map, it is crucial to study the historical background of Edo period to understand how the Japanese artists were able to interact with the Western drawing techniques. The term, Edo period, is used to describe the period between 1603 and 1868 in Japan, when the Tokugawa shogunate was ruling the society. During this period, the Japanese society underwent constant economic growth, resulting in stable economy as well as population. The economic development included “urbanization, increased shipping of commodities, a significant expansion of domestic and, initially, foreign commerce, and a diffusion of trade and handicraft industries.” As a result, many Japanese scholars and artists were able to learn about Western sciences and techniques through the abundant information and books brought from Dutch traders. These Western sciences and techniques rapidly influenced many Japanese cultures including art, natural sciences, medicine, and so on. Among many areas that were influenced by Western cultures, perhaps the Japanese arts were most influenced by Western drawing techniques. After the exposure of Western drawing techniques to the Japanese artists, many Japanese artists began to incorporate their drawings with the Western techniques, evolving to a new artistic tradition in Japan. In other words, according to Department of Asian Art, the Japanese artists were “exposed to European artistic styles and began to fuse European and Japanese techniques to produce landscape ukiyo-e, which were eagerly consumed by the Japanese public.” This suggests that the Western techniques naturally assimilated with the traditional Japanese drawing techniques. The influence of Western techniques enabled the Japanese artists to illustrate their drawings without being limited to the traditional Japanese artistic styles.

Since the map was created during the Edo period, its drawing style must have been influenced by the Western techniques. The two techniques that were relatively easy to find were the horizontal picture plane technique and the incorporation of the pigment, Berlin blue. The creator had used the horizontal technique to depict the panoramic view of Edo city so it can have wider spans of landscape. Also, the Fuji mountain in the center of the map is naturally drawing particular attention because of the influence of horizontal technique. The ‘Berlin blue’ pigment was used to illustrate the mountains and rivers or ocean in the map. Although it is quite difficult to reveal the creator’s motives on using Western techniques, it can be asserted that the creator was trying to cope with the new artistic tradition as it was favored by the Japanese public. To elaborate further about these Western techniques, the ‘ukiyo-e’ paintings can be used as an example to illustrate the Western influences on Japanese drawing styles.

The term, ukiyo-e, is used to describe the paintings and woodblock prints that are mainly portraying “the transitory world of the licensed pleasure quarters, the theater and pleasure quarters of Edo, present-day Tokyo, Japan.” The transition of ukiyo-e drawing styles can be observed in the Edo period since the ‘ukiyo-e’ paintings can be differentiated by before and after the Western influences. Before the Japanese artists were exposed to the Western techniques, most of ‘ukiyo-e’ paintings contained images of figures such as kabuki actors or female beauties, and their inspirations often came from everyday lives. After the influence of Western techniques, however, the depicting images of everyday lives started to change into depicting the conventional landscape images and images of named places instead of portraying figures. As the illustration of ‘ukiyo-e’ drawings shifted from figures to landscapes, there were two notable Western techniques used by the Japanese artists, which were the horizontal picture plane technique and the incorporation of the pigment, Berlin blue.

The foremost popular Western technique used by the Japanese artists during the Edo period was called horizontal picture plane technique. As the name suggests, the technique was involved with the orientation of painting where the artists drew paintings horizontally, rather than drawing vertically. The ‘ukiyo-e’ paintings which became popular during the Edo period were supported by the artisans and merchants, also known as chônin. Since these patrons preferred the paintings that reflected their diverse tastes and pursuit of leisure, the everyday lives and activities of Japanese urban residents were generally depicted in the ‘ukiyo-e’ paintings. Most of the ‘ukiyo-e’ paintings during the early Edo period, for example, contained vertically-oriented images of kabuki actors and courtesans dressed in the contemporary fashions of the period. However, these vertical drawings depicting figures slowly started to disappear toward the end of Edo period as the horizontal technique was introduced. As Danielle asserted, during the early 1800’s, the Japanese artists such as Katushika Hokusai “promoted return of the new ukiyo-e tradition to the depiction of conventional landscape images that had been popular amongst earlier styles of Japanese art.” The introduction of Western horizontal technique allowed the Japanese artists to draw wider spans of landscape in their depictions as well as to draw particular attention to certain features or points in the drawing.

Another Western technique that influenced the depiction of ‘ukiyo-e’ paintings was the incorporation of the pigment, Berlin blue. Although it needs to be validated, some researches claimed that the pigment was first created by an accident in a Western chemical factory. The Japanese public was attracted by this pigment because it was a vivid and artificially-produced dye. Also, the introduction of this pigment indicated the end of using traditional colors that were usually created with the natural minerals. During the end of Edo period after the Western pigment was introduced, the ‘Berlin blue’ pigment was used in almost every Japanese painting, not only limited to ukiyo-e.

To summarize, the map, “Edo meisho no e,” is depicting the panoramic view of Edo city with the focus on Fuji mountain by using the Western drawing techniques called the horizontal picture plane and the incorporation of the pigment, Berlin blue. As mentioned above, the influence of Western techniques had a huge impact on the traditional Japanese drawing styles during the Edo period, and many Japanese artists tended to incorporate their drawings with the Western techniques in order to keep up with the modernization. Because of the Western techniques used on the map, the map was able to illustrate more areas with details and the color of river or ocean gave the sense of calm to its viewers. The focus of Fuji mountain in the center of the map can be seen as the absolute power of Tokugawa shogunate at that time because Fuji mountain was often a symbol of Japan.





Department of Asian Art. “Woodblock Prints in the Ukiyo-e Style.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. (Accessed March 6, 2018).

Guth, Christine. Art of Edo Japan: The Artist and the City 1615-1868. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996

Hall, John Whitney. 1988. “Early Modern Japan.” The Cambridge History of Japan 4 (1988): 369-370.

Khanacademy. “The Evolution of Ukiyo-e and Woodblock Prints.” Khanacademy Art of Asia: Edo Period, Japan. (Accessed March 7, 2018).

Miki, Tamon. “The Influence of Western Culture on Japanese Art.” Monumenta Nipponica (1964): 380-401.



Bankoku Sōkaizu: Situating Japan in a Global Setting

The Bankoku Sōkaizu is an early map of the world, created by Ishikawa Ryūsen at the beginning of the 18th century. Georgia Horstmen has done a wonderful write up explaining the details, influences, and historical background surrounding the creation of the map (2016). I would like to take this opportunity to expand a bit further on some of the topics she has covered, as well as look at a couple of closer details the map has to offer to its viewers.



My Map_Ships
A Qing China ship on the left, and a Japanese ship on the right.

Why do we need this? This is an important question to understand before looking into any type of material culture, in this case it would be maps. In modern day, they may help us locate business or a landmark, or they can help us find our way home. Maps situate ourselves into a greater scope than that of what we can see. In Tokugawa Japan, the Bankoku Sōkaizu did just that, at the global level. However, when it was produced in 1708, Japan was in the middle of tight restrictions and extremely limited contact with the outer world. In this context, why would Japan care about the outside world at all? It is exactly these policies, and worries about the foreigners ruining the unity of Japan, that a world map would need to be created for potentially defensive measures in the case of retaliation for kicking out previous travelers. Placing Japan in a global context develops strategic understanding of where vulnerabilities may be, and allows the governing Tokugawa Shogunate to shore up their defenses in those places.

Politics plays a crucial role in the creation of maps. On a local level, how territory and land was divided, and whose name it was attributed to was everything. These maps would visually represent power and control of the lords, daimyo, of the land. Such that those with the knowledge of land, had supreme knowledge over all. The Tokugawa Shogun knew this and called upon his subordinates to provide detailed maps of their provinces to him (Wigen, 6), consolidating his power and ushering in the age of “mapped society” in Japan.



My Map Qing China
Japan (日本) above “Great Qing” China (大清)

The most standout feature of the Bankoku Sōkaizu is the orientation of the map. Instead of the modern representation of North – East – South – West compass, Ishikawa Ryūsen opted to use a East – South – West – North version. While the map could be laid out on a table, and walked around, the original intended portrayal of the map is extremely long, and narrow. The map bears strong resemblance to the 1602 Matteo Ricci world map Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (坤輿萬國全圖) [A Complete Map of the Ten Thousand Countries of the World], with references to the “Land of the Giants” (長人嶋) in the south-east, and the “Land of the Dwarves” (小人嶋) in the north-west. While there is no clear answer as to why the orientation is the way it is, I believe that there could be political motivation for it. The first clue comes in the position of Japan, while it is not perfectly centered in the map, it is the most detailed central object. Japan has its own colouring and divided territories. Visually Japan is seen “above” Qing dynasty China, which challenged the Chinese notion of Japan as a lesser cultured entity; especially during the previous Ming dynasty when Japan was a tributary state to China (Kang, 59). This could encourage a more Japan-centric thought, and superiority in the east, which would not have occured on this map with any other type of orientation. The second clue comes in the art along the borders of the world, near the title of the map. With the two types of ships at the same level. The right ship is labeled a “Great Qing Ship” (大清船), while the left is unfortunately unreadable. However the representation of the ship looks similar to the Gozabune (御座船) issued by the third shogun of the Tokugawa government, Tokugawa Iemitsu. My interpretation of these two ships would be the equivalent level of seafaring technologies, advancements, and explorations of both China and Japan. Ishikawa Ryūsen further challenging the Chinese-centric focus of East Asia at that time.

A Gozabune travelling from Choshu, Ryūkyū, to Edo.



The Bankoku Sōkaizu offers an interpretation of the world and all of its countries, but during the period of closed country, sakoku, how would Ishikawa Ryūsen be able to map anything past Japan? Given the limited technology of the Tokugawa period, world travel also would have been exceptionally dangerous, therefore it was imperative that cartographers draw upon others’ works or personal accounts, likes travel diaries. Which leads to a limited interpretation of the world. We can see that Matteo Ricci’s map had a direct influence on Ishikawa Ryūsen’s Bankoku Sōkaizu, not only with the two islands of giants and dwarves, but also with the large landmass in the southern hemisphere. Ishikawa Ryūsen himself was a trained ukiyo-e painter, and usually produced maps as means of art and pleasure. While they gained popularity in the political sphere, pinpoint geographical accuracy was not his main objective with his maps. For an expansive look at both the types of maps and the style of maps Ryūsen was known for has been compiled by Saeko (2017).


With the advent of satellite technology, there is now an accurate idea of what Japan look like today. Comparing this modern representation to Ryūsen’s Japan, a few glaring differences become clear. Specifically with the island of Shikoku being almost entirely encompassed by other landmasses, as well as the size and overly east location of Hokkaido, or Ezo (蝦夷島) in 1708. By comparing Japan, we can see how liberal Ryūsen was with his boundaries, as it would be his most clear and researched entity of the entire map. We can conclude that his Bankoku Sōkaizu is not the most trustworthy representation of the world. However, we must remember the context in which he created his map and that for his time, this would be an extremely sophisticated and up to date version of the world, and where Japan sat within it. The inclusion of folktale islands like the giants and dwarves would only be from foreign documents. From the few Dutch traders who were trusted by the Tokugawa government. Of course these would be included, and they would definitely be thought of as real places as well, due to more and more maps propagating the ideas of them. Nobody could prove them false, as no one had ever been there except the Dutch, who said it is real.

My map_Night country
The “Night Countries” (夜国) on the northern boarder of the map


While this map may push a political agenda, that Japan is equal to, or greater than, China, one fascinating feature is the lack of iconic Japanese symbols. The most popular and recognizable at the time would be Mount Fuji, as it was could be seen clearly from both the traditional capital of Kyoto, and the political capital of Edo. It was also seen as a symbol of benevolence and beauty (Earhart, 2015). Ryūsen decided not to include the mountain in Japan, but at the same time added the great wall of China in the Qing territory. As well as the Qinshan mountain (秦山) in the Zhejiang province of China. The Night countries (夜国) in the north are an oddity as well. Due to their black colouring, they are completely featureless, one could assume that no one knows who or what the night countries look like, but that they exist further north than modern day Russia. Their label is separate from most others, because of the use of the simplified country (国) instead of the traditional (國). Perhaps those countries do not deserve the respect that comes along with the Chinese character writing system, or it might be another attempt to undermine pro Chinese tradition. Regardless of the reason, 国 was not included in the Qing Chinese dictionary at all, therefore it would be complete “gibberish” to any Chinese viewer. Which points to the maps target audience of traditionally educated, elite Japan lords, or even the Shogun himself.



Works Cited


Bragg, Melvyn, perf. Japan’s Sakoku Period. In Our Time. Rec. 4 Apr. 2013. BBC Radio 4, n.d. Web.


Earhart, H. Byron. “The Power of the Volcano: From Volcano to Sacred Mountain” In Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan. Univ of South Carolina Press, 2015.


Horstman, Georgia. “Bankoku sōkaizu.” University of British Columbia ASIA453 WordPress Tokugawa Maps. 2016. Web.


Ishikawa, Ryūsen. “Bankoku Sōkaizu.” University of British Columbia Tokugawa Maps Collection. Edo: Suhara Mohē, 1708. N. pag. Web.


Kang, David Chan-oong. East Asia before the West: Five centuries of trade and tribute. Columbia University Press, 2010. 59.


“Matteo Ricci, Li Zhizao, and Zhang Wentao: World Map of 1602.” University of Minnesota Libraries. University of Minnesota, n.d. Web.


Saeko. “Ryūsenzu: Maps Composed by an Author of Popular Literature.” University of British Columbia ASIA453 WordPress Tokugawa Maps. 2016. Web.


Wigen, Kären, Sugimoto Fumiko, and Cary Karacas, eds. Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps. University of Chicago Press, 2016. 6.

Anonymous Painter. ”Chūzan ō raichō zu.” National Archives of Japan. Edo: 1710.

Fujisan no zu



Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, which is height 3,776 meters and it is a cone shape active volcano, which located at Honshu Island. Mount Fuji is an active volcano. Its volcanic activity contributes it to become a focus of religious devotion, as well as poetic inspiration. In 2013, Mount Fuji was designated by UNESCO when Mount Fuji was made a World Heritage Site for being a sacred place and the object of artistic inspiration.

Fujisan no zu was created by Sawaguchi Seiō in 1848, during Tokugawa period. Fujisan no zu was made using the woodcutting technique. When the map is flat, the size is 91.4 x 96.5 cm. However, a unique feature of this map is that it can be folded into a three-dimensional map, which reflects the cone shape of the mountain itself. The focus of this map is the sacredness of the mountain and the sacred places on Mount Fuji. The map includes pilgrimage routes, temples, statues, meditation caves, shrines, and other important sacred points of interest. Therefore, the target audiences for this map are worshippers, ascetic practitioners and pilgrims who intend to travel to the mountain by following the different signals on the map. These signals show the ways to climb the mountain, and also show different sacred places. The following analysis will focus on the sacredness of the mountain with a specific focus on Shugendō, Fuji-kō, and the fujiko cult.


The Sacred Mountain

Fujisan no zu is a map which focuses on the sacredness of Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji has a long history, and people considered the Mount Fuji as a god. The volcanic activity during 8th and 9th centuries led locals performing pacification rites and reading Buddhist sutras in order to pay respects to the mountain. At that time, Mount Fuji was given the status of god, which led to the construction of Sengen shrines, and the beginning of worshipping Mount Fuji. Some of these Shinto shrines are marked on Fujisan no zu, such as the Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine. The following analysis will focus on how Fujisan no zu evolved into a place for ascetic practice, Shugendō, and pilgrimage, Fuji-kō, which led to the emergence of the Mount Fuji or fujiko cult.

Shugendō is the practice of mountain ascetics in Japan. This practice can be seen as a mix of Buddhist, Daoist, and Shinto practices. Fuji-kō were Shinto sects from the Edo period which were dedicated to the worship of Fujisan, and who were responsible for elite Mount Fuji pilgrimages. The fujiko cult was established by Kakugyō Tōbutsu. He unifed the various sacred and religious Mount Fuji practices, and made popular pilgrimage possible.

Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine

This evolution began with the mountain’s early status as a god, called kami. There are many stories from the 8th and 9th centuries that establish the mountain as a sacred place for elite practitioners. One of these stories involves En no Ozunu, a Buddhist ascetic, who is the founder of Shugendo. These stories relate how he would fly to the top of Mount Fuji every night to practice ascetics and Buddhist austerities. These stories said that he is the first person to climb summit of Mount Fuji, but it is not known if he actually climbed the mountain. The practices of En no Ozunu inspired other Buddhist ascetic mountain practitioners.

Hitoana & Tainai Cave

Fujisan no zu has many posts which indicate where meditation caves are. One of the most famous of these caves is the Hitoana cave. According to the beliefs, this cave is where the mountain goddess of Fuji, Sengen Daibosatsu lives. According to the legend, the founder of Fuji-kō, Hasegawa Kakugyo, entered this cave to practice ascetics and meditation, and then disappeared because he transcended to Nirvana. There were 230 monuments near the cave. These monuments were built to pray and pay homage to Kakugyo. These monuments were built by different sects of Fuji-ko, and they are also marked on the map. The practice of Shugendo on Mount Fuji continued to grow during the Heian period (795-1186). Another one of the caves on the map is Tainai, which means “womb”, and is believed to be the birthplace of Sengen, the god of Mount Fuji.

Hitoana cave

Kakugyō Tōbutsu & Jikigyō Miroku 食行身禄

One of the noticeable features on Fujisan no zu is two pictures of famous mountain ascetics. These two men are Kakugyō Tōbutsu (1541-1646), and his successor Jikigyō Miroku. Kakugyō is recognized as the founder of the Mount Fuji Cult, who combined the various beliefs related to the mountain.These two men were the successors of other important Mount Fuji practitioners of Shugendo. Moreover, these two men are included on the map because of their importance for the practice of popular pilgrimage.

2 men
Right: Kakugyō   Left: Jikigyō

About Kakugyō Tōbutsu & Jikigyō Miroku 食行身禄

One of the most important predecessors to Kakugyō is En no Ozunu, whose practices and beliefs were formed the foundations of Shugendo. En no Ozunu have him fly to the top of Mount Fuji, and the stories associated with Matsudai, who have him climbing the mountain many times. While En no Ozunu is considered to be the first yamabushi, which means one who prostates on the mountain, Matsudai is seen as the founder of the Fuji-ko movement and the father of Murayama Shugendo. He actually walked to the top of Mount Fuji many times. According to Earhart, “Matsudai established the vertical structure of Murayama Shugendo, and Raison elaborated its horizontal structure. In the early fourteenth century Raison was responsible for organizing the pattern for climbing Fuji, practicing asceticism and devotions at various shrines and temples.” The important fact is that civilians can now climb the mountain, which leads the development of pilgrimages. However, the pilgrimage routes were still under control of Murayama Shugendo, and the group maintained a strict hierarchy over all the proceedings on the mountain. However, the elitist connections of the Murayama Shugendo left people to find someone different, which opened the door for Kakugyō.

The two men on the map emerged from this tradition, but not as ascetics from the Murayama Shugendo school. Kakugyō emerged as an important leader at this time because he was not from the Murayama Shugendo tradition. Kakugyo brought various practices together which were connected to Mount Fuji and unified them under the Fuji-kō cult. His unifying ideas and practices brought the different ascetic and pilgrimage practices together and united them became the basis for popular pilgrimages. Even though his belief utilized a great deal of Murayama Shugendo thought, he traced his lineage to En no Ozunu, whom he encountered in a revelation. En no Ozunu told Murayama that it was his duty to bring peace and success to war-torn Japan, which he could do this by practicing ascetics in the Hitoana cave. Through ascetic practices, it was revealed to Kakugyo that through asceticism and pilgrimage, the order of the universe could be restored.

The second ascetic on the map is Jikigyō Miroku, who was Murayama’s successor, and who continued the tradition of the fujiko cult. He dedicated himself to give relief to people, and he fasted himself to death at the Eboshi-iwa rock. These two men helped popularize the Mount Fuji pilgrimage, and expand the pilgrimage routes up to the mountain.



Earhart, Byron. “Mount Fuji and Shugendo.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (1989): 205-226.

“Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration,” UNESCO, list/1418/

Fumiko, Sugimoto. Cartographic Japan. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2016.

Gill, Andrea K. “Shugendō: Pilgrimage and Ri tual in a Japanese Folk Religion,” Pursuit -eJournal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Tennessee 3, no. 2, (2012): 49-65.

“Hitoana Fuji-ko Iseki,” Official Travel Guide: Yamanashi,



Tōkaidō Meisho Zue

Tōkaidō meisho zue

Tōkaidō Meisho Zue is a woodblock painting by Utagawa Yoshitora made in the year of 1864. The alternative title is “Panoramic view of the noted places along the Tōkaidō”. Just like the title indicated, this painting illustrates the famous places along the high way of Tōkaidō. We can see the area covered in this map is from from Edo to Kyoto because of the explanatory note in the map. For example, in the most upper left, besides the building there is a note writes “kyo”, which means “capital”. In the lower right, besides the bridge the note writes, “Nihon bashi”. Nihon bashi is today one of the landmarks in Tokyo. We can see the lines between different wood blocks from the scanned copy. The whole painting is made up by twelve pieces of panels in all. The title of the painting, “Tōkaidō Meisho Zue” is on the rightest panel, which indicates the direction of the painting is from Edo in the right end to Kyodo in the left end.

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The creator, Utagawa Yoshitora, is the student of Utagawa Kuniyoshi, a member of the Utagawa School. The Utagawa School is named after the founder Utagawa Toyoharu (Nagai, 2012, p.225). In the Edo period, ukiyo-e is a very popular genre among the Japanese artists from the 17th century. The peaceful time and economic development during the Edo period has made artworks available to a lot of common people, or in today terms, middle class. The term, ukiyo-e, literally means pictures of the floating world in Japanese, and it is a metaphor for the common world in contrast to elite world. Most people who consumed the artworks were common people, especially merchants. Therefore, the everyday lives of common people is an important theme of ukiyo-e art, including kabuki actors, geisha, or even just one or two people walking on the street. When common people became rich enough in the end of Edo period and start to travel, the travel scenes and landscapes became another topic for ukiyo-e artists, just like this painting, an illustration of the Tokaido highway. The creator of this woodblock painting, Utagawa Yoshitora is himself a ukiyo-e artist. But when he was active, the genre of ukiyo-e is declining. Only four years after he created this painting, 1868, the Edo period was ended by the Meiji Restoration, and the traditional ukiyo-e art became no longer popular. The declining popularity of the ukiyo-e art is mainly because the preference of the western style arts. Even in the time of Utagawa Toyoharu, the founder of Utagawa School, the artist “copied Dutch copperplate print landscapes of Venice, Amsterdam, and other places and turned them into color woodblock prints” (Nagai, 225). So the artists of that generation were already influenced by the western arts. So the audience can find elements of both western arts and ukiyo-e art in this painting.

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For example, we can notice that this painting use very bright and contrasting colors, which is common in ukiyo-e artworks, especially for the creator Yoshitora’s teacher, Kuniyoshi. In another Japanese author, Kafu Nagai’s words, “Kuniyoshi’s art is always filled with vitality, and his line-drawing is usually admirably clear and precise. He fondly mixes red and indigo and utilizes extremely clear apple green, and he demonstrates the beauty of color tone that one sees in woodblock printing before the Bunka period. Yet in depicting warriors in battle, quite to the contrary, he matches the coloring to the theme by deliberately using many contrasting colors to collide and confuse” (Nagai, 2012, p.227). From this painting, we can clearly see the influence of Kuniyoshi on Yoshitora. The use of bright colors in this painting is in stark contrast of another school of Japanese painting in the Edo period called Bunjinga. Bunjinga literally means “literati painting”. The artists in this school deem themselves as the scholars and elites of the society. The feature of Bunjinga is that this school of painting was heavily influenced by the Chinese painting, shan shui painting. Shan shui means mountain and water, so the common theme in the shan shui genre is scenery and natural landscapes such as mountains. The most obvious feature of shan shui painting or Bunjinga painting is its use of light color. One of the most famous bunjinga artists in Japan is Ike no Taiga in the Edo period. If you compare the painting of Taiga with this one, one can immediately notice their different use of color. “The combination of pink and blue pigment, also a direct reference to Chinese painting, had appeared in the work of the first generation of Japanese masters who allied themselves with Chinese literati art” (Takeuchi, 1992, p7). One reason of the light color use is that the bunjinga and shan shui painting is painted with ink on paper and every piece of them are unique works, whereas the ukiyo-e woodblock painting is for mass production. The coloring on the woodblocks is a much easier process. This is similar to the Western oil painting, because the oil is usually very thick in the Western oil painting. Because the different nature of the pigment, the artist can easily control and change the color, whereas in the shan shui painting, once the painting is finished, it is very hard to re-color. Despite the contrast of use of color, there is one common thing between bunjinga painting and ukiyo-e painting. Influenced by Chinese shan shui painting, the artists of both genres would incorporate poetry into their paintings.

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Another feature of ukiyo-e artwork is the incorporation of common people in the painting. For example, there are many people depicted in this painting. This map is really between the genre of map and painting, because usually in the map, the life of people will not be included if the map wants to be informative and descriptive only. Therefore the intended audience should be fans of arts and painting, instead of travellers. There are marching armies, working people along the river loading the ships, horses, boatmen, etc. This is very similar to one of the most famous Chinese paintings called Along the River During the Qingming Festival. This Chinese painting is also a long scroll map of the Chinese capital city with many ordinary people depicted in it. Both paintings are not for people who intend to travel along the Tokaido or Chinese capital. According to Robert Goree, a scholar on Japanese visual culture, “the consumers of [the whole genre of] meisho zue did not use them as travel guidebooks, but rather as stimulants to engage in a premodern mode of virtual travel, by which they enjoyed vicarious experiences of place without the attendant corporeal and economic drawbacks of physical travel” (2017, p.75). In other words, both Along the River During the Qingming Festival and meisho zue of this type have the function of comic books, which tells story to the audience. In another Utagawa member, Utagawa Hiroshige’s famous ukiyo-e painting, “The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō”, the common people’s life is an important source and theme in the paintings. It seems that this is a tradition for the Utagawa artists. In other artworks with similar titles in the Tokugawa Open collection, such as “Tokaido meishgi ichiran” by Hokusai Katsushika, “Miyako meisho zue” by Mahiko Kawakita, “Edo meishi no e” by Shoshin Kuwagata, the painting serves more mapping function than story-telling function. This is also the conclusion of Traganou in her investigation of many meisho zue about the highway along Tokaido, “During the Edo period, the Tōkaidō figured in the collective imagination as a space of play and release, while at the same time it was the locus of famous places (meisho), poetically attested locales that were scattered within the territory of Japan… Notions and concepts embodied by such material expand beyond the narrow definition of the road as a traveling route” (2004, p.1). To take this paining by Yoshitora as an example of the artist’s inaccurate representation of the Hokaido, the distance from Kyoto to the Mount Fuji is about twice as long as that from Edo to the Mount Fuji, whereas the fact is that the distance from Kyoto to the Mount Fuji is much more than the painting. This is only one small example of the artist selective and inaccurate representation of the Tokaido.

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This painting of Yoshitora is discussed in two bigger contexts. One is the genre of ukiyo-e art under the Western influence, and the other is a variety of function that the genre of “meisho zue” serve at the Edo period. In summary, there are a few similarities between ukiyo-e art works and western oil painting we are able to notice in this painting. The feature of their production process allows the artist to use contrasting and bright colors in their works, and also the western geometrical perspective also influence Japanese artist’s works. But different from the Western oil painting that strives to reproduce the subjects precisely, this paining is far more than a precise and accurate representation of the Tokaido highway. Instead, in this category of meisho zue in Edo Japan, many artists only choose what they want to represent in a selective way and help the audience wander in their works in their imaginations.

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Works Cited

Goree, Robert. “”Meisho Zue” and the Mapping of Prosperity in Late Tokugawa Japan.”

Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review, no. 23, 2017, pp. 73-107.

Nagai, Kafū, Selden, Kyoko Iriye,, tr, and Alisa Freedman tr. “Ukiyo-e Landscapes and

Edo Scenic Places (1914).” Review of Japanese Culture and Society, vol. 24, no. 1, 2012, pp. 210-232.

Takeuchi, Melinda. Taiga’s True Views: The Language of Landscape Painting in

Eighteenth-Century Japan. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif, 1992.

Traganou, Jilly. The Tōkaidō Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji

Japan. RoutledgeCurzon, New York, 2004.













Bankoku no zue


Fig 1. Bankoku no zue, courtesy of UBC Rare Books and Special Collections


Bankoku no zue, is a map attributed to Yoshiharu Koyano and was made in the late Edo period, in the year 1800. The word “bankoku” means “all nations” or “myriad lands”,[1] with “map of all nations” being an alternate title to this work. Bankoku no zue is a fascinating example of a map primarily due to its little regard and adherence to the world’s geography.The general shape of Eurasia and the African continent can be made out, however, the representation of the Americas is arbitrary at best and exist in a form similar to the string of islands south of Alaska. This map is part of a lineage of maps in the Japanese world map tradition, and bears direct influence of bankoku ichiranzu.[2]

According to the UBC library where this map is currently kept, bankoku ichiranzu was intended for use by pupils in a private school.[3] Despite the ichiranzu being more geographically accurate, or rather, bearing more resemblance to geography, its use in private schools suggests an educational purpose. The detailing in the world in terms of  “sangoku” (three realms of Japan); “shintan” (mainland that included China and Korea) and “tenjiku” (India) is given considerable thought.[4] This map reflects more of a pre-sixteenth century Japanese conception of the world around them.[5] Following Toby, we can understand this map as being in line with Buddhist cosmology, where cartography favoured tenjiku centred maps. Due to the map’s educational context, we can assume that the audience was less concerned with accurate geographic representation and sought an abstract representation of the world loosely based on Buddhist cosmology-derived cartography.

Fig 2. Bankoku ichiranzu, courtesy of UBC Rare Books and Special Collections

In bankoku no zue, there exists a clear stylistic evolution, that now posits the sangoku or Japan in the centre. The previous attention to detailing is cast aside in favour of an abstract depiction of the world all around. Quizzically, there exist two red seas, one in the middle east and the other, labelled “east red sea” between north and south America. Noting this, we are posed to ask the following question:

  • How does this map help us understand the Japanese imagination of the world around them?

Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities paved the way for much of today’s studies on conceptions of nation-hood and the idea of the nation-state. He holds that national identity is imagined and that the its members are tied together through a shared imagination of what it means to be part of the nation-state. In late-Edo Japan, we can surmise that the “nation” of Japan, was constructed as in engagement with “imagined communities” of Others.[6] Japan during this period was under a period of isolation from the outside world. While this isolation does not necessarily mean that there was no contact at all between the Japanese people and the outside world, it does imply that such contact likely occurred under special circumstances, such as trade.

In the map, Japan is pictured centred and positioned relatively north when compared to the Eurasian continent. Considering the positioning of Japan in geography, we can attest that it is quite isolated from the rest of the Eurasian continent. With the exception of the immediate east and southeast of Japan, there are no other landmasses and populations. However, in bankoku no zue, the viewer is given the impression that Japan is the centre of the world, or at the very least is connected and close to much of the rest of the world.

Toby suggests that the Japanese self was constructed very much in relation to their imagination of the Other(s).[7] This construction of Japanese-ness based on the imagined otherness of those around them may have to do with the relative non-existence of foreign travellers (bar those from China or Korea) till the encroachment of the Europeans. This encounter resulted in the displacement of sangoku cartography into one of bankoku. Thus, in order to construct nationhood in the context of sakoku come the seventeenth century, the Japanese relied as much on European constructions of the world and of their own imaginations. It may be so that bankoku no zue is an attempt at rationalizing a combined vision of bankoku cartography in the style of sangoku.

This map was conceived of at a time when Japan’s isolationist policy or sakoku was waning. Though the end of this policy would not be for another sixty or so years, the public was altogether aware of the true geographic reality of the world around them. By the nineteenth century, Ricci derived maps of the world has had plenty of time to spread and permeate through much of Japan. If this map was attributed to the beginning of the sakoku period, then it could be argued that it functioned as a construction of reality for the Japanese of the world around them. Since the map’s timestamp is from the early nineteenth century, we can surmise that this particular representation had more to do with style and/or propaganda.

Judging from the representation of the Americas, we can assert that the map was purely stylistic, and that there is no particular reason for the fashioning of world in such a manner. That said, the central positioning of Japan lends itself to the idea that, quite contrary to sokaku, the map is being used to further the connection to the rest of the world that geographic reality does not allow. In a roundabout manner, this map furthers the notion that Japan was indeed isolated, both geographically and as a matter of policy. In order, for the bankoku no zue to have an audience as a legitimate cartographic creation, the audience must be blind, either by choice or not, to geographic reality. Despite its abstractness, the bankoku no zue is an attempt at rationalist categorization, one that very likely is a product of fusion between sangoku and bankoku cosmologies.


[1] Alison R. Parman, “A World in Print; Foreigners in Japan’s Early Modern Bankoku Jinbutsu-Zu” (University of Oregon, 2016), iv.

[2] Yoshiharu Koyano, “Bankoku Ichiranzu” (place of publication unknown: publisher not identified, 1809),

[3] Koyano.

[4] Ronald P. Toby, “Three Realms/Myriad Countries: An ‘Ethnography’ of Other and the Re-Bounding of Japan, 1550-1750,” in Constructing Nationhood in Modern East Asia, ed. Poshek Chow, Kai-wing; Doak, Kevin Michael; Fu (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001), 18.

[5] Toby, 18.

[6] Toby, 16.

[7] Toby, 38.