Saikoku’s 33 Temple Pilgrimage

“Saikoku sanjūsankasho hōgaku ezu” [西国三十三箇所方角繪圖] 1800 – By  Ōsakaya, Chōzaburō

The Historics

Pilgrimages have existed in Japan for more than a thousand years, many dating to the days of the Heian period [794-1185]. The most famous of Buddhist pilgrimages would be the Shikoku 88 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage which encircles the entire island of Shikoku, and is said to be the path that the great Kōbō-Daishi or Kūkai, the creator of Shingon Buddhism, once walked. Lesser known but just as important as the Shikoku 88, is the Saikoku 33 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage, the oldest Kannon pilgrimage in Japan and said to have been devised in 718 by the head priest known as Tokudo Shonin, who was a head priest at Hase-dera Temple in the Nara prefecture. In the Japanese Buddhist pilgrimages, the primary deity that is worshiped is Bodhisattva Kannon or Guanyin, “The Goddess of Mercy.” She is often depicted as a divine savior for those who are ready to pass onto the next life, by guiding them with one of her thousand arms.

This map, the “Saikoku sanjūsankasho hōgaku ezu” [西国三十三箇所方角繪圖] was created by Ōsakaya, Chōzaburō in 1800 and sold at Kokawa-dera Temple [粉河寺],  Kii Province [Wakayama Prefecture].

_DSC4940 - Copy

The map is a square [57.3 x 64.5 cm] mono colour woodblock print with some red colouration to help depict the main pilgrimage route which zig zag through 13 different provinces listed on the map. The map itself is generally an accurate depiction of the region, but it’s slightly distorted with some creative liberties taken to fit in all the information Chōzaburō wanted. The major cities are marked as a wide rectangle with the name within, most -prominently identifiable are Kyo [Kyoto], Osaka, Sakai, Nara, Ise, and Wakayama. On the roads between each toll station is a distance indicator called Ri [リ] , each Ri is 3.9 kilometers. The island of Shikoku where the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage takes place is indicated on the map with nautical distance and estimated time of travel by boat. The temples themselves are identified by the long narrow black rectangles which shows the temple number and name.


[京] for Kyoto「京都」written in the middle. Written above Kyoto is Yamashiro「山城」, One of the historical provinces of Japan before the prefecture system. 

This particular map was created at Kokawa-dera, the third temple on the Saikoku pilgrimage. The first temple on the pilgrimage is not actually Hase-dera Temple, where Tokudo Shonin was head priest at, but at Seiganto-ji [青岸渡寺] at the bottom of the Kii Peninsula. Aside from the most holy of places like Ise Jingu, Izumo Taisha, Kasuga Taisha, Mt. Hiei, Mt. Koya, Mt. Fuji, and etc., Seiganto-ji holds a special place within Japanese religion as one of the few places in Japan where Buddhism and Shinto amalgamate. Seiganto-ji was purposefully built near Nachi Falls, one of the most well-known waterfalls in Japan, and falls within the Kumano Sanzan complex where the famous Kumano Kodo pilgrimage takes place. As such, Seiganto-ji is listed on both the Saikoku 33 Pilgrimage, and the Kumano Kodo. Today, it is one of the few remaining Jingu-ji [Shrine Temple] still in existence after the forcible separation of Shinto and Buddhism operated by the Japanese government during the Meiji restoration.


#3 Kokawa-dera 「粉河寺」


#1 Seiganto-ji 「青岸渡寺」, written as Nachi Yama「なち山」, refers to the famous Nachi Falls which is within the Kumano Sanzan complex, the heart of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage.

The Questions

One of the few questions we should ask about maps are, “Is this map accurate?” and, “Are there any major information omitted?” As aforementioned, the map itself is quite accurate for the average pilgrim looking forward to doing the pilgrimage route. As for informational accuracy, nothing as far as temples and shrines are concerned. Informed by Professor Mari Fujita, from the School of Architecture and Landscape at UBC, some mapmakers deliberately omit information to pursue their own or political agenda. Therefore, maps are generally incomplete and highly selective of the content the mapmaker wants to disseminate. Although the Tendai [Mt. Hiei] and Shingon [Mt. Koya] schools of Buddhism share a rivalry, the temples of the Saikoku pilgrimage are of mixed affiliation, there would be no benefit for spreading misinformation among religious pilgrims, as such deeds would bring about bad karma in the eyes of Kannon. Observant viewers able to read and make out the map may notice that Mt. Koya is prominently visible on the map, but Mt. Hiei is buried away under small print, shouldn’t this suggest an agenda? I was assured by UBC sessional lecturer, Dr. Eiji Okawa Ph.D that this was not the case. He suggested that because this was a pilgrimage map, the finer details were not as important; pilgrims looking forward to visiting certain areas or Mt. Hiei should have no problem with more detailed maps of the Kyoto area. Okawa also praised the Saikoku map, calling it a “pragmatic map” for its audience and quality.

The Pilgrims

Another question we should ask is, “Who are Buddhist pilgrims, and what were their motivations to participate in pilgrimages?” A true Buddhist pilgrim is one who has casted his worldly desires aside and only lives within his means, wearing nothing but a white monk’s robe, a walking stick, a hat, prayer beads, and his belongings in a bundle from temple to temple on foot. Buddhist monks and priests generally live a simple lifestyle that did not involve much currency transaction, therefore much of their food and expenses were either earned with labour or alms. One of the many reasons why Buddhist pilgrims undertake a pilgrimage is to follow in the footsteps of their elders, famous priests, or personal salvation. Not all pilgrims who undertake the Saikoku pilgrimage are devout Buddhist, in many cases, many ordinary people undertake the pilgrimage to sight-see or to ask for healing of sickness, byouki-oroshi.


Modern day pilgrims at Mt. Koya, Source:

A pilgrimage route is also a place of friendship, many pilgrims enter travel relationships or camaraderie with others who are performing the same practice, this is called dōgyōsan. This aspect is particularly significant on a spiritual level on the Shikoku 88, where the pilgrims can identify with the great Kōbō-Daishi, and follow along in his footsteps, but this can easily be relatable to any famous figure who has walked the Saikoku 33. Examples of pilgrimage taking can be found in many Japanese literature classics and popular culture, one famous example is Matsuo Basho’s secular pilgrimage to the north with his companion Sora, in his book,  Oku no Hosomichi [奥の細道] or The Narrow Road to the Interior. Popular culture examples include Jippensha Ikku’s Tōkaidōchū Hizakurige [東海道中膝栗毛] or Shank’s Mare, depicting slackers Kita and Yaji leaving their shabby Edo home on a pilgrimage to Ise. Famous poet Ihara Saikaku also dabbled in stories about pilgrimages in his short stories, Kōshoku Gonin Onna [好色五人女] or Five Women Who Loved Love.


Statues of Yaji and Kita, Sanjo Ohashi, Kyoto. Source:

To embark on a pilgrimage is a scared charge for religious pilgrims but, for the secular folks, David C. Moreton and Katharine Merrill translating Alfred Bohner eloquently puts it as:

“Sometimes there comes moments in our lives when simply everything fails; when every undertaking, every plan, no matter how well thoughtout, miscarries; when what we had counted on as most secure is overturned; a farmer’s harvest fails; his ox is carried off by disease; thieves have broken in and stolen the best of what little is left; and in addition to all this misfortune the young married daughter is sent home by the family of the bridegroom for what seems no reason at all, making them the laughing-stock of the neighbours and acquaintences, and brining discord into the house, where everyone wants to charge someone else with the guilt of the unsuccessful union. In such cases many japanese reach for the poison, throw themselves onto the railroad track in front of a train, or cast themselves into the sea. Others however tie up their bundles, equip themselves as well or as poorly as their means allow, and set off on a pilgrimage.”

What these stories and the passage above have in common is a trend in Edo period pilgrimage taking called Nuke Mairi, which is a pilgrimage in defiance of edicts, employers, family, or authority; in short, its a decision thats made on a whim to just drop everything and leave. The former is called Okage Mairi, which are sporadic communally sponsored pilgrimages taken by members of family, groups, villages, and even towns, to [most often] the Grand Ise Shrine.


The township of Ise「いせ」is marked on the map in a bubble, with the Grand Shrines Naikū [内宮] and Gekū [外宮] slightly below.


A wooden Torii guards the Uji Bridge that spans the Isuzu River to enter Naikū [内宮], The bridge is torn down every 20 years, as are the Shrine buildings to keep Amaterasu-ōmikami’s lodgings pristine and new, never to show age.

Townsfolk and merchants along the way tended to welcome travelers and pilgrims so long as their numbers were not excessive- offering free food, lodging, sandals, or medicine. Custom held that Gods, Buddhas, and holy men occasionally traveled incognito; Kindness to a disguised holy man or deity as innumerable legends attest, brings good fortune. Such kindness found along the way made pilgrimages much easier in the Edo period, as monks and priests were given alms regularly and treated fairly well. Such entrepreneurial activities were favoured and encouraged by the temples, which helped designate touring routes through towns and cities that would lead the pilgrim to various places of worship other than the main temple. As a result of nuke and okage mairi, these local excursions were group social outings that combined pious acts with sightseeing, which provided pilgrims with a disruption from the tedium and restraint of quotidian life.

“Pragmatic Map”

After reviewing all the information written here thus far, it makes sense that Dr. Okawa would suggest that this is a “pragmatic map,” because it is.


Legend from left to right: Cities & towns, X , Ferries, Checkpoints/Lodging, Rural Roads, Main Roads, Pilgrimage Route, Castle Towns?, Province, and Shinto Shrines.


The main pilgrimage route that connects #1 Seiganto-ji 「青岸渡寺」to Ise Jingu. Displayed are the Ri distance markers, checkpoints/lodging, and physical descriptions of the route such as rivers and hills.

At first glance, judging by the title of the map and its purpose, it appears to be a simple map of the 33 temples, but it actually displays much more. Although Seiganto-ji is the 1st temple on the route, the route actually begins at Ise if one were to look closely at the route and its colouration. This means Ōsakaya Chōzaburō made this map not only for Buddhist pilgrims but secular pilgrims aswell. Pilgrims looking forward to undertake the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage or just visit Shikoku island are also provided with details as to where and how to catch a boat there.


The Island of Shikoku, showing a Shinto Shrine landmark, two castles, the 4 regions of the isle, and the boat route from Osaka.

The map does display interesting tidbits in finer detail, some that is useful and some that is not for the average pilgrim. In locating Himeji just above Shikoku, I noticed some fine print showing a Tenjin (天神) shrine, the Shinto kami of scholarship, the deification of a scholar, poet, and politician named Sugawara no Michizane, and information on how much the domain is worth in Koku [石, bushels of rice].


In fine print, we can make out the town of Himeji written as ひめぢ, strangely without an indicator that it’s a castle town. The domain is also rated at 150,000 Koku [十五万石]which is accurate according to historical data.


As Japan moved forward in the 18th and 19th century, so too did people’s aspirations and beliefs. As a by-product of these aspirations and beliefs, economies, civic infrastructure, religion, and private entrepreneurship flourished like never before, giving rise to one of the most sophisticated societies of its time. This map reflects that, as it guides secular and non-secular pilgrims around the region with reasonable accuracy and detail, remarkable for private maps produced at this scale and quality. Big enough to display the relevant information pertaining to the pilgrimage route, near-by towns, and landmarks, yet portable and cheap enough to be bought by passing or starting pilgrims at Kokawa-dera. It’s fascinating that researching this map some 200 years later would reveal so much details about the pilgrims, the pilgrimage route, the creator, and the state of Edo travel.

I would like to give thanks and acknowledgement to UBC – Rare books and Special Collections for obtaining and housing the Tokugawa maps; Professor Christina Laffin for hosting ASIA 453, the opportunity to conduct this research, and guidance in researching the maps; Dr. Eiji Okawa for helping me read and understand the map; and Professor Mari Fujita for her informative lecture on cartography.



Asahi.Net. “Kinki Region, Himeji”

Bohner, Alfred. Two on a Pilgrimage: The 88 Holy Places of Shikoku. Trans., Katherine Merrill. Ed. Moreton, David C., Outlook, Germany. 2011

Davis, Winston. Japanese Religion and Society: Paradigms of Structure and Change.
State University of New York, NY, 1992
Fujita Mari. “Cartography.” Lecture, University of British Columbia, 1 March, 2017
Hall, John Whitney., The Cambridge History of Japan: Volume 4, Early Modern Japan.
Cambridge University Press, NY, 1991.
Kasahara, Kazuo. Ed. A History of Japanese Religion. Trans., Paul McCarthy & Gaynor Sekimori
Kosei Publishing, Tokyo, 2001.
Okawa, Eiji. “Saikoku Pilgrimage.” Interview, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 15 March, 2017
Reader, Ian. Making Pilgrimages: Meaning and Practice in Shikoku

University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2005.

Totman, Conrad. Early Modern Japan
University of California Press, 1993

Morooshi Kinmo zui No.6

Morokoshi Kinmo zui is an encyclopedia of China. The whole collection contains five books and 14 different categories, astronomy, geography, architecture, people, Martial arts, instruments, machines, agriculture, costumes, vegetation, wild animals, insects, world map and Chinese landscapes. Part number 6 to 8 of this encyclopedia describes Chinese people performing different types of martial arts and entertaining activities such as acrobatics. The book contains four sections. First one is from page 1 to page 4, presenting horsemanship and archery. The second part is from page 5 to page 13, displaying half naked men performing hand-form martial arts. The third part is from page 14 to page 31, showing people practicing weapons such as swords, shields, cudgels, and spears. Last part is from page 32 to page 40, almost each page contains a background with different hobbies of ordinary people, and some pictures contain performers who are performing acrobatics to attract and impress audiences.

The cover page is the index three books, from book six to book eight. From left to right, the Chinese characters saying: “卷之六 人事之部,” combining with the content, means book six is about people’s performance. Followed by “士農工賈__伎百戰類,” the fifth word is blurred due to the paper being exposed in the air for hundreds of years. However, this sentence means it is the category of free-hand combat skills; now we call it martial arts, which suits for people of each social class in Chinese society. Next category is “卷之七 器用之部,” means that book seven is displaying the purpose of tools and equipment. After that, the sentence “祭器樂器圭璋半斛類” explains that those tools and instruments are used for sacrificial ceremony, “圭璋” is one of them, as Figure 1 shows. They look like daggers made of white jade, people in ancient China believed those items could be used as a medium to communicate with their ancestors. Book eight has the same title as book seven, which is also “卷之八 器用之部分,” however, they are no longer sacrificial instruments. Book eight contains “舟車兵刃䋄罟筆研類,” which are tools such as cars, boats, weapons, finishing nets, writing brushes, ink stones.

I choose book six because I am interested in martial arts and the first page of the book states the prime principle of archery, the person is standing on the ground with his arms raising up gives audiences a basic knowledge of stance of Chinese archery. The Chinese characters and hiragana above the man show the instructions and matters need attention positioning the stance. Page 3 and 4 indicate the way of how Manchuria people use a bow while riding a horse, which is called “馬箭圖,” means pictures of horseback archery. Only page 2 are the details of how to use a bow when standing on the ground, which is called “射法圖,” means pictures of the way of shooting. Page 5 to 13 present many free-hand combat styles, which is called “拳法,” which says the way of fists, meaning fighting skills without weapons. Each picture contains at least at least two people, half-naked, looks like fighting with each other using different movement. People in various pictures are different, for example, on page 5, both two individuals have no beard. However, one man below has a beard. On page 8, two people below seems thinner and younger than people on page 9.

figure 1

Furthermore, page 15 has four small pictures, each one contains a person, carrying a spear, demonstrating the martial art movement. Every movement has a unique name, written on the top of each picture. For example, at the top left, there is a movement called “十面埋伏勢”(Figure 2), means the stance of the ambush on all sides. Most of the action name is combined with four Chinese characters, and the four characters are usually idioms, in Chinese called “成語,” followed by a word “勢,” which only means stance. Here I will briefly explain one example on page 15, “青龍獻爪勢,” the idiom is the four words “青龍獻爪,” the words could be divided into two parts for better understanding, “青龍” refers to the mighty Eastern dragon, use to be worshiped by people who practice Daoism. “獻爪” means showing claws. The four words “青龍獻爪” means the powerful dragon is about to attack its enemy. Therefore, in the picture, a man is performing a strike with using a spear. Some of the stance names contain only two characters followed by “勢,” on page 17, the picture at top right indicates the stance name is called “朝天勢,” two characters “朝天” means pointing the sky. In the picture, a man is pointing his spear upwards. Indeed, most martial art stances with weapons can be easily understood by combining pictures and Chinese characters. However on page 15, the bottom right picture with a man holding a spear is named “指南針勢”(Figure 3), it looks like the previous picture “十面埋伏勢,” the word “指南針” means “compass.” It is a metaphor, indicates that the spear is the point of the compass, while this man is pressing the spear close to his chest, he can charge forward by only moving the body. The shape of this stance looks like a compass. Both compass stance and Spear movement demonstration stop at page 20.

Figure 2
Figure 3

Moreover, “習藤牌圖,” and “習狼筅圖”, from page 21 to 27, both are using the same format as spear practicing  “習“ means to learn, “藤牌” means shield made of rattans, and “圖” means pictures. The word “狼筅” means a spear type of weapon with tree branches as decoration to block enemies’ vision. After that, there is “棍法圖,” which means pictures indicates different cudgel techniques. In each picture, two people demonstrate the cudgel techniques, and the person on the right side is the one who is the demonstrator, the one in left is the enemy of the demonstrator. For example, on page 28, the bottom picture is called “齊眉殺圖,” means to raise cudgel parallel to the eyebrow and hit the enemy with one end of the cudgel. Therefore, the man on the right side is raising his cudgel to parallel to the eyebrow. At the same time on page 29, the picture at the top is called “走馬回頭圖,” which means a galloping horse turns its head.  In Chinese martial arts, it represents one is tending to turn around and flee, however waiting for the opponent to chase, then suddenly turn back to give the opponent a fatal hit. Therefore, the guy on the right side is turning his body to hit the guy on the left. The last example is “下穿勢,” which means penetrate from the bottom. Also, the person on the right side is trying to attack his opponent from the bottom using cudgel.

The final part of this book is ordinary people’s daily life and some acrobatics. The first page contains two recreation sports, the first one seems like people throwing objects to beat each other for fun, and the second one is a person hitting a drum hanging on a tree branch. The instruction and explanation are written on the left side of the picture. Pictures of the last part of the book all have decent background and content. For example, on page 35, the picture “高絙圖,” literally means a picture of wire-walking. The picture is showing many people are watching a person performing wire-walking. Some of the audiences are cheering and pointing. The next one is “傀儡圖,” means the picture of a puppet show. The background has many details such as the puppet master is hiding under the eaves and controlling the puppet, audiences are gathering around and watching the show. Pictures such as “鬥雞圖,” watching gaming fowl, and “彈圖,” shooting birds with small rocks represents the hobbies of ordinary people. In the end, there are “吞劍圖,” picture of swallow a sword, and “走火圖,” a picture of walking on fire, both figures represent people earn money by performing acrobatics.

In conclusion, book six of Morokoshi Kinmo zui is presenting an excellent overview of Chinese martial art and people’s daily life and performance. The book focuses on explaining each movement of Chinese martial art with proper names, gives us the knowledge of how they call the stances, and the pictures are beautiful and detailed.

Comparison of the Nagasaki port: Hishū Nagasaki zu and Shinsen Hizen Nagasaki zu

Nagasaki, in the modern period, is well-known for its history of foreign influences. This essay will aim explore the influence of foreign trading at the Nagasaki port in the Tokugawa period. In this essay, I will compare two woodcut prints of the Nagasaki port, produced 40 years apart, examine some differences in depiction and attempt to provide some historical context to these changes.

General map description:

The first map, Hishū Nagasaki zu, is a 61.3 x 86.7 cm woodcut print. It was published in 1821 by Bunkindō, one of the four largest publishing houses for Nagasaki-e in the Tokugawa period[1].

See Map at UBC Open Collections

The second map of the Nagasaki port, Shinsen Hizen Nagasaki zu, a 43.2 x 63.7 cm woodcut print, was published by Kojudō in late 1860. It is noted that the map may have been published in commemoration of the opening of the Nagasaki port to American traders in 1857[2].

See map at UBC Library Open Collections

Both maps are oriented diagonally, with straight North pointing to the upper right corner of the map. This allows an aesthetically pleasing depiction of the ships horizontally entering and exiting the port. This orientation places Dejima in the centre of the maps as their subjects. Both maps include a chart at the bottom left hand corner describing the distances from Nagasaki to various city centres. These calculations include the distances travelled by land and by sea. For instance, the Hishū Nagasaki zu states that the distance from Nagasaki to Osaka is 197 ri by land, and 235 ri by sea.

The Dutch at Dejima:

Dejima is an artificially constructed island in the port of Nagasaki, initially built to inhibit the propagation of Christianity by Portuguese residents in Nagasaki. It was completed in 1636, and funded by Nagasaki’s Japanese merchants. In 1637, the Shimabara Rebellion occurred; initially an uprising against unfair treatment by officials in Shimabara, it became associated with the Christian religion[4]. This resulted in the complete expulsion of Portuguese residents from Japan. Dejima thus becomes the factory ground for the Dutch East India Company in 1641. Dejima became Japan’s sole contact with Europe until the late 1850’s[5].

dejima 18241825.jpg
Dejima Island 1780

The island is not illustrated in great detail on the Hishū Nagasaki zu, but one can identify a fence surrounding the perimeters of the island, and the single bridge that connects the trading post to the mainland. At this point (1820’s), the island was made up of warehouses, and some residential housing, as illustrated by the shaded blocks and roofed houses. Life on Dejima was monotonous. The Dutch residence had to abide by strict rules, and special permission was required to leave the island[6].


By the time the Shinsen Hizen Nagasaki zu was produced in 1860, Japan’s foreign relations had undergone significant change. With the arrival of the American fleet, the Shogunate government was forced to sign a U.S.-Japan treaty, opening up the country to trade with the Western world[7]. The Dutch government signed a similar treaty with Japan soon after; trade became exchanges with individual merchants rather than the Dutch factory. In early 1860, Dejima as a Dutch factory ceased to exist, becoming the new Dutch Consulate[8].

Dejima depicted in the Shinsen Hizen Nagasaku zu appears to have sparse roofed structures. The blocks of structures seen in the previous map seems to have disappeared, showing a change in the function of the island. There is also a second bridge connecting the island to the mainland, likely built after the establishment of the Dutch-Japan Treaty of Peace and Amity, permitting free entry and exit onto the island.


Foreign settlements (Gaigokujin yashiki) at Oura:

One of the most prominent changes between the two maps is the addition of the foreign residence to the area of Oura. The government, under the foreign treaties signed in the late 1850s, had to clear an area for incoming Western residents. Therefore, the area of Oura along the bay was designated to be filled and residences built for foreign merchants, sailors, and travellers[9]. The settlement officially opened July 1st, 1895[10], with most of its settlers originating from Britain.

Screenshot_20170328-124940 Screenshot_20170328-124856

Along with the influx of foreign traders, came the Western Christian missionaries. At this point, Christian practices was only allowed inside the foreign settlement. This did not stop Western missionaries’ attempted propagation of faith under the guise of teaching English to Japanese interpreters[11]

On the Shinsen Hizen Nagasaku zu, the foreign settlement on Oura is depicted as a large mass of land across from Dejima. It is hard to distinguish the building structures that are portrayed. However, records show that there are a variety of establishments at the settlement other than residential housing, including hotels, taverns, tea-firing establishments, and warehouses[12]. Amongst the undistinguishable buildings portrayed, it is easy to spot the churches marked by large crosses on the roofs. The map’s comparatively clear depiction of the churches reflect the prevalence of religion in Western culture, something that had been observed by the Japanese map-makers.



[1] Nagasaki-e, prints depicting particular characteristics of Nagasaki, are woodblock prints that became popular in the Edo period. They often depict foreigners or foreign objects, such as ships. These prints satiate the curiosity the Japanese held towards foreigners on their land, and are often bought by Japanese travellers during their stay to Nagasaki.

Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System. (2002). Nagasaki Hanga. Retrieved from

[2] Univeristy of British Columbia Library. (2016). Shinzen Hizen Nagasaki zu. Retrieved from

[4] Marius B Jansen, Making of Modern Japan (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002), p 77-78.

[5] Nagasaki City. (2002). Dejima Comes Back to Life: History of Dejima. Retrieved from

[6] Marius B Jansen, Making of Modern Japan (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002), p 81.

[7] Marius B Jansen, Making of Modern Japan (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002), p 283.

[8] National Diet Library. (2009). Opening of Japan and Japan-Netherlands Relations. Retrieved from

[9] Earns, Lane. “The Foreign Settlement in Nagasaki, 1859–1869.” The Historian 56, no. 3 (1994): 484.

[10] Earns, Lane. “The Foreign Settlement in Nagasaki, 1859–1869.” The Historian 56, no. 3 (1994): 483.

[11] Earns, Lane. “The Foreign Settlement in Nagasaki, 1859–1869.” The Historian 56, no. 3 (1994): 488.

[12] Earns, Lane. “The Foreign Settlement in Nagasaki, 1859–1869.” The Historian 56, no. 3 (1994): 485.

Tōkaidō Road

A Brief History

The Tōkaidō Road was an essential part of the Tokugawa period. It connected the imperial capital of Edo to the political capital of Kyoto. With 53 stops, this was thought to be the fastest route between the capitals. These 53 stops were used by the government monitor trade and collect taxes. Throughout the route were also checkpoints that travellers needed to show their travel permits for in order to continue their journey. A good way to think of what the 53 stops along the route are, locations in which travellers could rest and restock their supplies. They had stables for horses, lodging, food and other things for visitors to do. Most of the people who travelled along the route, travelled by foot and only those of the high class travelled by palanquin. Men were most common along the route, as women were not permitted to travel alone and the Tokugawa government restricted them. Traganou notes that there had been various incidents that ordinary women had been caught with shaved heads just so they would be given the chance to travel freely. Furthermore, “obligatory traveling was mainly for administrative and sankin kotai purposes” (Traganou, 66).

Sankin Kotai, or alternate attendance, was created in 1635 by Tokugawa Iemitsu. Simply put, sankin kotai was a way for the shogun to ensure that the daimyo would not have enough money to rebel against him. The daimyo would travel to Edo alternating years (or even months) from all areas of the country. The shogun further ensured that the daimyo didn’t rebel, essentially, by holding the daimyo’s wife and children as ‘hostages’. Furthermore, daimyo were, also, expected to stay in “luxurious honjin” (Blacker, 593). Through, traveling expenses, paying their samurai and servants, and maintaining both their home in their domain and their home in Edo, the shogun was able to ensure that daimyo would not have enough to rebel. Additionally, because of sankin kotai, daimyo used the Tōkaidō Road frequently.

Another group that used Tōkaidō Road were those who went on pilgrimages. However, pilgrimages were “met with disapproval […] on economic grounds,” because deciding to take off weeks meant that “farmers neglected their proper duty and caused a fall in production” (Blacker, 604). Some han ended up placing restrictions. For example, they limited the number of people allowed to go and the duration of their travel time. During this time, a pilgrimage was seen as “an unnecessary luxury” (Blacker, 604).

Ukiyo-e’s literal translation is ‘floating world picture,’ and it used to represent life or courtesans and actors during Edo; however, currently, Ukiyo-e refers to woodblock prints. As Traganou notes, “road-maps of the popular culture were often made by ukiyo-e artists and had varying degrees of pictorial elaboration” (35). A significant figure during this time showing this was Utagawa Hiroshige.

Utagawa Hiroshige, also known as Ando Hiroshige, adopted his name from the Utagawa School, where he studied under Toyohiro. Hiroshige created a series of Ukiyo-e woodcut prints, called “Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō” or Tōkaidō gojūsantsugi, after his first time travelling along the Tōkaidō Road in 1832. The “Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido” are a series of 55 woodblock prints which included every stop along the Tōkaidō, including the first stop in Edo and the last stop in Kyoto. After this, and over the next twenty years, Hiroshige created 16 to 19 different series of the Tokaido road. One thing he was known for was having rain and snow in his scenes (Chiappa, Hiroshige). This led him to become known as the “artist of rain, snow and mist” (Chiappa, Hiroshige). Traganou notes that Hiroshige’s artwork typically showed a “harmonious combination of landscape and figures” (163). Both of these facts are evident on the map I have chosen by him.


The Maps

There were two maps that I chose to look at. First was Tōkaidō gojūsantsugi ichiran created by Andō, Hiroshige, or Utagawa Hiroshige. Second was Tōkaidō meisho ichiran created by Katsushika, Hokusai.

Tōkaidō gojūsantsugi ichiran Andō, Hiroshige, 1797-1858 Oct 4, 1839
Tōkaidō meisho ichiran Katsushika, Hokusai, 1760-1849

There are various types of printing type for woodblock. Starting from sumizuri-e, or ink printed pictures, which used only black ink. To aizuri-e, which are blue printed pictures and used the imported bero-ai, Prussian blue pigment. This was also a pigment that Hiroshige used in other works for the Tokaido road, as well at the map I have selected. The type of pigments mostly used “for these prints were water based, vegetable dyes, which produced a soft and subtle range of colors” and by the time that Hiroshige and Hokusai arrived the “ukiyo-e prints were produced with up to twenty different colors, virtually each requiring its own carved blocked,” (Khan). One thing that is evident and could be argued between the two maps I’ve selected is that “artists were constantly trying to outdo one another in their prints, not only with beautiful colors but also clever compositions” (Khan). We can see examples of both, the use of colors and the compositions in both maps.

In Hiroshige’s we see his use of bold colours. His blues and green are very strong and emphatic. This helps the viewer to distinguish between the red signs and the rest of the background. Furthermore, his use of the mist helps to create an air of mystery and calm. On Hiroshige’s map, there are various towns, as well, one can see a daimyo’s procession travelling through along the road. This is a ten panel map, with the two ends panels represent an unrolled makimono, which is a Japanese scroll, typically read from right to left. As mention in a previous paragraph, Hiroshige, was known as the “artist of rain, snow and mist.” What was see in this map are patches of mist. I interpret his use of mist as a way to fill in gaps in his work. As mentioned before, Hiroshige travelled the road and created the “Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido,” so it would make sense for him to have more detail in those individual woodblocks than this map as one could argue that this is more of a summary of the route.

In Hokusai’s map, he uses shades of green and beige to show his map. I think that this print type might be either, benizuri-e, which used red, or sometimes green, ink details or highlights added after the printing process or tan-e, which used orange highlights with a red pigment. Hokusai’s distorted map, according to the metadata, shows “roads, towns and castles.” Both Kyoto and Edo are on the right side of the map, with Mount. Fuji appearing on the left. Additionally, this is noted to be a mandala style of map. Mandala in Sanskrit means circle. Through this meaning, I interpret his map to show the more important city (Edo) in the center, while all others are around it. The reason why I think this is because during this time Edo was the new capital where everyone now gravitated towards.

The placement of both Kyoto and Edo in each map is also unique. What one can see in Hokusai’s map is that each city is in a strange location in comparison to not only each other but also Mount Fuji. Though, the placement of Kyoto and Edo in both maps are slightly accurate.  In Hiroshige’s map, both cities are on the correct side; however, Mount. Fuji is in the background when it should be in the foreground. In Hokusai’s map, both cities are on the right side of the map. When looking at a modern day map of Japan, one can see how Kyoto is lower than both Tokyo (Edo) and Mount. Fuji.

Both maps show the use of finer details. With the bold colours, Hiroshige’s subtly adds in his details, through people traveling along the route and rooftops to signify cities or castle towns. With Hokusai, though his map is more condensed and the lack of striking colours, he still added details. For example, he added in the detailed lining of roofs and walls.

Overall, the Tokaido Road was not only useful for travel and trade, it was also useful in the arts. Since it’s birth, there has been many maps and woodblocks prints created helping to inspire artists in many ways.



Chiappa, J. Noel. 2017. “Glossary Of Woodblock Print Terms”. Mercury.Lcs.Mit.Edu.

Chiappa, J. Noel. 2017. “Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)”. Mercury.Lcs.Mit.Edu.

Damian, M. M. (2010). Archaeology through art: Japanese vernacular craft in late edo-period woodblock prints (Order No. 1476575). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (375357773). Retrieved from

“Khan Academy”. 2017. Khan Academy.

“Sankin Kotai | Japanese History”. 2017. Encyclopedia Britannica.

“Tokaido Road”. 2017. Hiroshige.Org.Uk.

Traganou, Jilly. The Tokaido Road: Traveling and Representation in EDO and Meiji Japan. Taylor & Francis Group, 2004. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.


Picture Sources


Sekai bankoku Nihon yori kaijō risū ōjō jinbutsu zu

Sekai bankoku Nihon yori kaijō risū ōjō jinbutsu zu ❀ 世界萬國日本ヨリ海上里數王城人物圖

Map of all the countries of the world and pictures of the peoples, showing the capitals and the distances from Japan

As one of Japan’s most significant periods, the Tokugawa era has left various cultural values in the global community through its distinct lifestyle and development in Japanese history. Drawing attention specifically on the partial reality portrayed in the visual materials created and preserved from the remarkable era, it is clear that the economical, political, and social dimensions of the Japanese people living during the period was unique from foreign countries.

The Japanese map of the Tokugawa Era, “Sekai bankoku nihon yori kaijo risu ojo jinbutsu zu” was created by Eijudō in 1850 (late Edo period). It can be accessed in UBC’s Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era Collection within the Rare Books and Special Collections in Irving K. Barber library.

This map project will examine this map with the aim to educate the public about this particular world map’s approach in visualizing the Japanese people’s conception of the world. Moreover, the aspects: conflict, characterization will be analyzed to demonstrate how the world map portrays the racist and patriotic viewpoint that the Japanese people held during late Edo period as a result of the isolation policy. (The aspect of ‘color’ will be analyzed in the longer, formal paper!)

CONFLICT #1 Japan vs. Foreign countries

Firstly, the conflict between Japan and foreign countries is apparent on this world map, signifying the patriotic and racist aspect of the Japanese people living during the Edo period. In regards to the portrayal of the world and people in this map, Japanese people considered their nation as superior in comparison to foreign nations as a result of the isolation policy. This is evident in the position of Japan on the map, as it is centered, highlighting its supremacy. Moreover, the size of the Japanese land is enormous, stressing their power and control in the world. It also indicates that the creator of this map, as well as many other Japanese people during the Edo period were unaware about their country’s geographical features relative to foreign nations.


↑”A 17th century European engraving depicting a Dutch tributary embassy to the Tokugawa’s residence.” – Wikipedia

CONFLICT #2 Known vs. Unknown

Furthermore, the Sakoku years, or period of national isolation of Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate’s rule resulted in the Japanese people’s unfamiliarity of the foreign countries. The conflict between the known and unknown world is demonstrated in this map, proving the lack of knowledge that Japanese people had regarding foreign land and cultures. This map shows the clear distinction between the existing nations and fantastical nations through the portrayal of people belonging to 12 different regions. The Dutch, Tatars, North Americans, South Americans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Indians are existing inhabitants living in existing countries. In contrast, the lands of women, dwarfs, cyclops, and giants are fantastical nations which do not exist in reality. They are fictional realms inspired by foreign folktales, illustrated to portray the imagined countries in the unknown regions of the world.

Considering the features of the fantastical nations and creatures, it is clear that Japanese people, including the creator of this map, had some kind of a opportunity to read foreign tales. For instance, this world map in particular portrays nations and creatures from the fictional stories in: Saiyuki, Greek mythologies, Gulliver’s Travels, and Flowers in the Mirror. Thus, despite the strict regulation limiting access to foreign material during the isolation period, this map shows that some people had access to foreign material in the Edo society, which had an impact on the people’s perception of the world outside Japan.

In addition, the conflict between the known and unknown worlds is reflected through the absence of the portrayals of the people belonging to regions such as Melanesia, North Pole and South Pole. In regards to Melanesia, which includes countries like Fiji and Papua New Guinea, is assumed to have been unknown to the Japanese because they are located in the southern half area of the equator, opposite from Japan. Moreover, it is presumed that Melanesia was of little significance during the Tokugawa era because Japan was mainly limited to trading with the Dutch.

Overall, the two conflicts both demonstrate the influence that the isolation policy had on Japanese people. It widened the relations between Japan and foreign countries, resulting in the Japanese people’s unawareness of foreign lands and cultures. Additionally, it highlights Japan in a superior manner, and compares other nation’s people and culture in relation to Japanese people and cultures. As an outcome, the patriotic and judgemental attitude in Edo societies influenced people including this artist to create an inaccurate depiction of the world.

CHARACTERIZATION – The 12 Nationalities

Existing: China, Korea, India, Vietnam, Tatar, South America, North America, Dutch

Fictional: Land of Giants, Land of Dwarfs, Land of Cyclops, Land of Women

cdm-tokugawa-1-0213137-0000full2←Bankoku sōzu

Secondly, the characterization of the people representing 12 nationalities portrayed on this world map indicates the Japanese people’s narrow minded, conservative view of the foreign world. In general, it is possible to distinguish each ethnic group according to their body size, gender depiction, clothes, headdresses, bows, swords, shields, and spears. For instance, the man representing people of the Qing Dynasty is characterized as having an elegant and calm traits based on his facial expression, posture, and upper-class outfit. Similarly, the Korean man appears well-off and cheerful, however also has a characteristic of being dependable according to the portrayal of the small female-like figure leaning against him.

qingkoreavietnamindia←From left side: Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese

Contrasting to the characteristics of the Chinese and Korean men, the Indian man depicted on the map is characterized as a stranger, regardless of his wealthy-looking visuals, due to his unique headdress and clothing which is unfamiliar to the East asian culture. Furthermore, the Vietnamese man is all the more unusual looking, indicated through his grim facial expression and wild outfit that is not similar to the East Asian robe-style outfits. Moreover, the Tatars, the Turkic-speaking tribes in west-central Russia, are also have a barbaric, country-side appearance. Thus, the characteristics of the non-East asian men are not positive compared to the East asian men, which shows their lack of intimacy with Japanese people.

southamerican←South American           North American→northamerican

Transitioning to the South American man illustrated on the bottom right, it is noteworthy that they appear asian. Also, the description next to the illustration indicates that South American men are handsome. Although it is arguable whether the Japanese were familiar with these nationalities, especially according to the inaccurate depiction of the common South American people, it is evident that Japanese people had a rather positive impression towards South American people and culture. Similarly, the North American man illustrated on the top right area looks very Asian. Additionally, he is holding several weapons on his back, which emphasizes his military power. Hence, it denotes that, despite their limited knowledge and understanding of the Americans, Japanese people imagined people of American regions to be either feared or respected because of their attractive physical traits and military power.


Additionally, the similar clothing and headdresses worn by the North American man and Dutch man reflects that Japanese people understood North America as a westernized nation. The Dutch man illustrated on the top left area of the map is holding an item in his hand. This is assumed to be either money or an item for trade, representing Dutch as the important trading partner for Japan during the Edo period. In fact, it is stated in the description that people from Holland visit Nagasaki every year, and visit Edo as well every five years during the sakoku era.

womencyclopsgiantdwarf←From left side: Women, Cyclops, Giant, Dwarfs

Regarding the portrayal of fictional entities belonging to the fictional lands, it demonstrates the creator of this map characterizing them in specific ways according to their portrayal in the original foreign folktales. The giants are very tall and asian-looking, based on their robe clothing, dark hair color, and bun hair style. They measure one jō and 2 shaku (3 m 60 cm) in height. They are not wild looking in this map, which makes adds verisimilitude, causing viewers of this map to believe in the existence of such abnormal beings. In contrast, the dwarfs only measure one shaku and two sun (36cm) in height, and are characterized as weak through a humorous tone because they are chased by a crane. In fact, the bankoku sozu states that they walk together in groups to avoid the cranes from attacking them.

Also, another entity contrasting from the giant is the cyclops. Regardless of their similar large body size, they appear less human-like and are given barbaric and frightening traits in comparison to the giants. Lastly, the two women belonging to the land of women are topless, and appear asian according to their dark hair color. As it was not perceived as sexual to be topless in many non-western cultures in ancient asian cultures, it is evident that these women are inspired from asian texts. As a matter of fact, they appear to be conversing without disruption, and have no necessity to carry weapons because of the peaceful lifestyle. Overall, the fictional entities all carry mysterious characteristics and display a certain culture which are not realistic in the geographical location they are positioned on the world map.

Taking into account the ways in which the people from the 12 entities are characterized as, it is understandable that the Japanese creator of this world map characterized races and ethnicities in a patriotic manner. Most are asian, if not Japanese looking, and ones which are not similar to Japanese people are portrayed as barbaric, dangerous, weak, or uncanny. It stereotypes foreigners based on imaginations and assumptions because most Japanese people were unable to socialize with foreigners, had limited access to foreign material, and illiterate in foreign languages during the Edo period. Thus, this world map is reflecting that Japanese people were unaware of foreign land, people, and cultures to a large extent due to the isolation policy.


In conclusion, the research and analysis regarding the Japanese map of the Tokugawa Era, “Sekai bankoku nihon yori kaijo risu ojo jinbutsu zu”, indicates that Japanese people living under the sakoku system, including the creator of this map, had an obscure perception of the world. The isolation policy implemented by the Tokugawa Shogunate resulted in the Japanese to become attached to their undisturbed culture, and ignorant about foreign nations. In addition, there is a higher possibility that this world map was used as a display or reference, rather than as a tool for navigation and higher education, considering the vague and inaccurate representation of the world and the 12 nationalities.


Eijudō. “Sekai bankoku Nihon yori kaijō risū ōjō jinbutsu zu, 1850; Map of all the countries of the world and pictures of the peoples, showing the capitals and the distances from Japan. 世界萬國日本ヨリ海上里數王城人物圖.” University of British Columbia Library – Rare Books and Special Collections: Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era.

Unknown. “Bankoku sōzu, 1600; Map of all nations. 萬國総圖; 万国総図.” University of British Columbia Library – Rare Books and Special Collections: Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era.

Kusano, Takumi. “西梁女人国. 中国神話伝説ミニ事典/地名編. ” フランボワイヤン・ワールド. Unknown.

Unknown. “Early Japanese Maps of the World.”

Late Edo Era Maps of the Tōkaidō: Distortion and Representation

To the Japanese, and to travelers of Japan, the Tōkaidō is a well-known historical route that stretches from the old capital city of Kyōto, to Tōkyō (what was known as “Edo” in the Tokugawa Period).  In fact, the route that the modern Tōkaidō-Shinkansen takes travels roughly along this historic path.  Owing to its historical, cultural, and economic importance, it should come as no surprise that many maps and other pictorial depictions were made of it during the Tokugawa Period.  What perceptive observers may notice upon first encountering such maps is that many of them do not fit into the schema of what a modern person would envision a map to be.  They are often presented in unusual perspectives, or involve spatial and/or unexpected geographical distortion.

One such map I wish to introduce as an example is the Tōkaidō meisho ichiran, produced by the renowned woodblock print artist known as Hokusai.

Fig. 1: Tōkaidō meisho ichiran by Hokusai cdm.tokugawa.1-0216043.0000fullSource:


This map is a representation of the aforementioned Tōkaidō, depicting notable roads, towns, and castles along the route.  What might strike one as peculiar about this map is that its perspective has been highly distorted, rendering Mt. Fuji in the upper-left corner, with Edo in the lower-right, and Kyoto in the upper-right.  The Pacific Ocean is in the center of the map.  This is a geographically impossible orientation to have by simple rotation.


Cartography and Purpose


Being so profoundly warped (and being rather large, at that), it is difficult to imagine that this map would have served potential travelers of the route by way of guiding them directionally.  It has been suggested that the distinction between maps and other artistic visual media such as paintings or other types of illustrations during the medieval era, and leading up to its end, were not quite as clear-cut as they are in the modern era.  The fact that this map, itself a woodblock print, was illustrated by a famous woodblock print artist may hint at this trend.  Cartography inherently requires the projection of spatial, political, and/or other sorts of information onto a 2D plane (conventionally speaking), and so we can understandably assume that cartographers are highly selective about what information they represent, and how they represent it in accordance with their goals.  It should also be noted that in Japan, and elsewhere, prior to the early  modern period, travelers did not necessarily rely on, or even trust, maps in the same way that a modern traveler might.  This may be due to any number of factors, including the difficulty of accurate surveying, the reliability of signage and/or route infrastructure, or perhaps the fact that topographically accurate maps were often the domain of high level government and military officials, who had a vested interest in keeping such valuable information from being common knowledge.

Given this, we have room to ascertain the aims this map may serve, and how the spatial distortion we might be a result of this.  Art depicting meisho, which can roughly be interpreted as “places of renown”, had existed since the Heian Era, and is known to have had ties with waka poetry culture, and the utamakura they many of them were thematically tied to.  It is telling that many such waka poems and the utamakura to which they refer were not necessarily described in ways that accorded to reality, and that in fact, many times, the authors had never visited the oft-cited and well-renowned sites.  Could this importance of ideal over substance in the literature of the time have influenced cartographical philosophy as well?

Regardless, these works apparently inspired ukiyo-e artists, such as Hokusai, to create prints with similar themes, especially as the Edo Period’s famous 200 years of peace had ushered in an era of economic prosperity leading to increased interest and engagement in travel for both recreation and other purposes.  These illustrations likely retained some influence from earlier examples of Japanese cartography, resulting in depictions that were not always geographically contiguous, and perspectives that were not necessarily functional in the modern conception of maps.

In the case of our map by Hokusai, it is worth considering that it was produced in 1818, late in the Edo Period, and indeed nearing the Meiji Period, when one can expect that the Tōkaidō road was already highly developed in terms of its infrastructure, and had wide renown.  It is entirely possible, even likely, that the perspective of this map was chosen in order to represent and name the many roads and locations along the route in a compact and aesthetically pleasing manner, rather than to provide accurate geographic direction (the ichiran in its name may be telling, as it roughly translates to “overview”).  The purpose of this piece may not be to allow viewers to navigate spatial routes, but rather informational ones.

Further evidence to suggest that this piece was one of aesthetic purpose is located in the top and bottom right corners of the map beside Kyōto and Edo are located, respectively.


Fig. 2:  Poetry on the map











The script in the boxes next to the red circles with the cities’ names, is written in hentaigana (変体仮名), a syllabic system that used characters different from standard hiragana to represent the sounds of Japanese language.

Kyōto poem: 







Edo poem: 




Note: Transcription into hiragana was kindly provided by my girlfriend’s father, and question marks indicate uncertainty


Unfortunately, I lack familiarity with classical Japanese and am unable to parse the meaning of these poems.  Their presence, however, along with the other design features of this map (as well as the existence of many other works illustrating similar subject matter) suggests incredible cultural significance of the Tōkaidō and its primary destinations of Kyōto and Edo.


How it All Began: Sankin Kōtai (参勤交代)


Proceeding from the sakoku closed-country policy of the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan was ushered into a state of relative peace for some 200 odd years, the latter half of which saw an explosion of consumer economy, travel, and popular culture, the likes of which had never been seen before.  This is what facilitated both the means of production of, and demand for, maps much like the Tōkaidō meisho ichiran.  But how did this occur?

The shogunate decree that all daimyo must perform sankin kōtai can be said to have started it all.  Every lord, under this system, had to spend half the year in Edo, where his family was held effectively hostage by the Edo shogunate, and then return to his own domain for the remainder of the year.  The trip was both lengthy, and prohibitively expensive, as lords were expected to travel in the kind of luxury worthy of their station.  Some figures have it that they may have each spent as much as half of their yearly incomes on the trip alone (this excludes the expenses of having had to maintain residences in both Edo and their home domain).  This phenomenal cost in terms of both time and money effectively meant that they would be unable to fund or incite rebellions, which contributed to the peace the era was known for.  These trips also necessitated a means of paying for goods and services along the way, and precipitated the development of a standardized coin currency accepted across the nation, resulting in a sort of centralized banking system based in Ōsaka.  The needs of traveling daimyo and the cash-flow into towns and shops and rest stations along routes such as the Tōkaidō created an explosion of the Edo period economy, a burgeoning middle-class with the financial means to travel, the desire to consume, and the necessary infrastructure to support it all.  Although in theory, travel was highly restricted by the shogunate, in practice it is suspected that many who could afford to do so would travel under the pre-tense of religious pilgrimages or other official reasons sanctioned by the government.

It is also important then, to realize that it is also during this period that woodblock printing and prints became exceptionally popular, with famous artists such as Hokusai gaining wide renown.  While original colour prints would have been expensive, monotone prints were often available to the wider public at affordable prices, allowing for the spread of popular culture, and increased literacy rates.  Many of these consumers would have been travelers, looking for travel guide-books, and presumably maps of all sorts.  These depictions of travel and travel locations were produced in great numbers toward the end of the period, and many would have served their consumers many different purposes.  Some may have been route maps and guides to attractions and local specialties, and yet others may have been expensive décor for wealthy lords or merchants.


Fig. 3: Tōkaidō Meisho Zue (1864) by Utagawa, Yoshitora.  



For example, the above map, a meisho zue, depicts a daimyo’s procession from Edo (bottom right) to Kyōto (upper left) through the Tōkaidō.  There are elements of temporal and physical displacement here, as the procession can be seen winding through towns and landmarks across the spread.  It is fairly clear that this work’s primary purpose is to be an aesthetic depiction of a procession through the highway.  Works such as these would likely have been exceptionally expensive given their size and detail, and demonstrate the cultural and historical importance of these processions.  Anyone who may have possessed this would not have been a typical traveller, but must have been quite a wealthy individual.


So What IS a Map?


We can note now, having considered the historical and cartographical perspectives, that maps, and specifically these panoramic maps of the Tōkaidō, need not necessarily serve the purposes to which we have all been familiarized as users of GPS and services such as Google Maps.  The “cartographers” were not always expert surveyors and were more often than not artists commissioned to produce aesthetic works.  Even those who wished to produce accurate maps may not have had access to the information to do so.  Consumers at the time produced demand for artwork, illustrated travel guides, maps, and all these categories may have had lines that were blended together in ways that we might find both intriguing, and confusing.




Amyx, Jennifer A.. “Sankin Kotai: Institutionalized Trust as the Foundation for Economic Development inthe Tokugawa Era”. Institute for International Studies: Stanford University, 1997

Berry, Mary Elizabeth. Japan in print: information and nation in the early modern period. Berkeley:  University of California Press, 2007.

Goree, Robert Dale, Jr. “Fantasies of the Real: Meisho Zue in Early Modern Japan.” Order No. 3414979,Yale University, 2010.

Traganou, Jilly. “The Tokaido—Scenes from Edo to Meiji Eras.” Japan Railway & Transport Review 13 (September 1997): 17-27.

Traganou, Jilly. The Tôkaidô Road : Travelling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan (1). London, US: Routledge, 2004. ProQuest ebrary.

Vaporis, Constantine N. “To Edo and Back: Alternate Attendance and Japanese Culture in the Early Modern Period”. Journal of Japanese Studies. 23(1). 1997. 25-67

Kan’in Dairi Keijō zu

The map shown above is titled Kan’in Dairi Keijō zu (閑院内裏京城図) or also known as Bird’s- eye view of Kyoto. This map is a part of UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collection’s. It is a map that is categorized under Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era. However, the original map dates back to the Kamakura period around 1200, and was formerly owned by Bunkyūdō (文求堂). Interestingly, the original map was destroyed in a fire and someone made a replica before it was destroyed. It was reproduced in 1892 which is the 25th year of the Meiji era. Which can been seen stated on the map.


If I am correct, it states that it was entrusted to Tanaka(田中) and Bunkyūdō (文求堂) has… well now had possession of it. As mentioned before it was reproduced during the 25th year of the Meiji era which is 1892. For some reason it specially states that it was being copied before or during sunrise. I just find this piece of information interesting.




Moreover, UBC does not even own the “replica” of the map, but a mere copy of the copied map. UBC’s copy is not even a physical copy, but rather it is a slide which one can go to UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collection’s to view. This makes me wonder how valuable and what was so important about this map. The physical copy of the map’s whereabouts is unknown. Since there is too much to cover, here I will be introducing some of the aspects about the temples and shrines that are present in this map of Kyoto.

To indicate what are shrines, temples or places of worship are, simply look for these characters (堂/神社/寺), which are pronounced (dō/jinjya/dera or ji ). However, it is not to say that (堂)(dō) always indicates a place of worship as it sometimes means hall or it is attached to names of stores and businesses.

The abundance of shrines and temples started to exist when Buddhism entered Japan. Many people of power sought out to legitimized their right of power through religion. Many emperors throughout the centuries, built them. By giving tribute to the deities, emperors hoped that they will protect them and bring prosperity to the land. With the continuous construction of temples and shrines, this created micro-cities that centered around shrines and temples.1 For nobles that no longer serve the state they were able to have influence through private matters from their wealth. By viewing the map one can see that most of the temples and shrines are not built within the city, but rather outside the capital. Stravos suggest that there is no evidence that suggests why there was a taboo that temples and shrines would not and could not be built within city grounds.2 However, some taboos that come to mind are, building within the city may threaten the current power. Building in the outskirts, both the current power and nobleman may be at peace as no ones’ powers are a threat and also poses a balance from an aesthetic point of view.

One would think that since Kyoto is a city that has a high density of religious establishments such as shrines and temples. Pilgrims would flock to Kyoto for their pilgrimages, instead of going else where as this way the pilgrims are able make a plan and go to each desired place of worship accordingly to whom they wish to pay tribute to. However, as Stravos mentioned with the creation of micro-cities, would some of these places where temples and shrines exist be private quarters and off limits to the public and only the few selected be allowed access? For many, they would go to one of the most famous temples which is the Kiyomizu dera (清水寺). Pilgrims journey here “to pray to its icon, faith in whom has cultivated the thriving businesses”.3

Aside from nobility being able to enjoy them, commoners also came to Kyoto to see the temples and shrines. As it attracted many people to honour and pay tribute to the deities. One pilgrimage that became popular is called the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage (西国三十三所). This pilgrimage is strictly only to visit Buddhist temples. This pilgrimage only covers the Kansai region. Several temples in Kyoto are a part of this journey. However, the only temple visible in this map that is included in the pilgrimage is the Kiyomizu dera. The Kiyomizu dera is number 16 on the journey. The creation of this pilgrimage is credited to emperor Kazan (968-1008) as he was credited as the founder in the Chikkyo seiji and tenin goroku. This pilgrimage was originally done austerity. A plain, and simple journey, which eventually turned into a popular devotion done by many people.4 With the popularity of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, a condensed version was made for the city of Kyoto.5

After a long journey, pilgrims are able to obtain proof of pilgrimage. Proof of pilgrims can be found in forms of old name slips, Senjya fuda (千社札).6 Senjya fuda, name slips were mainly posted on gates or entrances of the shine or temple. Even now many people try to journey through this pilgrimage. People now perhaps may not walk and instead take transportation such as subways, trains, cars etc. People that journey through in present day collect temple stamps, shuin (朱印) in booklets called nokyocho (納経帳) as proof of visit instead of Senjya fuda. It changed from Senjya fuda to Shuin because, “In 1871 the government issued a decree for the protection of antiquities and ordered the prefectures to submit inventories of suitable objects.”7 . However, this was just the start. Eventually, a law called koshaji hozonoho, or ‘Law for the Preservation of Old Shrines and Temples’ was promulgated on 5 June 1897 (Law Number 49) in order to protect religious buildings and the works of art they contained.”8 The Senjya fuda was seen as damaging historical properties.

Another important place of worship in Kyoto is a shrine called Gionjinja (祇園神社), Which is now known as Yasakajinja (八坂神社). This shrine has been associated with the festival called the Gion Festival (祇園祭 Gion Matsuri). It has been said that every year of the 6th month which is present day July, for the whole month festivities are done as purification. This ceremony is named Goryōe. Chapin states that Goryōe is a “phallic worship…. and the long poles know as “hoko,” or “spears,”” are symbols of phallicism.9 Chapin continues to state that, it is believed that phallic images exorcised evil influences and life threatening causes. “What brings life to is not unnaturally suppose to have power over death” and the festival started in the endeavour to get rid of a plague.10 As to why the Gion jinja was chosen, it is because the Bull-headed King is worshiped at this shrine. This Bull-headed Kings is believed to associated with phallic gods. Hence, Goin jinja was chosen as it was believed that phallic worship helped stopped the spread of epidemics.

Although little is known about medieval Kyoto, this map has given us an insight on why and how there are many inclosed areas, “micro-cities” in Kyoto. As there are proof that commoners came to pay tribute, how many were actually accessible to the public is unknown. What is for sure is the importance of Kiyomizudera and Gionjinja. Over and over these two places of warship are seen depicted in Rakuchu rakugai zu, (Scenes in and around the Capital). The two places of worship may have been seen as a places that protect the capital from evil spirits and purification. However, we will save this for another time.



1Stavros,Matthew. Kyoto: An Urban History of Japan’s Premodern Capital. (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2014), 61.

2Ibid., 62.

3McKelway, Matthew P. . Capitalscapes. (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006), 53.

4MacWilliams, Mark. “Buddhist Pilgrim/Buddhist Exile: Old and New Images of Retired Emperor Kazan in the Saigoku Kannon Temple Guidebooks.” History of Religions 34, no. 4 (1995): 303.

5Winfield, Pamela D.. “Kyoto Pilgrimage Past and Present.” CrossCurrents 59, no.3 (2009): 353.

6See note 6 Above.

7Henrichsen, Christoph. “Historical outline of conservation legislation in Japan.” Horzon Architectural and Urban Conservation in Japan. Ed. Enders, Siegfried RCT, and Gutschow Niels. Sungnam: Daehan Printing and Publishing Co.,Ltd., 1998. 12.

8Coaldrake, William Howard. “Building the Meiji State: The Western Architectural Hirearchy.” Architecture and Authority in Japan. New York; Routledge. 1996. 248.

9Chapin, Helen B. “The Gion Shrine and the Gion Festival.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 54, no. 3 (1934): 285.

10See note 9 above.



Chapin, Helen B. “The Gion Shrine and the Gion Festival.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 54, no. 3 (1934): 282-89.

Coaldrake, William Howard. “Building the Meiji State: The Western Architectural Hirearchy.” 208-250. Architecture and Authority in Japan. New York; Routledge. 1996.

Henrichsen, Christoph. “Historical outline of conservation legislation in Japan.” Horzon Architectural and Urban Conservation in Japan, 12-21. Edited by Enders, Siegfried RCT, and Gutschow Niels. Sungnam: Daehan Printing and Publishing Co.,Ltd., 1998.

MacWilliams, Mark. “Buddhist Pilgrim/Buddhist Exile: Old and New Images of Retired Emperor Kazan in the Saigoku Kannon Temple Guidebooks.” History of Religions 34, no. 4 (1995): 303-28.

McKelway, Matthew P. . Capitalscapes. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006

Stavros, Matthew. Kyoto: An Urban History of Japan’s Premodern Capital. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2014.

Winfield, Pamela D.. “Kyoto Pilgrimage Past and Present.” CrossCurrents 59, no.3 (2009): 349–357.

Fujisan no zu

Introduce Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is also known as Fujiyama, Fuji-YoNama andFujisan. It is a cone-shaped volcanic mountain. Its last eruption happened in 1707. Mount Fuji is 12,388 feet, and it is the highest mountain in Japan. Mount Fuji as tall as the cloud. The top of the Mount is always full of snow. Mount Fuji is the most sacred mountain. Mount Fuji is located on the island of Honshu. (Whalen,2) Mount Fuji is the most famous mountain in Japan. Mount Fuji added to the World Heritage Site in 2013. Mount Fuji is pilgrim place, and there are many literary works base on Mount Fuji. Therefore Mount Fuji is the representative of Japan, and it is very sacred.

Literary works based on the Mount Fuji

During Japanese era 713, Japanese starts to write fudoki (風土記)that report provincial geography, culture, agriculture.Etc. There is one fodoki called “Hitachi no Kuni Fudoki (常陸国風土記) “has recorded a story about Mount Fuji. There is a deity of heaven travel all around Japan. The deity visits Mount Fuji first. Mount Fuji refuses deity’s request to stay in Mount Fuji overnight because Mount Fuji believes that it does not need deity’s blessing. Mount Fuji already has the perfect shape and the high peak. Then, the deity visits the Mount Tsukuba inside the Hitachi province. Mount Tsukuba lets deity stay and offering food humbly. As a result, Mount Fuji always has snow covering the peak, and it is always cold. On the other hand, Mount Tsukuba is very colorful with the season changing.
Later, there are many legends about Mount Fuji come out. In the 10th-century Japanese fiction prose narrative called “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter(竹取物語)”. The book talks about a bamboo cutter called Taketori no Okina finds a little girl inside the bamboo when he is cutting the bamboo. Taketori no Okina brings the little girl home. Taketori no Okina and his wife treat the little girl as their own daughter and name her Kaguya-hime which means “princess of flexible bamboos scattering light”. Three months later, the little girl grows up and the news of her beauty spread. Therefore, many young men come to Taketori no Okina and ask for marry Kaguya-hime. The emperor also become one of the men ask for marry Kaguya- hime. However, Kaguya-hime refuses all of them. Kaguya-hime is the fairy of the moon. And she has to go back to the moon on the August 15th in the third year. Before Kaguya-hime returns to the moon. Kaguya-hime leaves elixir of immortality for her parents. Taketori no Okina does not live forever without his daughter. Taketori no Okina hands the elixir of immortality to the emperor. The emperor burns the elixir of immortality and the letter on the peak of the highest mountain. Therefore, the word immortality, Fushi不死(never dead) became the name of the mountain – Mount Fuji. Therefore, Japanese solider will have the figure of Mount Fuji on their clothes. They believe that Mount Fuji means Fushi.

The religion based on Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji used to be treated as a sacred mountain, because of the volcanic eruption. People believe that Mount Fuji has the power of fire and water. (Earhart)
First, Mountain valued more because it is suitable for Buddhism practice. Around six century C.E. Japanese get influence from Chinese religion. During that time, Buddhism is the main religion in China. Taoist notions and Confucian ideas are also popular. Therefore, people believe that the best place for meditation is a flat area deep in the mountains base on the Buddhism sutra.(Earhart). So, the mountain has more meaning.
Second, because there are building and rites are located on the mountain peak and mountainside. Therefore, climbing mountain is also a religious practice. For example, the Fuji pilgrimages. (Earhart). Mount. Fuji uses to be a sacred place that people can only look at but not able to climb because of the volcanic eruption. Later, climbing Mount Fuji has become a religious practice. The pilgrimage route to the summit of Mount Fuji has been establish on the fourteenth century. There are two cultic related to Mount Fuji: fire rituals and climbing the mountain.

The Fuji-ko (富士講) performs fire ceremonies before people climbing the mountain, and burn the mini straw replicas Mount Fuji. (Brockman, 355) Just like the picture below on the left side. During Edo period, some people might live too far away from Mount Fuji. They cannot afford to go to Mount Fuji, and women are not allowed to climb Mount Fuji. Therefore, people contribute a mini Mount Fuji on the direction of Mount Fuji so that they can pray to the mini Mount Fuji. (Brockman,355).
“Pilgrims starts at a shrine at the base of the mountain. Each of the routes has ten rest station…the most popular route has ninety-nine switchbacks.” (Brockman, 355). The six people on the right-hand side of the picture are the people who are climbing the mountain.

Third, these later develop to express the mixture of tradition. (Earhart).
The key point of all the legend about Mount Fuji is Asama Shrine (浅間神社).”In Kakugyo’s time, the two chief religious institutions devoted to Mt. Fuji were the Fuji Sengen (or Asama) Shrine 富士浅間神社.”(Tyler,252). Asama Shrine still has 1300 branches nowadays. Therefore Asama shrine still have a large influence in Japan as we can see from the number. During Edo period, there are many religions base on Mount Fuji. These religions are the new religions that mix Shintoism and Buddhism. During this time, Assma Shrine also becomes a “bodhisattva” in Assma. Mount Fuji is very important in religions believes at that time. (Earhart)

“Fuji ascetic Kakugyo 角行 (書行藤佛)(1541- 1646), the founder of the Edo- period (1600-1868) cult of Mt. Fuji.” (Tyler, 252). During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, society and religion are mixed together because of the warring state. “ The central message and key leader of Fuji religiosity came not from Murayama and its professional Shugendo priests but from the ranks of the common people – a wandering practitioner named Kakugyo.” (Earhart). Kakugyo Tobustu Ku is the right-hand side figure of the two mountain ascetics featured on the map. The name Kakugyo Tobustu Ku is meaningful. Kaku means “square”, Gyo means “practice” , To can be read as “fuji”, Butsu is the name of the Buddhism and Ku means honor. Therefore, the name Kakugyo Tobutsu Ku means square, fuji, practice buddha and honor.

Kakugyo Tobustu Ku has two great disciples. One is Jikigyo Miroku 食行身禄 (1671-1733)and Murakami Kosei 村上光清 (1682-1759. These two people are great sixth-generation successors that turned the cult into a mass movement. (Tyler, 253). Jikigyo Miroku is the figure above that on the left side. Miroku means Maitreya 弥勒 in Buddhism which is the Buddha who is to come. Jikigyo Miroku gets the name Miroku 身禄 from Fuji deity directly (Tyler,261). Jikigyo Miroku’s death launched the Fuji cult as a mass movement. Jikigyo fasted to death on the height of Mt.Fuji. Jikigyo Miroku uses his death to feed the world. (Tyler, 261)

During that time, Japan has many religion bases on the nature worship. The religion base on the nature worship still has influence till now. All these worship and religions are the people want to have some supernatural that can help their life, make their dream come true by using a fantasy way. That is the original Japanese religions. It related to Earhart has mentioned: “ At Fuji, as is true within all of the Japanese religion, power- even destructive force – may be venerated as well as feared, worshiped at the same time as it is pacified. “ (Asasm shirne)

In conclusion, the religion base on Mount Fuji is a mixture of Shintoism, Buddhism, Taoism and some folk belief. All these elements reflect that the relationship between Mount Fuji and Japanese.

1.Whalen, Ken. Fuji, Mount. Sage Knowledge, 2017, Access Mar 26, 2017.
2.Earhart, Byron. Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan. The University of South Carolina Press, 2011.
3.Brockman,Norbert C. Encyclopedia of sacred places. 2011.
4. Tyler Royall, The Book of the Great Practice: The Life of the Mt. Fuji Ascetic Kakugyō Tōbutsu Kū. Nanzan University, 1993.

Three Maps of Ōsaka

Ōsaka is a city on Japan’s southern coast. Since antiquity, it has been an important port on the island of Honshū, serving as the center for commercial activities during the Edo period (1600-1868). This post will discuss Ōsaka in two sections, the first discussing Ōsakan history prior to the Edo period and the second looking at three maps Ōsaka – from 1691, 1854, and 1902 – and the transformations evident therein.

Ōsaka Before the Edo Period

Ōsaka’s history stretches back to Japan’s ancient period, having appeared in the Nihon shoki (c. 720 C.E.). According to legendary history, Jinmu – the mythic first emperor of Japan – first stepped foot on the island of Honshū when he landed upon the shores of what is now known as Ōsaka Bay in the 7th century B.C.E. The emperor and his divine forces would proceed to conquer the Ōsaka plain and establish it as the homeland of the Yamato family, the ancestral name of the Imperial House of Japan.

While the above account is entirely mythological, it demonstrates Ōsaka’s importance to early Japan. From the formation of the Japanese state in the 6th century C.E. until the movement of the capital to Kamakura in 1185, Japanese society was centered in the region around Ōsaka, at that time known as Naniwa (難波), literally ‘dangerous waves.’ The city itself would serve as the capital very early on, later becoming an important port during the Nara (710-794) and early Heian (794-1185) periods as the primary site for foreign trade and departure point for envoys to China.

The Heian court would stop sending such envoys in the 10th century, giving way to a period of decline for the city that would last several hundred years. Later, warfare during the Nanboku-chō period (1336-1392) would destroy virtually the entire city as the competing northern and southern courts fought with one another. The city would remain in this state of decay during the early Sengoku period (1467-1600) until the 16th century, with the construction of Ishiyama Hongan-ji, a temple which served as the headquarters of the True Pure Land sect of Buddhism.

Ishiyama Hongan-ji would grow into a massive complex of eight towns, returning Naniwa, now known as Ōsaka, to its former glory. The temple itself was an impenetrable fortress highly valued for its strategic location and powerful enough to control the surrounding provinces. By 1570, the area was a vibrant center for religion and commerce. However, all of these factors made it a prime target for Oda Nobunaga, who was attempting to unify Japan under his leadership at the time.

Nobunaga would initiate a siege of Ishiyama Hongan-ji in 1569. The temple was so well protected, however, that it would take a full 11 years before the temple’s head priest would surrender the fortress in 1580. Nobunaga would then destroy the temple, asserting control over all of Ōsaka and its surrounding region.

2 years later, after Nobunaga’s death, Toyotomi Hideyoshi would take up the mantle as Japan’s unifier and make Ōsaka his capital. On the site of the former Ishiyama Hongan-ji, Hideyoshi would begin construction of Ōsaka Castle in 1583, completing it in a mere two years with the use of several tens of thousands of laborers. Hideyoshi would also see to the construction of a brand new city around the castle, digging a series of canals to enable the movement of building materials into the city.

Hideyoshi’s efforts would lay the foundations of modern Ōsaka. While the capital would be moved to Edo by Tokugawa Ieyasu after his death, the structures erected by Hideyoshi would remain. This included the castle, within which Ieyasu would station family members in order to assure the subjugation of the city. During the ensuing Edo period (1600-1868), Ōsaka would go on to become the second most important city in Japan, serving as the commercial center of the country.

Ōsaka’s role as Japan’s merchant city was reinforced through official policy. During the Edo period, all rice throughout the whole of the country was required to be sent to Ōsaka before being redistributed. This made it a vibrant city for business and gave rise to its moniker as “the kitchen of the nation” (天下の台所 tenka no daidokoro). Despite this, merchants were still considered to be at the bottom of the Confucian hierarchy put in place by the ruling samurai. Over time, this social distinction gave rise to a unique Ōsakan mercantile culture which separated the city from Edo, its eastern rival.

Shinsen zōho Ōsaka ōezu (1691)


Kaei kaisei bunken Ōsaka zu (1854)


Saikin jissoku Ōsaka-shi shinchizu (1902)


These three maps show the city of Ōsaka at three very different points in history. By comparing them to one another, we can gain a glimpse of multiple changes which occurred not only with the city itself, but more broadly across the country as a whole. These changes are not only evident in the physical transformation of Ōsaka as an urban space, but also in the information that is presented on the maps and conventions utilized in representing that information.

The first map, Shinsen zōho Ōsaka ōezu, was completed by Hayashi Yoshinaga in 1691, the 4th year of the Genroku era (1688-1704). Genroku was an especially vibrant era, marked by tremendous economic growth and a flourishing in the arts, and often being considered a ‘golden age’ for the Tokugawa bakufu. The map is a plan of Ōsaka, likely having been used for administrative purposes, and shows the subdivisions (chōme, today written 丁目 but written in the Edo period as 丁メ) of the city. It is oriented to the east in order to show city’s castle at the top of the map, a common convention in Edo period maps of large Japanese cities.

The second map, Kaei kaisei bunken Ōsaka zu, is an 1854 woodblock print by Morikawa Hōbyakudō. Much like the first map, Morikawa’s was also completed at a time of great transformation for Japan, the so-called ‘black ships’ from America having arrived on Japanese shores and forced the country to open itself to trade only one year prior. It also follows roughly the same format as Hayashi’s map, showing the city’s subdivisions and being oriented to the east.

Saikin jissoku Ōsaka-shi shinchizu, the third map, represents a great departure from the style of the previous two maps. Completed in 1902, the map dates from the latter portion of the Meiji period (1868-1912) and reflects the innumerable cultural, political, and economic changes which occurred in this time. Like the previous two maps, it appears to have had an administrative purpose, showing many fine details in the city’s planning. Unlike them, however, it is oriented to the north, reflecting the tremendous influence of western mapping conventions on post-Meiji Restoration maps. Additionally, it covers a larger portion of the city (reflecting urban growth), and includes two inset maps of the neighboring city of Sakai (which borders Ōsaka to the south) and nearby port of Kōbe (on the northern shore of the Ōsaka bay). The name of the map includes the phrase saikin jissoku (最近實測), meaning ‘recent and accurately measured,’ which emphasizes the use of new survey techniques that had arrived in Japan during the Meiji era with western geodetic science.

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Above: the maps cropped and with orientation adjusted for the sake of comparison; the location of Ōsaka castle is static in each image on the right-hand side

The transformation of the city as a physical space from 1691-1902 is perhaps most evident in the Tenpōzan region of the city. Nowhere to be seen in the map from 1691, Tenpōzan is small artificial island just off the coast of the city. The island was built between the years 1830 and 1844 as part of a large-scale dredging of the Aji River’s mouth intended to allow larger boats to enter the river. Soil from the river’s bed was piled to form the island. On the new island, a lighthouse was built which was a notable landmark for travelers to Ōsaka, being the first sight one would see upon entering the city by boat.

1691 Map2 copy
The future site of Tenpōzan at the mouth of the Aji River in 1691
1854 map2 copy
Tenpōzan in 1854; note the outlined image of the lighthouse

In 1855, as a response to the arrival of Commodore Perry’s ‘black ships,’ the southern side of Tenpōzan was converted into a daiba, or artillery battery. Such daiba were constructed throughout Japan, from the southernmost regions of Kyūshū to the frontier of Hokkaido. They were intended to help defend Japanese shores from the immense firepower of western ships. The most famous of these is of course the Tōkyō daiba, which has been converted into a popular entertainment district and is now simply referred to as Odaiba. Similarly Tenpōzan today is the site of a ferris wheel and city’s massive aquarium Kaiyūkan.

1902 map2 copy
Tenpōzan in 1902, now converted into an artillery battery

Also of note is the inclusion of Kōbe in the 1902 map. Its exclusion in the previous two maps is not merely the result of decisions by the cartographers; the city quite literally did not exist in 1691 or 1854. A small fishing village for most of the Edo period, the city was created in 1858 as a foreign settlement and commercial port for western traders. The shogunate specifically chose the location of Kōbe for this purpose due to both its proximity to and distance from Ōsaka – its closeness meant that goods could easily be brought to the city’s capital of commerce, while the distance meant that foreigners would have minimal contact with native Japanese people. The settlement was even run by foreigners.

Kōbe, as it appeared in 1902

From the outset, Kōbe had an important relationship with Ōsaka. This relationship was further emphasized in 1874 with the completion of the first railway in the Kansai region which connected the two cities. Since, multiple additional railways between Ōsaka and Kōbe have been opened by several different companies. The two cities have come to be so closely related to one another that the term ‘Hanshin’ (阪神) has come to refer to the metropolitan region of both cities collectively, even lending its name to the local professional baseball team: the Hanshin Tigers.


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