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Click here to view this item in the UBC maps collection.

The above map titled Nara meishō hitori annaizu is a part of the UBC Rare Books and Special Collection’s Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era.  However, despite its traditional looking format, it is not a Tokugawa map.  As it was produced in 1902 (Meiji 35), it is fact a Meiji era map.  After the preceding isolated Tokugawa period, Meiji Japan was finally opened up to the rest of the world, resulting in a period of rapid Westernization and modernization. With the development of reliable railways that improved Japan’s travel infrastructure, and great numbers of foreign tourist entering Japan, the travel industry began to flourish, and in order to promote this growing tourism sector,  Japan marketed specific areas by drawing on “tourist resources.”[1] Cultural sites such as Nara contributed to such resources, as its history as one of Japan’s old capitals, as well as its multitude of religious sites made it a centre of Japanese culture.[2] This meishō (scenic places) map would have been useful for people visiting the area during this time, as it features in great detail all the major scenic spots in the central area of Nara city, known as Nara Park.  In addition, many of the sites featured on this map are still major tourist attractions even today.

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Present day sightseeing map from the Japan National Tourism Organization

The following section will examine these touristic spots both in how they were presented in the Meiji era, and how they are presented and appear today, with a focus on the four sites within the Nara Park area that are registered today as a Historical Monument of Ancient Nara on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.[3]

While looking at the comparisons, please note the incredible attention to detail on the Nara meishō map.  The map provided by JNTO for modern tourists is primarily focused on navigation, but the Nara meishō map creates a functionality through the use of landmarks.  For this reason, each site is precisly illustrated, from its main buildings, entry gates, and stairway steps, making each site incredibly easy to recognize, especially since most have not changed in any significant way since the time the map was produced.

UNESCO World Heritage sites

 Tōdaiji Temple Main Hall

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Tōdaiji Temple from the Nara meishō map

With its large size, the Tōdaiji Temple Main Hall houses the Tōdaiji Daibutsu (Big Buddha). Founded in the 8th century, the building burned down twice in its history, and the current structure featured in this map was built in 1709.[4] While smaller than the original, it is still the largest wooden structure in the world.[5] Its large size is depicted on the Nara meishō map.

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Postcard of Tōdaiji Temple from the late Meiji period

Today, Tōdaiji is still a major tourist spot.

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The building’s appearance remains the same today

Compared to the Nara meishō map, JNTO’s sightseeing map uses more accurate colours, but presents it in a much simpler way; the shape of temple itself is the same though.  Interesting note is that on the meishō map the pond in front is labeled 八マン池 (Hachiman Pond), while on the newer map, the pond is labeled Kagami-ike Pond.

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Tōdaiji temple from JNTO’s sightseeing map

On Google maps, we can more clearly see the wall that surrounds it, as well as the pond and gate that are both depicted on the meishō map and Meiji postcard.

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Satellite image from Google maps showing Tōdaiji Temple Main Hall and gate

Housed within the Tōdaiji main hall is the Tōdaiji Daibutsu

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Image from bottom right corner of Nara meishō map

This image of the Tōdaiji Daibutsu stands out the most on the Nara meishō map, and with its detailed description of the statues physical attributes, it appears to be presented as the most important sight to see in Nara.  The Tōdaiji Daibutsu is one of Japan’s largest bronze Buddha statues, and stands over 15 meters tall.[6]

Today, the Daibutsu is still on display, but while it was given such a strong emphasis on the Nara meishō map, it does not appear at all on JNTO’s sightseeing map.  If a tourist were following that map, they would not be aware of its existence without reading a location description.

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Tōdaiji Daibutsu inside the Tōdaiji Temple main hall

Kasuga Taisha Shrine

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Kasuga Taisha Shrine from the Nara meishō map

Established at the same time as the Nara capital, Kasuga Shrine is Nara’s most celebrated Shinto shrine, and is dedicated to the city’s protective deity.[7] The shrine had been periodically rebuilt every 20 years for centuries, but the custom ended with the end of the Tokugawa period.[8] The shrine can be recognized by its path lined with around 2000 stone lanterns, and the vermillion colour of the buildings with their cypress-bark roof that harmonize with the surrounding natural environment.[9] The Nara meishō map depicts the shrine in a soft vermillion colour, with a clearly identifiable gate, and the many lanterns lining the path.

Deer were also common frequenters of the area at the time, and still are today.  On the Nara meishō map, one deer can be seen just at the start of the path to Kasuga Shrine, and another one resting just below the entry to the shrine compound.

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Meiji era postcard with deer at Kasuga Park

Today, the shrine offering hall can be visited for free, while the inner areas showing the  inner buildings require a fee to enter.[10] The shrine also holds morning prayers at 9:00 am that the public may freely participate in.[11]

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Kasuga Shrine Nanmon Gate
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Path to Kasuga Shrine showing the lanterns
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Deer at Kasuga Shrine

On JNTO’s sightseeing map, we can see clearly both the bright vermillion colour of the shrine and the surrounding lanterns, though the path is not as defined as in the Nara meishō map.

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Kasuga Shrine from JNTO’s sightseeing map

Google maps gives a clear view of the shrine ground structure, but none of the defining features such as the bright vermillion colour or the lanterns is visible.

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Satellite image from Google Maps showing Kasuga Taisha Shrine complex

Kasugayama Primeval Forest

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Kasugayama Primeval Forest from Nara meishō map

Behind the Kasuga Shrine extends a sacred forest known as the Kasugayama Primeval Forest, where hunting and logging has been banned since the year 841, leaving the forest preserved in a primeval condition.[12] On the Nara meishō map you can clearly see the dense trees behind the shrine with a path running through.

Prior to WWII, the Kasuga Taisha Shrine itself owned the forest, but today the Nara parks department manages it.[13] The forest is closed off to the public, but visitors can still hike along a forest road known as Kasuga Okuyama Trail.[14]

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Kasugayama Primeval Forest trail

The Kasugayama Primeval Forest and Nara Okuyama road are both clearly labeled on JNTO’s sightseeing map, although the forest itself is not as richly detailed as the Nara meishō map.

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Kasugayama Primeval Forest from JNTO’s sightseeing map
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Satellite image from Google maps showing the forest and road

Kōfukuji Temple

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Kōfukuji Temple from Nara meishō map

The Kōfukuji temple was founded in the 7th century, and was used as a family temple for Japan’s Fujiwara family.[15] The temple site consists of multiple buildings, which can all be seen on the Nara meishō map.

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Three-Story Pagoda, (Central) Golden Hall, East Golden Hall, Five-Story Pagoda

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North Octagonal Hall, South Octagonal Hall

The current Five-Story Pagoda was reconstructed 500 years ago, after having burned down 5 times in its history.[16] It is considered a landmark symbol of Nara, and Japan’s second tallest pagoda.[17]

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Postcard of the Five-Story Pagoda at Kōfukuji from late Meiji

Today access to Kōfukuji Temple is free in most parts, but its National Treasure Museum and the Eastern Golden Hall require payment.[18] Most of the buildings in the location appear to be the same today, but the Central Golden Hall, which was destroyed in a fire in 1717 and rebuilt in the 1800s on a smaller scale, is currently being reconstructed to its full former glory.[19]

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Three-Story Pagoda, Central Golden Hall (smaller scale version)

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East Golden Hall and Five-Story Pagoda

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North Octagonal hall, South Octagonal hall

While the other areas from the UNESCO World Heritage Site list have showed little distinction between the Nara meishō map and JNTO’s sightseeing map, the Kōfukuji Temple has many noticeable differences. First, only the East Golden Hall and Five-Story Pagoda are visually featured, and labels only include those two, along with the Three-Story Pagoda. The Central Golden Hall, North Octagonal Hall, and South Octagonal Hall are missing. The sites are still in Nara though, as the above images show. This is interesting as all the locations were presented on the Nara meishō map, with the Eastern Golden Hall that is quite prominently shown today being the only one obstructed.

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Kōfukuji Temple from JNTO’s sightseeing map. Note the absence of the Central Golden Hall, as well as the North and South Octagonal Halls

Google maps shows the temple grounds and its buildings clearly.  Note that the Central Golden Hall in the centre is currently under construction.

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Satellite image from Google maps showing Kōfukuji temple grounds

Other Interesting Aspects of the Nara meishō Map

Deer

Another significant feature of Nara is its many deer. It is said that when the Kasuga Shrine was founded, a mighty god was invited to the shrine, and came riding into Nara on a white deer.[20] Since then, deer have been considered divine messengers in Nara.[21] On the Nara meishō map, you can see many of these deer scattered around the city.

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Deer from the Nara meishō map

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Deer on postcard from late Meiji

Today, around 1200 wild deer still roam the park.[22] Visitors can buy them special Shika Senbei (deer crackers) sold around the park to feed them, and JNTO’s Nara City Sightseeing Guide states that the deer are “so tame that you can make friends with them”.[23] For tourists today, it appears that the deer are not seen as a sacred animal as much as they are seen has a petting zoo attraction.

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Child feeding a deer at Nara Park

Like the Nara meishō map, the deer are depicted around the city on JNTO’s sightseeing map as well, though not quite as many.

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Deer on JNTO’s sightseeing map

Nara National Museum

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Nara National Museum from Nara meishō map

The traditional woodblock style of the Nara meishō map makes it appear as if it were an older map. But the presence of the noticeably Western styled Nara National Museum stands out clearly as an indicator that this is in fact a modern Japan. Established in 1889, the museum today is primarily used to display Japanese Buddhist art.[24] It has also gained an additional wing connected to the original building through an underground passage.[25]

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Nara National Museum today

The Museum is labeled on JNTO’s sightseeing map, but it is not accompanied by an image

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Nara National Museum dot from JNTO’s sightseeing map

Other Interesting Comparisons

Nandaimon Gate

A large wooden gate that stands on the approach to Tōdaiji Temple.[26] Except for the colour, the Nara meishō depiction appears almost identical to images from today.

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Nandaimon gate from Nara meishō map
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Nandaimon gate today

Shōsōin

Built in 756, it originally served as a warehouse for Tōdaiji, and housed many treasures until 1963.[27] Today, you can see an exhibition of 8th century treasures at the location from late October to early November.[28] The building is elevated 2.7 meters above the ground.[29] If you look closely at the Nara meishō map, you can see the stilts.

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Shōsōin from Nara meishō map
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Shōsōin today

Sarusawa-ike Pond

An artificial pond created in 749 for the Kōfukuji temple.[30] The pond with the Five-Story Pagoda viewed in the background is known as one of the most popular scenes in Japan.[31]

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Sarusawa-ike Pond from Nara meishō map
Japan, Nara, Pagoda front Sarusawa Pond
Meiji era postcard showing the iconic view
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Sarusawa-ike Pond today

Nigatsudō Hall

Part of the Tōdaiji Temple site, this structure was rebuilt in 1669 after being burned in a ceremony.[32] Today it is a recommended spot for viewing Nara and watching the sunset.[33] It is a 70-step climb to the view, but admission is free.[34] You can clearly see these steps going up to the hall on the Nara meishō map.

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Nigatsudō Hall from Nara meishō map
Japan, Nara, Nigatsudo of Tdaiji Temple
Meiji era postcard showing Nigatsudō hall with the steps going up
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Nigatsudō hall today

Tamukeyama Shrine

The First Branch of Usa Hachimangū Shrine, it was built in 749 to protect Tōdaiji Temple.[35] However, the shrine was separated during the Meiji period due to new policies that separated Shinto from Buddhism.[36] The shrine doesn’t really stand out on the Nara meishō map, and doesn’t show any of the red that can be seen on the shrine today.  The entry gate is still easily recognizable though.

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Tamukeyama Shrine from Nara meishō map
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Tamukeyama Shrine today

Notes

[1] Leheny, David Richard. The Rules of Play: National Identity and the Shaping of Japanese Leisure. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2003. 54-55.
Ogawa, Isao. “牡丹の植栽・夜間点灯による”観光まちづくり”:門前町・初瀬の観光マネジメントと観光カリスマ・森永規六の尽力,” in Journal of Atomi University Faculty of Management, 8, 2009. http://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110007342456
[2] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[3] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[4] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[5] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[6] “Todaiji Temple.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4100.html
[7] “Kasuga Taisha.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4102.html
[8] “Kasuga Taisha.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4102.html
[9] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[10] “Kasuga Taisha.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4102.html
[11] “Nara.” Nara City Sightseeing Information Center. P. 9. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://narashikanko.or.jp/en/pdf/english.pdf
[12] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[13] “Hemlocks Murmur in Kasuga’s Forest Primeval | The Japan Times.” Japan Times RSS. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/1999/10/27/environment/hemlocks-murmur-in-kasugas-forest-primeval/#.VvdqzdasaZw
[14] “Hemlocks Murmur in Kasuga’s Forest Primeval | The Japan Times.” Japan Times RSS. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/1999/10/27/environment/hemlocks-murmur-in-kasugas-forest-primeval/#.VvdqzdasaZw
[15] “Kofukuji Temple.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4101.html
[16] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[17] “Kofukuji Temple.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4101.html
[18] “Kofukuji Temple.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4101.html
[19] “Kofukuji Temple.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4101.html
[20] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[21] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[22] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[23] “Nara City Sightseeing Guide.” Japan National Tourism Organization. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/pdf/regional/kinki/nara_shi.pdf
[24] “Nara National Museum.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4109.html
[25] “Nara National Museum.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4109.html
[26] “Todaiji Temple.” Japan-guide.com. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4100.html
[27] “Shoso-in Treasure House.” / Nara. Japan Travel Guide. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.travel-around-japan.com/k63-02-shosoin.html
[28] “Nara.” Nara City Sightseeing Information Center. P. 23. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://narashikanko.or.jp/en/pdf/english.pdf
[29] “Shoso-in Treasure House.” / Nara. Japan Travel Guide. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.travel-around-japan.com/k63-02-shosoin.html
[30] “Sarusawa-ike Pond.” Hello Japan. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.hellojapan.asia/en/travel-guide/sarusawaike-pond.html
[31] “Sarusawa-ike Pond.” Hello Japan. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.hellojapan.asia/en/travel-guide/sarusawaike-pond.html
[32] “Nigatsu-do Hall in Nara”. JapanTravel. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://en.japantravel.com/nara/nigatsu-do-hall-in-nikko/2532.
[33] “Nara.” Nara City Sightseeing Information Center. P. 14. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://narashikanko.or.jp/en/pdf/english.pdf
[34] “Nigatsu-do Hall in Nara” JapanTravel. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://en.japantravel.com/nara/nigatsu-do-hall-in-nikko/2532.
[35] “Tamukeyama Hachimangu Shrine.” GoJapanGo. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.gojapango.com/travel/japan.php?poi_id=522.
[36] “Tamukeyama Hachimangu Shrine.” GoJapanGo. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.gojapango.com/travel/japan.php?poi_id=522.

 

Image Sources

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Contributor: Magdalena Machula

(Edited by Elle Marsh)

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