1918 Toppan Printing Co. Map of Japanese Railways

鐵道院所管線路圖 / [Map of Railway Lines Managed by the Imperial Railway Board]. - Main View

1918 Toppan Printing Co. Map of Japanese Railways


Interwar Japan's Impressive Rail Network.


鐵道院所管線路圖 / [Map of Railway Lines Managed by the Imperial Railway Board].
  1918 (dated)     42 x 31.5 in (106.68 x 80.01 cm)     1 : 2100000


An imposing wall map depicting Japan's railway network, produced in 1918 by the Imperial Railway Board and published by the Toppan Printing Company. It demonstrates the country's large and growing rail network and hints at its larger ambitions to build close connections with the rest of East Asia.
A Closer Look
The main map focuses on the Japanese home islands, from Hokkaido to Kyushu, illustrating the country's rail network in remarkable detail. A legend below the map explains that red lines indicate rail lines operated by the government (院營業線), including express service (in green), and lines under construction, along with private rail lines, automobile roads, shipping lines (including some operated by the Imperial Railway Board), and underwater telegraph cables. Cities and towns (some transliterated in Latin letters), administrative borders, mountains, temporary rail stations, famous historical and cultural sites, temples, hot springs, and other features are all assiduously recorded.

An inset map of East and Southeast Asia appears at top-left, with rail and shipping lines prominently marked. At bottom-right, insets of Taiwan, Karafuto (South Sakhalin), Tokyo, and Osaka are displayed, similarly highlighting their rail and maritime connections. A table at bottom-center lists major holidays and the date of each Sunday (the most typical day for leisure travel) throughout the year.
Growing Ambitions in East Asia
At bottom-center is a bird's eye view of northeast Asia titled 'Connecting transportation routes between Japan and China' (日支間連絡運輸徑路), displaying connections between Japan and points as far as Datong, Hangzhou, Harbin, and Vladivostok, directly by sea or by rail via Korea and Manchuria. The view underscores Japan's growing sphere of influence and colonial control in the region, which would bring it into tension and eventually conflict with both the Soviet Union and major Western powers in the coming decades. It is signed 'Yoshida' in Latin letters and includes a symbol with the character 初, indicating that it was drawn by Yoshida Hatsusaburō (吉田初三郎). In the 1920s and 1930s, Yoshida would become the best-known artist of this sort of bird's eye view in Japan, aided in large part by his close association with the country's railway bureaucracy.

On either side of the view, text provides information on the total trackage under government administration (5,940 ri, or nearly 20,000 kilometers); fares by route type, distance, and class; costs for parcels and shipping; hotels and financial services provided by the railways; and information explaining the view itself, discussing the connections between Japan and China.
Expansion and Nationalization of Japan's Railways
Like much of the Western world, Japan saw a boom in railway construction in the late 19th century, a combination of private ventures, government-operated lines, and lines built through public-private partnerships. Around the turn of the century, the Japanese government aimed for standardization and rationalization of the system and hoped to expand the network to every corner of the Japanese home islands. Troubles encountered during the Russo-Japanese War (1904 - 05) only strengthened these concerns, and in 1906, major interurban lines were nationalized, a move welcomed by the shareholders of the pre-existing companies, which had become unprofitable. But suburban commuter lines and light rail lines (軽便鉄道) to more remote areas and smaller cities continued to be privately operated, often with considerable government support. Two years after this map's publication, the Imperial Railway Board (鐵道院), which produced this map, was reorganized as the Ministry of Railways (鐵道省). During World War II, remaining private lines were nationalized, and during the U.S. Occupation, the railways were reorganized as a public corporation, Japanese National Railways (日本国有鉄道).
Publication History and Census
This map was produced by the Transportation Bureau (運輸局) of the Imperial Railway Board and printed by the Toppan Printing Company (凸版印刷株式會社) in 1918 (Meiji 7). A 1919 edition also exists, held by the National Diet Library (OCLC 674986240). Both the 1918 and 1919 editions appear to have been issued in two formats, one being a wall map as seen here and the other being a booklet (of about 9.5 x 14.5 inches) with the map divided into portions. The National Diet Library and the Nichibunken (International Research Center for Japanese Studies) hold examples of the booklet from 1919 (OCLC 1089599328), while the National Diet Library holds a 1918 edition of the booklet (JP番号: 43033863). However, no institution is known to hold the wall map format of the 1918 edition of the map seen here.


Toppan Printing Company (凸版印刷株式會社, 1900 - present) was a printer and lithographic press founded in Meiji Japan in 1900 as Toppan Printing Limited Partnership. The founding of Toppen closely correlates to Meiji efforts to modernize Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The firm was formally reorganized with an influx of new investment in 1908, taking the name Toppan Printing Co., LTD (凸版印刷株式會社), which literally translates as 'Letterpress Printing Company,' reflecting the company's embrace of the then cutting edge Erhört letterpress method. By 1910, Japan had modernized to such an extent there was a growing need for brightly colored advertising, propaganda, touristic, and commercial printing. Toppen employee Gennojo Inoue split off from the firm to import color offset printing technologies from the United States and Europe, founding the Offset Printing Company in 1913. After four years of successful operation and growing market share, Toppen acquired the technologically superior company and reabsorbed Gennojo Inoue as an executive. Despite the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, Japanese efforts at modernization advanced rapidly. Between 1920 and 1929 the company's production and revenue grew dramatically. In 1920 or 1920 photomechanical printing was introduced to Japan, again by the efforts of visionary company president Gennojo Inoue. From the 1930s on, Toppen under Gennojo Inoue's guidance continued to grow, becoming one of the largest printing concerns in Japan. They established offices in other cities, including Osaka. In 1938, they built a large press factory, the Itabashi Plant, in Tokyo. During World War II the Toppen firm was utilized for the war effort, producing new currencies, bonds, government securities, and propaganda material. Following the war, Toppan was reorganized and continued to grow. It is today a major Japanese firm, diversified in multiple industries and traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. More by this mapmaker...

Yoshida Hatsusaburō (吉田初三郎, March 4, 1884 - August 16, 1955) was a Japanese illustrator and painter of birds-eye views active during the Taisho and Showa periods. Yoshida was born in Kyoto and apprenticed under Takeshiro Kanokgoi (1874 - 1941). Yoshida is significant for pioneering the use parallel perspective birds-eye views to illustrate Japanese bus and railroad transit networks. His first birds-eye view, completed in 1914, illustrated the Keihan railway and was highly praised by no less than Hirohito, then a prince but soon to be the Shōwa Emperor. With the Emperor's approval, Yoshida's views became widely popular and were adopted by the Ministry of Railways for the illustration all of its major public transportation networks. His style was so fashionable and distinctive that an entire genre was named after him (初三郎式絵図), and his works helped to spur a domestic tourism boom in the 1920s – 1930s. Most of his work consisted of city and regional views, though larger views encompassing the entirety of Japan do exist. Yoshida's most significant piece is most likely his rendering of the Hiroshima bombing, which was published in an English language magazine in 1949. He took on Tsunemitsu Kaneko as an assistant and apprentice in the early 1930s. Eventually Kaneko started making parallel perspective views of his own and became Yoshida's primary rival. Although he made over 3,000 maps in his lifetime, Yoshida was known to dedicate months to research and preparation for particular maps. For his 1949 Hiroshima map and his striking depiction of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, he adopted a journalistic approach and spoke to many survivors of the disasters. Learn More...


Good. Areas of infill at top-left and top-right. Marginal creases and repaired tears. Occasional creasing and wear along fold lines throughout. Reinforcement on the verso with archival tissue. Small are of loss at bottom-right corner. Small hole just below the title of the inset map at top-left.