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1937 Koyama Kichizō View and Map of Colonial Korea

朝鮮安内 / [Guide to Chōsen]. - Main View

1937 Koyama Kichizō View and Map of Colonial Korea


Iconic Bird's-Eye View of Korea.


朝鮮安内 / [Guide to Chōsen].
  1937 (dated)     7.25 x 24.25 in (18.415 x 61.595 cm)


This is a beautiful 1937 Koyama Kichizō bird's eye view map of the Korean Peninsula, with southern Japan and parts of northeastern China in the background. It was issued by the colonial Government-General (朝鮮總督府) in Keijo (京城 Seoul) for Japanese tourists, businessmen, and residents of Korea. A marginal note indicates that the military has reviewed and approved the mapping of fortifications in several regions.
Environment and Modernity
The map is fascinating for showing both the natural features of Korea, such as mountains, rivers, and coastline, as well as the trappings of industrial modernity that Japanese colonialism had grafted onto this environment. It faces towards the northeast with Paektusan (白頭山) and Kumgangsan (金剛山; Diamond Mountain), the two most culturally important mountains in Korea, prominent at top-center and center, respectively. The left-side panel, also the cover when the map is folded, includes a drawing of the Government-General Headquarters in Keijo, which issued this map, also displayed at bottom-center. Opposite the Government-General building is Namsan (南山 South Mountain) with the State Shinto Chōsen Shrine (朝鮮神宮), one of the most obvious displays of Japan's cultural assimilation policies, where Koreans were regularly forced to praise the Japanese Emperor.

Provincial (道廳) and prefectural (府廳) government headquarters are also noted in light blue boxes and yellow ovals, respectively. The bottom has brief descriptions of major cities (釜山 Busan, 大邱 Daegu, 慶州 Gyeongju, and so on), which are basically listed from south to north and east to west, in accordance with the orientation of the map, but also roughly by distance from the Japanese home islands. The map is crisscrossed with roads, rail lines, and sea and air routes, signifying the density of colonial infrastructure that had been built in the roughly thirty years since Japan gained control over Korea following the Russo-Japanese War.
Verso Content
The verso includes a wealth of information, including brief outlines of Korea's terrain, climate, history, culture, and, most extensively, resources and industries. A selection near the end of the text explains that the Secretariat (文書課) of the Government-General, presumably the office behind the map's production, aims to provide information for facilitating travel, trade, and other matters of concern to the presumed reader (aside from travelers, the number of Japanese settlers in Korea expanded throughout the colonial era, and had reached over 900,000 by the early 1940s). The verso also includes photographs of (counter-clockwise from top-right): the Government-General building in Keijo, a dredging ship used for placer mining, sheep in northern Korea, a karamatsu forest, central Keijo, Kumgangsan, Jeju Island, winter sports (hockey), Korean schoolgirls, and the 'appearance' (容姿) of Koreans. At left are a memo section for notes and an inset map that covers a similar area as the main map, though with more of Manchuria (Manchukuo) included.
Colonial Modernity in Korea
This map dates from the peak of the 'colonial modernity' era in Korea. Japan had established and expanded an informal empire in Korea soon after its own Meiji Restoration, bringing it into conflict first with Qing China (1894-95) and then with Tsarist Russia (1904-05). By 1905, Japan had effective control over Korea's domestic affairs, and in 1910 Korea was annexed outright and ceased to exist as a sovereign entity. Japan's colonial venture in Korea included compulsory public education in Japanese, sanitation and public health, infrastructure, urban planning, changes in manners and mores, and economic development. These policies were aimed at assimilating Koreans and Korea into Japan's empire and were coupled with extremely brutal repression of independence activists and insurgents. Particularly once a full-scale war with China began in 1937, Japan aimed to rely on Korea to provide food, labor, and other resources for its war effort. This map highlights critical industries and resources (noted in yellow circles) in the various regions of the Korean peninsula.
Sketchbook Mailer Maps
Sketchbook Mailers (書簡圖繪) were a style of bird's-eye view maps that became very popular in Japan in the 1920s-1940s, often depicting cityscapes from across Japan's growing empire. Each map was designed to be folded and packaged for safe and easy mailing and came with information about and photographs of the city on the verso, as is the case here. Although these maps are fascinating, beautiful, and educational, they also served a political function, informing Japanese audiences about the empire and providing a visual aid to understand places they would have read about frequently in the news.
Publication History and Census
This map was printed on March 15, 1937, and distributed on March 20 the same year. It was produced by Koyama Kichizō (小山吉三), issued by the Government-General of Chōsen (朝鮮總督府) and printed in conjunction with Nihon Meisho Zuesha (日本名所圖繪社), a printing agency that published maps of famous sites in the Japanese home islands and throughout the empire, and with whom Koyama cooperated on a number of maps. The National Diet Library and National Archives of Japan have several maps by this title published by the Government-General of Chōsen from earlier years, but none from 1937. The International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken) has an edition from September 1935 with the same cartographer and printer that was also issued by the Government-General of Chōsen, so it is likely that this map is an updated or modified version of the earlier 1935 map. It is scarce on the market.


Koyama Kichizō (小山吉三; fl. c. 1929 - 1942) was a prolific cartographer who produced several dozen maps dealing primarily with Japan's expanding empire in Korea, China, and Southeast Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. He founded and often collaborated with Nihon Meisho Zuesha (日本名所圖繪社), a printing agency that published maps of famous sites in the Japanese home islands and throughout the empire. More by this mapmaker...

Nihon Meisho Zuesha (日本名所圖繪; fl. c. 1925 - 1942) was a Japanese publisher of maps, often dealing with cities or travel throughout Japan's growing empire in the 1920s - 1940s, founded by artist and cartographer Koyama Kichizō (小山吉三). They became especially known for bird's-eye views of cities, collaborating with leading artist-cartographers in that genre, such as Yoshida Hatsusaburō (吉田初三郎) and Kaneko Tsunemitsu (金子常光), and developing popular folding sketchbook maps (書簡圖繪) that could be easily mailed and transported. Learn More...


Very good. Minor wear on old fold lines.


David Fedman, Seeds of Control Japan’s Empire of Forestry in Colonial Korea (University of Washington Press, 2020), pp. 219.