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1849 Japanese Map of Edo or Tokyo, Japan

Edo. - Main View

1849 Japanese Map of Edo or Tokyo, Japan


Extraordinary woodcut Tokugawa Period map of Tokyo or Edo.


  1849 (dated)     34 x 42 in (86.36 x 106.68 cm)


This extraordinary item is a hand colored Tokugawa Period woodcut map of Edo, or Tokyo, Japan. Impressive size and detail. Produced in the mid 19th century Japanese woodcut style, this map is a rare combination of practical and decorative. Ships and waves decorate the harbor and there is no specific directional orientation. All text seems to radiate from the palace at the center of the map. Folds into its original sideboards.

Japanese maps of Tokyo, like this one, were recently the subject of a stir in the media and an unexpected blacklash from the Japanese government and equal rights groups. When Google added a collection of rare 18th and 19th century Japanese maps from the Berkley collection of Tokyo or Edo to its the Google Earth Geo-Browser it revealed the modern locations of a number of forgotten Burakumin Villages. The Burakumin are a social minority group labeled as 'outcasts' under old Japanese caste system. This system, which dates to the early days of the feudal shogun era, identified the Burakumin as 'untouchable' due to their employment in death related professions such as gravediggers, undertakers, embalmers and leather workers. Burakumin were believed to have been 'tainted by death' and thus unlucky. Though the caste system was legally abolished in 1871, some residents feared that the satellite overlays and relative availability on this information on Google Earth will enflame a new wave discriminatory activities against the Buraku.


Japanese cartography appears as early as the 1600s. Japanese maps are known for their exceptional beauty and high quality of workmanship. Early Japanese cartography has its own very distinctive projection and layout system. Japanese maps made prior to the appearance of Commodore Perry and the opening of Japan in the mid to late 1850s often have no firm directional orientation, incorporate views into the map proper, and tend to be hand colored woodblock prints. This era, from the 1600s to the c. 1855, which roughly coincides with the Tokugawa or Edo Period (1603-1886), some consider the Golden Age of Japanese Cartography. Most maps from this period, which followed isolationist ideology, predictably focus on Japan. The greatest cartographer of the period, whose work redefined all subsequent cartography, was Ino Tadataka (1745 -1818). Ino's maps of Japan were so detailed that, when the European cartographers arrived they had no need, even with their far more sophisticated survey equipment, to remap the region. Later Japanese maps, produced in the late Edo and throughout the Meiji period, draw heavily upon western maps as models in both their content and overall cartographic style. While many of these later maps maintain elements of traditional Japanese cartography such as the use of rice paper, woodblock printing, and delicate hand color, they also incorporate western directional orientation, projection systems, and structural norms. Even so, Japan's isolationist policy kept most western maps from reaching Japan so even 19th century maps appear extremely out of date. The early Japanese maps copy the great 1602 Chinese world map of the friar Matto Ricci. After Shiba Kokan's 1792 map, most Japanese cartographers used Covens and Mortier's 1730 copy of Jaillot's 1689 double hemisphere work as their base world-view. In 1862 Seiyo Sato based a new world map on Dutch sources dating to 1857, thus introducing the Mercator projection to Japan. By the late Meiji Era, western maps became far more common in Asia and Japanese maps began to follow modern conventions. More by this mapmaker...


Very good. Minor fold wear and separations here and there. Generally very clean. Folds into original sideboards.