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1870 / 1884 Inoue Traveling Map of Japan

大日本新撰道中全圖 / [New and Complete Traveling Map of Japan]. - Main View

1870 / 1884 Inoue Traveling Map of Japan


Japan at the Start of the Meiji Era.


大日本新撰道中全圖 / [New and Complete Traveling Map of Japan].
  1884 (dated)     14 x 38 in (35.56 x 96.52 cm)     1 : 633600


A splendid map of Japan by Inoue Mohei, dated to 1884 but very likely based on an earlier, c. 1870 map. It covers Japan and highlights the country's impressive highway network. More abstractly, it provides an important example of conceptions of Japanese identity at the start of the consequential Meiji Era (1868 - 1912), when the country underwent dramatic changes.
A Closer Look
Oriented towards the west, this brilliantly-colored nishiki-e woodblock print covers Japan circa the mid-19th century, from the southern shores of Hokkaido through to Tsushima, Iki, and other southern islands. Bolded in pink are major highways, including the 'Five Roads' or 'Five Highways' (五街道) of the Edo period (1600 - 1868), the most famous of which is the coastal Tōkaidō. Stations along the highways are indicated along with intervening distances noted in ri (here as り). Smaller highways also include intermediate stops with distances noted. Towards bottom-left, a legend explains symbols, colors, and lines, including relatively novel telegraph lines (電信線).

Gold-colored boxes give information on the former (旧) feudal clans and domains which had so recently defined the map of Japan. Pink boxes denote the prefectures (usually but not always 県). Large red circles are used for major cities, including Tokyo, Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto.

Surrounding the map are illustrations of famous sites, including temples, mountains, islands, and bridges. There is an unusually prominent rural skew to these images; even the obligatory view of Nihonbashi (東京日本橋) in central Tokyo barely focuses on the bridge or the city, instead emphasizing Mt. Fuji in the distance. This aesthetic choice was likely meant to appeal to the map's intended customers, travelers, who could admire such rustic scenes on their journey.
National Unification
The peaceful, bucolic scenes in the margins belie the tumultuous reality of Japan at the time, defined by foreign aggression, civil war, and drastic social, cultural, and economic changes. Though the political situation stabilized with the victory of the forces supporting the Meiji Restoration in the Boshin War (1868 - 1869), the new government was not timid in aiming to reshape Japanese society. A range of new measures were introduced that affected every village and family in the country. Among these were policies meant to strengthen national unity by, for instance, instituting compulsory primary education and standardizing the Japanese taught in schools. In terms of infrastructure, the reformers prioritized railways and shipping over roads, in part because the largely-paved highways seen here already traversed the easiest passes through Japan's mountainous terrain. In the long term, these geographic limitations and policy decisions led Japan to becoming one of the world's paramount rail nations.
Dating the Map
This map is notable for presenting Japan just at the moment that its conceptions of the nation and national identity were changing, in the early days after the 1868 Meiji Restoration. The use of Tokyo (東京) instead of Edo (江戸) and other details, such as the aforementioned use of 'former' for feudal domains, indicate that the map dates from after 1868. At the same time, the Ryukyu Islands and most of Hokkaido are not included, suggesting that the map cannot date from much after 1872, when the Ryukyus were effectively annexed by Japan, and certainly not after 1879, when they were formally incorporated as a prefecture. Similarly, the Meiji government oversaw mass migration of colonists from Japan proper to Hokkaido in the 1870s, more than quadrupling the island's population by the end of the decade, making it an integral part of the nation in the process. Therefore, though this printing dates to 1884 (see 'Publication History and Census' below), the original edition of the map must date to around 1870, which would certainly make it one of Inoue's earliest publications.
Publication History and Census
This map was edited, printed, and published by Inoue Mohei. An imperial approval stamp below the legend dates it to 1884 (Meiji 17), but for reasons discussed above it is likely based on an earlier map from around 1870. The only other example of this map in institutional collections is held by the Beinecke Library at Yale University and is dated to 'between 1868 and 1881.' An 1881 edition of the Meiji-era periodical Publishing Booklist (出版書目月報) makes reference to a printing of the map from that year, which appears to now be lost.


Inoue Mohei (井上茂兵衛; 1852 - 1927) was a Japanese cartographer and publisher active in the Meiji period. At the end of the nineteenth century, he served as the head of the Tokyo Jihon Engraving Sales Association (東京地本彫画営業組合), a descendent of the publishers' guilds (地本問屋) that produced ukiyo-e, popular literature, and other essential cultural production of the Tokugawa era. Inoue generally produced nishiki-e (錦絵), an elaborated form of ukiyo-e that were very popular during the Meiji period and which often depicted the introduction or influence of foreign technology, fashion, and ideas in Japan. More by this mapmaker...


Very good. Wear along fold lines.


OCLC 1083624452 (1868 edition).