Japan in Maps

Our Review of the Week features a cartographic exploration of Japanese history – just in time for the Japanese national holiday

Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps

ed. by Kären Wigen, Sugimoto Fumiko, and Cary Karacas Chicago, 2016
269p bibl index afp, 9780226073057 $45.00, 9780226073194 $36.00

Cartographic Japan: A History in Maps book cover. Drawing of a mountain range in beige/gray colors.

Written for a general audience, this remarkable volume is intended to introduce readers to the “treasure trove of colorful materials” that make up “one of the world’s most diverse and spectacular cartographic archives.” Each of the 58 short chapters focuses on a particular image—a tourist map of Edo, a Buddhist conception of global geography, a coastal survey, an outline of the destruction of Hiroshima, a digital rendering of radiation from the 3/11 nuclear disaster—accompanied by a few pages of descriptive text highlighting the map’s historical (or possibly social, political, cultural, or religious) context. Scholars of Japan will recognize a veritable who’s who of contributors, among them Ronald Toby, Marcia Yonemoto, Constantine Vaporis, Kären Wigen, Mary Elizabeth Berry, Henry D. Smith II, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, and Theodore Bestor. Given rising scholarly interest in material and popular culture, as well as Japan’s centuries-old mapmaking tradition, this is an endeavor both timely and timeless. Moreover, it is a beautiful book, with color photographs throughout. An enchanting and even poignant volume that should find a ready home in any college or university library.

Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.
T. S. Munson, Randolph-Macon College
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – Asia & Oceania
Choice Issue: Nov 2016