The Use of Japanese Early Modern Maps by Western Cartographers During the Nineteenth Century

  • Kunitada NarumiEmail author
  • Shigeru Kobayashi
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography book series (LNGC)


Because of Japan’s exclusionary policies, Western maps of Japan depended on Japanese native maps from the end of the seventeenth century. They were reproduced repeatedly using Japanese vernacular maps for reference. However, Western exploratory navigations around the Japanese islands and the appearance of detailed native maps of Japan toward the end of the eighteenth century brought this practice to an end. More detailed charts, modifying new native maps on the basis of modern hydrographic data were compiled. It is well known that the maps of Tadataka Inō (1745–1818) were adopted as the source of compilations by Philip Franz von Siebold (1796–1866) and the British Hydrographical Office. Little is known, however, concerning the use of that of Sekisui Nagakubo (1717–1801), which preceded the Inō’s maps. Modifying it with hydrographic data, the Russian navigator, Adam Johann von Krusenstern (1770–1846) compiled a chart entitled Carte de l’Empire du Japon. He incorporated thousands of place names originally transcribed by the Dutch diplomat Isaac Titsingh (1745–1812) into his chart. Titsingh had resided intermittently in Japan from 1779 to 1784 and Romanized place names in Nagakubo’s map written in kanji and kana. Accordingly this chart played a leading role in the Western mapping of Japan during the mid-nineteenth century; it was adopted as the main source of the Admiralty chart of Japan printed in 1855. Although Nagakubo’s map has been overshadowed by the Inō’s maps, the significance of the former should be recognized as the source of the earliest detailed chart of Japan in the West.



This report is part of the outcome of the study supported by JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) No. 24240115; 16H03527. Many of the maps used in this report are held in the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, Washington D.C., and the staff in that division supported our investigation. Additionally, the digital image of the Sekisui-zu in Leiden University Library was provided by Martijn Storms MA (Leiden University). We appreciate their support.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Konan UniversityKobeJapan
  2. 2.Osaka UniversitySuitaJapan

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