Monday 21 April 2003

Exploring downtown Tokyo

Loren Webster, Jeff Ward, and the Dynamic Driveler (amongst others) have made fresh contributions to the truth in blogging debate; Liz Lawley pointed to a post by Jill Walker that offers me the perfect opening for a series of posts about the Japanese “I-novel”; Language Hat’s MOTYHOLE entry (caution: “misogynistic language and rank etymological speculation”) has encouraged me to write about the variety of characters used to construct the different Japanese words for prostitute; that should amuse the Happy Tutor while I’m scouting out more information about Ikuko… and what have I been doing? Looking at maps.

A few days ago, the Dynamic Driveler sent me a link to an online collection of Japanese historical maps from the East Asian Library at UC Berkeley:

The Japanese Historical Map Collection contains about 2,300 early maps of Japan and the World. The collection was acquired by the University of California from the Mitsui family in 1949, and is housed on the Berkeley campus in the East Asian Library. Represented in this online collection are about 100 maps and books from this Collection. The maps were selected by Yuki Ishimatsu, Head of Japanese Collections at the East Asian Library, and scanned and put online by David Rumsey and Cartography Associates. The project was initiated by Peter Zhou, Director of the East Asian Library. Funding and project management is provided by Cartography Associates and the East Asian Library.

The collection can be viewed in three ways:

  • The Insight® Browser that requires no plug-ins or downloads (I couldn’t get this to work with Windows Mozilla 1.2.1 but had no trouble with IE6).
  • A downloadable Insight® Java Client that provides greater functionality.
  • A special GIS Browser that allows detailed overlays of historical maps and current geospatial data.

I started with the Insight Browser but soon switched to the Java Client, which offers vastly improved scrolling, measurement and scaling options, and the ability to add annotations. (This Help page gives a good idea of what’s possible.)

1858 map of Edo (Tokyo) by Mori Fusai and Subaraya Mo

I’ve spent hours exploring the Shitamachi (downtown) district on two maps of Tokyo: an 1858 case map by Mori Fusai & Subaraya Mo and a 1905 pocket map by Ando Rikinosuke. This detail shows the Azuma Bridge, joining Honjo and Asakusa wards, close to the epicenter of the area attacked in the fire bombing raid of March 9-10, 1945.

Even if you’re not interested in Japan, the entire David Rumsey Historical Map Collection comprises over 8,000 maps online with a particular emphasis on rare 18th and 19th century North and South America cartographic history materials. When you launch the Java client, you can choose between opening the complete collection, the Japanese maps, or both. Anyone with even a slight interest in geography or cartography will be richly rewarded. (If you are working to meet a deadline, under no circumstances should you visit David Rumsey’s site. If you’re looking for an excuse to avoid work, you won’t find anything better than this.)

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Sigh - mea culpa, mea maxima culpa - I've distracted you from the conversation :-) and I agree with Language Hat that the truth in blogging discussion is definitely one of the most interesting threads to come along in quite some time.

Posted by The Dynamic Driveler on 22 April 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour