Maps as Grand Decoration (Lots 10 and 11)
Map making in Japan is said to have originated with the maps drawn by a Buddhist priest Gyoki in the 8th century, and maps of Japan depended largely on that original work even during the Edo period. However since the introduction into Japan by the Portuguese of the compass and astrolabe during the Momoyama period map making became more accurate. Jesuit records tell of Oda Nobunaga possessing both a world globe and a world map when the unification of Japan and both trading and possible military operations in south East Asia were in his everyday thoughts. After the eventual unification under Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603, although the Tokugawa government might not have needed the most detailed world maps it was vital for Japan’s own coastline to be recorded with accuracy since a great part of her economy depended on coastal marine trade. In addition to folded paper maps and maps in books and albums, a small number of large scale maps were painted on folding screens. At least thirty world map screens are known to have been created in Japan during the early modern period. They weave together cartographic information from several different European sources.
Although later in date, the present screens are close in their depiction to two examples preserved in the Jotokuji temple, Fukui prefecture (Important Cultural Properties)1 and regarded as late Edo period versions. That of the world map (Lot 10) in particular is virtually identical to the Jotokuji map, but that of Japan (Lot 11) is depicted in more detail and the Jotokuji version seems to imply that Japan is at the centre of the world. The world map has the equator shown as a black and red dotted line in both cases, and the imagined shapes of the thereto unseen southern land masses are very similar. Unno Kazutaro states that there are four known examples of these Jotokuji type maps which date from between 1592 and 1627, and a fifth made around the middle of the 17th century.2 Shimizu says that although all world maps derive from the originals of Gerhardus Mercator (1512 - 1594), the Jotokuji maps might be later than the Momoyama period, and that the currently suggested date of 1592 is based solely on a sea passage marked between Kyushu and Korea which corresponds to the route taken by Hideyoshi’s invading force in that year.
The depiction of large maps on screens might have had an educational use, such as shrine and temple pilgrim mandalas, but they must also have been considered objects of curiosity and decoration and, as well as conversation points.
1. Shimizu Yoshiaki (ed.), The Shaping of the Daimyo Culture, The National Gallery of Art, (Washington, 1985)
2. J.B. Harley and D. Woodward (eds.), The History of Cartography, Volume 2, Book 2, Unno Kazutaka, Cartography in Japan, (University of Chicago Press, 1994), Part 2, Chapter 11