MapCarte 60/365: Yamashiro no Kuni ezu by Anon, ca1800

MapCarte60_yamashiroThe Yamashiro region of Japan hand-drawn using ink and watercolour around 1800 showing the artistry of far eastern mapping of the period. Scale is warped. East is up. The landscape is depicted pictorially, yet the key features are still easily recognised and give a sense of place. Nijō castle and the Imperial palace (the red areas within the yellow city) are labeled and clearly identify the place we refer to as modern day Kyoto.


Ovals are used to depict small villages, rectangles are larger ones and the place names describe modern districts of Kyoto. Temples are illustrated with mimetic symbols and colour is used to denote which ‘gun’ each village is located within. Tapered streams are used to illustrate some of the rivers and streams.

Here, then, despite the apparent artistry and simplistic approach, we see both quantitative and qualitative symbology working to communicate something of the size, character and relationship of the populated areas. Hierarchy is also used effectively for transport links and the surrounding mountains are depicted encircling the region rather than being presented planimetrically or, indeed, using a birds-eye representation from the viewer’s orientation.