Asia and Japan as Seen from Old European Maps

After the curtain rose on the Age of Discovery in the 15th century, the shape of the world gradually became clearer and the ancient maps of the world that had been drawn up on the basis of a combination of fact and fantasy began to be revised. In the latter half of the 16th century, Abraham Ortelius compiled the results of the Age of Discovery into an atlas, which included Japan and the rest of Asia. Over the course of about a century, from the Tokugawa shogunate’s introduction of the policy of national isolation in the mid-17th century, European maps were brought to Japan, at a time when dealings with foreign powers such as Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands were at their height.

Comparing these maps with each other, we can gain a sense of various things, including how Westerners perceived Japan and the rest of Asia and how Japanese place names were pronounced at the time. This display introduces a selection of old European maps from the Naganuma Collection, the Kuwaki Collection, and a number of other collections.