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Nagasaki Harbor, 1741: Navigating the Many Dimensions of a Map

Seeing Japan from the Inside...


Though the labeling on the 1741 Nagasaki map is exhaustive in some regards, it’s less overbearing in the realm of identifying natural topography, especially as the viewer looks further from the coastline. Merely pointing out some hills (Mount Inasa and Atago Hill as shown here on the left and right, respectively), a pine forest and some smaller peninsulas, the mapmaker left a lot of geological and ecological items unidentified.

These absences (which are the topic of a later section) are not as noticeable while scanning the coastline and sea regions of the map. Populated with an almost obsessive attention to detail, most every island, bay, peninsula and river has an assigned name, and there are even indicators of depth, be it through vague descriptions or measurements, as seen to the left. The coastline displays rich information about the contours of the land, something many earlier maps made by the Japanese lacked, as discussed in a previous section.