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Gaihōzu: Teikoku Nihon no Ajia Chizu 外邦図—帝国日本のアジア地図 by Shigeru Kobayashi 小林茂 (review)
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Reviewed by
Shigeru Kobayashi 小林茂, Gaihōzu: Teikoku Nihon no Ajia Chizu 外邦図—帝国日本のアジア地図 [Pictures of Foreign Countries: Japanese Empire’s Maps on Asia]
Tokyo: Chūō-kōrōn, 2011. iv + 282 pp. ¥ 860.

In Gaihōzu, professional geographer Shigeru Kobayashi depicts the history of Japan’s map-making activity deployed outside of its current boundary. Starting as the “modernization” of cartographic practices, or catching up to the “global standard,” it subsequently expanded over the Japanese Archipelago and culminated in 1945, when its territory shrank and former maps drawn by the Empire were redefined as “pictures of foreign countries.” In this book, the trained geographer sheds more light on geographic practices, with ample illustrations and detailed episodes, than geopolitical discourses. However, according to Thongchai Winichakul, it is the modern geographical knowledge and technology that constructed the boundaries of/between nation-states as cultural/political artifacts (Winichakul 1994). In this regard, science and technology studies (STS) scholars could read the geographical knowledge-making practices described in this book from their own perspectives, possibly focusing more on the dynamic interactions between knowledge and politics.

The first step for the Japanese cartographic regime to move overseas was mapping a neighboring terra incognita, the Korean Peninsula, and transforming it into a scientifically understandable territory. A seawater survey of 1875 deployed by the Japanese Navy, which the author calls a forcible but modern survey brought into the East Asian spaces, finally led to an unequal treaty between the Japanese and Korean governments. In the inland regions, according to Kobayashi, cartographic reconnaissance faced more difficulties than did coastal surveying. However, changes in the international relationships in East Asia since the 1880s have enabled Japanese military officers to explore the peninsula and to survey on location.

More often than not, to paraphrase D. Graham Burnett (2000), surveyors find themselves outside of their own boundaries. Kobayashi shows that more than a few surveyors were murdered in Korean and/or Chinese fields by infuriated inhabitants, [End Page 483] rather than by “mounted bandits.” Except during times of war, geographical reconnaissance activities in mainland China were kept secret, which made Japanese agents disguise themselves, for example, as “drug peddlers.” When the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs objected to adventures that might cause diplomatic problems, the army decided to continue the secret mission, the author argues, showing its strong will to gather more geographic information. After the First World War, the military was informed of a new way to reconnoiter: from the air. In spite of the Soviet Union’s discontent, the Japanese military regime continued aerial reconnaissance across the Empire’s boundary, from the Soviet territory via the Chinese mainland to the European colonies in Southeast Asia.

What the military authorities aimed at was fairly clear. It is not difficult to imagine how important maps were as tools of warfare. Kobayashi mentions that “modernized” cartographic activities in Japan were, from the outset, led by the Department of Land Survey, which was established in 1888 and under the jurisdiction of the General Staff Office of the army. In fact, the author emphasizes that procuring maps was a matter of great concern for the military. During the Sino-Japanese War, the Department of Temporary Geodetic Surveying was organized, and it deployed surveys in the rear. During the Russo-Japanese War, while detailed geographic information that was seized by chance from a killed Russian officer elevated the Japanese military’s attention to the significance of maps, successive geodetic surveying teams continued to gather cartographic knowledge and data.

In addition to their role in warfare, maps are also tools of land possession. Quoting Winichakul (1994: 126), “Force defined the space. Mapping vindicated it.” Financial authorities controlled cadastral maps, the author explains, while the military counterparts took charge of topographic ones. Land surveys deployed in colonized Korea, Taiwan, and the Kwantung Leased Territory, which the geographer evaluates as the groundwork for the modern land ownership in those areas, simultaneously destroyed the complex proprietary relations rooted in the indigenous soil, sometimes leading to conflicts. Modern is not always better.

Thus, these maps representing areas outside of the present Japanese territory were produced within the imperialistic terrains of the time. What, then, are the current meanings of those...