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  • Mapping Early Modern Japan: Space, Place, and Culture in the Tokugawa Period (1603-1868)
  • Constantine N. Vaporis (bio)
Mapping Early Modern Japan: Space, Place, and Culture in the Tokugawa Period (1603-1868). By Marcia Yonemoto. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2003. xvi, 234 pages. $49.95.

This book was an unexpected journey. From the title, I naively expected a history of cartography in early modern Japan, but what the reader gets is far more than that. Marcia Yonemoto makes it clear from almost the first page that this is a history of mapping as an idea rather than a history of cartography. Mapping, in her words, "is as much about the processes of perception and representation as it is about the material products of those acts" (p. 2). Those material products include maps, of course, but also travel narratives and fiction on geographic and cartographic themes that shaped and spread geographic consciousness. Using these as her source materials, Yonemoto "examines the elusive processes by which people came to name, to know and to interpret the natural and human worlds in which they lived" (pp. 1-2). Using three main genres of text, the author reveals how mapping functioned at two historical transitions, from the mid- to late seventeenth century [End Page 507] to the early eighteenth century and from the mid-eighteenth through the early nineteenth century.

In chapter one, "Envisioning the Realm," Yonemoto examines the relationship between two principal forms of map-making, administrative (that is, those produced under the auspices of the Tokugawa shogunate) and commercial. Several interesting issues emerge from this discussion of official map-making. First of all, it reveals yet another area in the political sphere in which there was tension between the bakufu and the domains. While a picture of steadily increasing central control over the process of provincial map-making emerges, there were recurring problems in getting the daimyo to comply with bakufu orders for information necessary to compile them. Second, while Tokugawa Japan is renowned as a time when the realm enjoyed great peace (taihei), that peace was often only the result of carefully controlled contention between political actors, between village and domain, between the bakufu and the domains, or, as here, between individual domains. As Yonemoto shows, "mapping failed to resolve boundary disputes, and contested territory appeared on the provincial maps as 'disputed land' (ronchi)" (p. 12). Such disputes were not unusual: she cites evidence that there were a total of 19 boundary disputes in the three provinces of Chikuzen, Higo, and Iga. My own research on the practice of alternate attendance has shown that these boundary disputes in the provinces were also mirrored in Edo, except that in Edo the space being contested was the borders of the daimyo's compounds (daimyō yashiki) rather than the domains themselves.

Peace did not just happen, in a passive sense; it was the result of constant human agency. Daimyo officials known as "Edo representatives" (rusui yaku) worked together in Edo to resolve not only border disputes in the bakufu capital but also the larger conflicts over boundaries in the domains that were reflected in the provincial maps. Yonemoto might seem to provide fodder for both sides in the debate over stateness and the relative power of the bakufu versus the domains:

Despite the general impression that the successive provincial mapmaking projects proceeded steadily down a path toward increasing standardization and centralization of the mapmaking process, the continuous battles to define provincial boundaries and the persistence of local proprietary concerns revealed the shogunate's less-than-complete control over the spatial politics of the realm.

(p. 12)

However, she clearly demonstrates an assertive central power--one that was not always successful, but one that nonetheless actively exercised its authority. While she does not enter into this debate in an explicit fashion, Yonemoto does argue that the end result of the bakufu's effort was "the most [End Page 508] comprehensive and detailed local administrative maps and cadastral records ever made by a Japanese government" (p. 12).

In discussing later maps, the author shows the political import of bakufu-made maps, which constituted a wonderful, if largely invented, image of national unity of...


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