Reading kuzushiji in a map – introduction


“General map of the world, mountains, seas and ten thousand countries of the world” (Chikyū bankoku sankai konyo zenzu 地球萬國山海坤輿全圖), by Nagakubo Sekisui (1717-1801) ca. 1850, woodcut, colour, 19 x 12 cm; C. V. Starr East Asian Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Full map available at: Japanese Historical Maps

Now, that we have a grasp of how hentaigana work, let us try to apply what we have just learnt on a map. The following image is a fragment of a version of a map called Chikyū bankoku sankai yochi zenzu. The prototype of this map was created in 1602 by the Italian missionary Mateo Ricci (1552-1610) for the Chinese emperor Wanli. Soon after its creation it was soon copied and brought to Japan. The version shown here was based on the original by Ricci and published around the 1850s. All the place names were adapted and translated into hiragana. 

These Ricci-type maps are discussed in the tutorial on Old Japanese Maps. If you want to read more about them, you can find the tutorial here: Azuchi-Momoyama- and early Edo-period maps