Introduction to reading Japanese maps and marketing practices 3


“A self-guide from Sendai’s kokubunchō to Shiogama, Matshushima, Ichi-no-maki and Kinkasan” (Sendai Kokubunchō yori Shiogama Matsushima Ichi-no-maki Kinkasan made Hitori Annai 仙台国分町より鹽竈松島石巻金華山まで独案内), woodcut, black and white, printed by Fukuya, early 19th century, Author’s collection.

A detour crossing Shiogama and Matsushima in our local map can be explained in the context of the development of travel as a form of recreation. This social phenomenon, as Constantine N. Vaporis states, emerged in the Edo period as a consequence of the pacification of the country, the development of a system of roads, the improving economic conditions and, what is most relevant in this case, the spread of literacy among the masses. This map, sponsored by the Sendai-based store Fukuya, was an attempt to present the visitor with an alternative and more recreational path to the north, with appealing meisho (名所 famous places) and koseki (古跡 historical sites). Poetry is also taken into consideration as a way to attract visitors. Description on the map starting with a symbol in the shape of an inverted “L” indicates a waka poem related to the geography of the region. After all, the road that connected Sendai with Ichi-no-maki was the path taken by the poet Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) in his walking journey to northern Japan. His journey became the source of one of his most highly regarded works: Ōku no Hosomichi (p. 1702).
As this local map shows, connecting landscapes with poetry became a common way of appealing to the reader and traveller during the Edo period. What relationship exists between poetry and the landscape depicted on this map? What other kinds of information does it included? What can this information tell us about the use and meaning of this map? Focus on these questions while attempting to read the source as you do the exercises. You should pay particular attention to the information written in hiragana, as it implies a more significant challenge for reading the text, and it will be a good practice for reading kuzushiji. Phrases in hiragana also include a wider range of information than those given in katakana.