Nissan Seminar: The Role of Mapping in the Emergence of Japan as a Sea Power in the Late-nineteenth-century
The Role of Mapping in the Emergence of Japan as a Sea Power in the Late-nineteenth-century
The development of maritime mapping in nineteenth-century Japan is indebted both to the legacy of earlier surveying activities and to the use of British and French expertise. After 1860s, maps were promoted as one of the symbols of the period’s spirit of ‘civilization and enlightenment’. In this context, in what ways did the uses of maritime maps align with the development of the Meiji state? I focus on three moments of maritime military engagement where maps played a significant role: the Taiwan Expedition of 1874, the Ganghwa Island incident of 1875, and naval engagements during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5. These show that maritime mapping often preceded aggressive military engagement by the Japanese Empire. Additionally, the wider significance of maritime mapping in the Meiji period emerges when considering the perception of maps in vernacular culture, as visible in contemporary woodblock prints and newspaper reports.