Charting Cartographic Exchange, Japan
Charting Cartographic Exchange by Edward Boyle
In the early-1800s, the question of the Japanese island of Karafuto, the northern island in its amorphous and ill-defined Ezo region, was a vital one for Japanese policymakers. Dispute raged on whether or not it was connected to the continent, and what exactly its relation to the mysterious island of ‘Saghalin’ showing up on European and Chinese maps was. A succession of geographers, astronomers and polemicists produced analyses in support of these positions, engaging in a cross-cultural exercise of comparative mapping in order to discern the truth with regards to Sakhalin’s geography.
The items in this exhibit together serve to illustrate the scientific background against which Japanese geographers in the early-nineteenth century were operating. In seeking to define the borders of Ezo, discerning the relations between Karafuto, Saghalien and the continent were presented as vital for the security of the nation. The views of three Japanese administrators, written in dialogue with one another, sought to justify their distinct positions on the reality of Karafuto’s status. They did this partially through reference to the Western materials presented in this exhibition.
The subsequent presentation delivered at the David Rumsey Center will focus on the cases presented by these three interventions from the Japanese side and allow for the variety of materials utilized in this moment of dialogue between different cartographic traditions to be recovered and for an examination of how this comparative mapping occurred. It will also provide an opportunity to reflect upon the constitution of fact through the circulation of these cartographic materials, a process visible in the materials shown here.