Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Way Cool: Cache of Japanese Military Maps of Asia

Yup: Yuanli's town slogan is "A vision of the future."

A friend passed this around Facebook: a trove of Japanese military maps made prior to WWII with incredible detail and information. A teaser...
These maps were captured in the waning days of World War II as the U.S. Army took control of Japan. American soldiers confiscated thousands of secret Japanese military maps and the plates used to print them, then shipped them to the United States for safekeeping.


Not surprisingly, the Japanese surveyors weren’t always welcomed in other countries. In 1895, angry locals in Korea killed several assistants on a Japanese survey team, Kobayashi writes. (Japan annexed Korea in 1910 and held it until the end of World War II.) Two decades later, Japan sent secret survey teams into China. These men disguised themselves as traveling merchants and made their maps equipped only with a compass and by counting their steps to mark distance.

In the age-old tradition of cartographic copying, the Japanese often built on maps they’d captured from their foes, adding their own notes and details on top of the original. Cyrillic script is visible in the Japanese map above of Vladivostok, Russia, for example. Naturally, their enemies did the same thing. The formerly classified U.S. Army map of Okinawa below, printed in 1945, is based on a captured Japanese map.
Stanford is currently putting the maps online. There is a topical index here and many maps of Taiwan -- here is one collection, the red not yet digitized, the green are accessible. Here is a Keelung map, and here is a Taichung map at 1:50,000. Click somewhere inside the viewing frame to see the map, it sometimes doesn't appear unless you click in that frame. Sometimes you have to grab and move the map around in the viewer to actually see it, they digitized a lot of unnecessary area around the map, so the first thing you see sometimes is a lot of useless gray area (on some maps click on the upper right corner of the map box for full screen and move the image around til you see the map). The maps are fully zoomable. Way cool.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're right: those maps, and the interactive display on the Stanford site, are way cool.

I mentioned previously a beautiful book of 1934-35 "birds-eye view" maps of all of Taiwan's cities and regions. It looks like the comment didn't make it onto the log for some reason, but anyway my recommendation stands. If you like old Taiwan maps of extraordinary detail, and in this case beautifully illustrated, then you'll love it. You can trace the outlines of most current neighborhoods of Taiwan and their structures, not to mention much of the physical infrastructure of the country. It's called "台灣鳥瞰圖-1930年代台灣地誌繪集": the maps are in Japanese and the book's discussion of historical development of each region in Taiwan is in Chinese.