Tourist Maps of Nara in the Edo Period

Washu-Nara-no-Ezu (mid 19th century)

In the Edo period (1603-1868), sightseeing and tourism became popular in Japan. In this period, many maps of cities and tourist sites throughout the country were printed from wood blocks. These maps, unlike modern topographical maps, partially included pictorial illustrations such as bird's eye views. Because Nara has been a famous sightseeing city since the Edo period, many maps were published depicting Nara and the surrounding region. Of these maps, Washu-Nanto-no-Ezu (mid 17th c.~early 18th c.), Washu-Nanto-Ezu (late 18th c.), and Washu-Nara-no-Ezu (mid 19th c.) are well-known. ('Washu' is the old name of the Nara region and 'Nanto' means Nara.) The above picture is from the latter map, which is owned by Nara Women's University.

Among the three old maps, this is the only multicolor one. It is small in size (50 by 65 centimeters) and can be folded for easy carrying. It also includes tourist information such as yearly events in Nara and directions and distances to the tourist sites from the center of Nara. Therefore, it can be characterized as a tourist map.

In the upper (east) area of the map there are major tourist sites such as Todai-ji (Buddhist monastery famous for its enormous statue of Buddha) and Kasuga-Taisha (Shinto shrine). In this area, the illustrations are remarkably pictorial and distorted. For example, figures of deer are found in this area. Therefore, users of this map can enjoy the sightseeing pleasure of Nara in their homes. This map might also be brought home as a souvenir from Nara.

Ezu-ya, the publisher of this map, was the most important publisher in Nara at the time. It also published tourist guide books of Nara. People in the Edo period were provided with tourist information by such publishers.

By Hiroyoshi Yamachika, Osaka Kyoiku University

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