A Japanese 19th Century Map Book – The Territorial Limits of Japan as of 1895
The following map book was found on Japan’s National Digital Archives Website (JACAR) and presented with the intent of making one point. Throughout the ages Japanese national maps prove Dokdo -Takeshima (sometimes called Liancourt Rocks) was not considered an inherent part of Japan as their Foreign Ministry now boldly claims. For reference are two maps below. Oki Island has been boxed and a modern map at the top gives a geographical reference point for the viewer. From these maps, it’s a logical conclusion that for centuries before the annexation of Dokdo in 1905 the Japanese considered Oki Island (隱岐) as the Northwestern boundary of Japan. For higher magnification, each map is clickable.
Above left: A map showing distances to Dokdo from Korean and Japanese nearest islands and landfalls. Above right: A map of the East Sea with Oki Island (隱岐) boxed in a black line.
Dokdo – Takeshima is excluded from all Japanese prefectures at the turn of the 20th Century.
The following page, as the title suggests is an 1895 Japanese Map book displayed in its entirety for the reader to get a clear idea of the territorial perceptions of Japan as a nation in the late 19th Century. This map book shows all of Japan, prefecture by prefecture. Also all of Japan’s minor islands are included as either maps of their own or as appended to others. Each prefecture map has a copy of the national map next to it with the relevant region highlighted in pink for geographic reference. From this map we can determine if Dokdo – Takeshima was really considered part of Japanese territory in the years leading up to the 1905 annexation of the island.
Above left and center: The 1895 Map Book’s front and back covers. Above right: The 1895 Map Book’s index with date confirming the 1895 publication.
The 1890 Map Book’s Overall Region Showing Japan, East Korea, Ulleungdo and Dokdo.
This map book used modern western cartography techniques meaning smaller appended maps were used in cases where outlying islands were too distant to be included on maps of great scale. There are similar editions of this publication and the vast majority of books from this era show the same territorial limits of Japan.
From the start of the Meiji Era, the definition of Japanese territory began to change radically. With the “acquisition” of new lands such as the Ryukyus, Ogasawaras, Hokkiado etc, Japanese maps were altered with appended maps to display these outlying lands.
The definition of Japan’s national boundary differed further at the turn of the century as she “acquired” Taiwan after the Sino Japanese War, in 1895 as shown on the last map of this book. Because Taiwan is included, it’s safe to say this publication was up to date in 1895. At the beginning of the Japanese Map Book there is an overall reference map of Japan’s surrounding region. This chart is shown to the above right. Though not marked, two islands West of Japan’s Okinoshimas can be confirmed as Ulleungdo and Dokdo by their location.
“Was Dokdo part of Japan in 1895…?”
Map 1. The Kurile Islands North of Hokkaido
The Kuriles are situated North of Japan’s Hokkaido Island. The reference map below shows the Kuriles coloured in dark blue on Japan’s North side. The Treaty of Commerce, Navigation and Delimitation was concluded in 1855, and the border was established between Iturup and Urup. This border confirmed that Japanese territory stretched south from Iturup and Russian territory stretched north of Urup. Sakhalin remained a place where people from both countries could live. The Treaty of Saint Petersburg in 1875 resulted in Japan relinquishing all rights over Sakhalin in exchange for Russia ceding all of the Kuril Islands to Japan.
Above left: The 1895 Map book’s chart of the Kurile islands North of Hokkaido. Above right: The overall modern reference map of Japan showing the related area drawn in dark blue.
Maps 2. and 3. North and South Hokkaido Island
Hokkaido (北海道) literally “North Sea Circuit”, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan’s second largest island and the largest, northernmost of its 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. It became part of Japan in 1869, almost immediately after the start of the Meiji Era.
Above left and center: The 1895 Map book’s chart of Hokkaido Island. Above right: The overall modern reference map of Japan showing the related area drawn in dark blue and labeled. (click images)
Map 4. North Tohoku Region
Tohoku is Japanese for “northeast”, and the Tohoku region occupies the northeastern portion of Honshū, the largest island of Japan. Dokdo Island is too far Southwest to have been considered part of this region.
Above left: The 1895 Map book’s chart of North Tohoku. Above right: The overall modern reference map of Japan showing the related area drawn in light yellow and labeled.
Map 5. Chubu Region (Parts of Niigata, Ishikawa and South Tohoku)
The Chūbu region (中部地方, Chūbu-chihō) is the central region of Honshū, Japan’s main island. Chūbu, which means “central region”, encompasses nine prefectures: Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Shizuoka, Toyama, Yamanashi, and often Mie. It is located directly between the Kantō region and the Kansai region and includes the major city of Nagoya as well as long Pacific and East Sea (Sea of Japan) coastlines, extensive mountain resorts, and Mount Fuji. As shown below, Dokdo Island is not drawn as part of this region.
Above left: The 1895 Map book’s chart of Chubu area. Above right: The overall modern reference map of Japan showing the related area drawn in dark green, gray and orange.
Map 6. Kanto Region, Miyake and Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands
Niigata prefecture (新潟県, Niigata-ken) is a prefecture of Japan located on Honshū island on the coast of the East Sea (Sea of Japan). The capital is the city of Niigata. The name Niigata literally means “new lagoon”.
Above left: The 1895 Map book’s chart of Kanto Region and Miyake with Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands drawn on an appended map. Above right: The overall modern reference map of Japan showing the related area drawn in emerald green and indigo.
The map of Kanto region in this map book is important in that it clearly illustrates how the cartographer included all of Japan’s tiny outlying islands. Added to the map of Kanto region is an appended map of the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands group.
The Ogasawaras are located about 1000kms directly South of Tokyo and quite small. The Ogasawara Islands (小笠原諸島, Ogasawara Shoto) are an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands. The islands were claimed by Japan from the British in 1875 and placed under the Tokyo prefecture in 1880.
The Ogasawara Island group was also included in the overall map at the beginning of the 1895 map box. It can be seen in the bright green box on the map to the right. (click maps)
Map 7. Kansai Region and the Oki Islands
The Kansai region (関西地方, Kansai-chihō) or the Kinki region (近畿地方, Kinki-chihō) lies in the southern-central region of Japan’s main island Honshū. The region includes the prefectures of Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, and Shiga.
These next two regions of Japan are the most critical when trying to determine if Dokdo – Takeshima was part of Japan in the late 19th Century. Being the most proximate districts adjacent to Dokdo, surely if Japan thought the islets were a part of her nation they should be part of the map above but we can see this is not the case. Also we can’t say this maps lacks the detail to include small minor islands because tiny Mishima (見島)can be seen off the coast of South Shimane Prefecture. This map of Kansai and Oki Islands, like all historical maps of this prefecture, fail to show Dokdo as part of Japan. As always Japan’s Okinoshimas were the western limit of Japan. (click maps)
Above left: The 1895 Map book’s chart of Kansai Region and Oki Islands. Above right: The overall modern reference map of Japan showing the related areas drawn in light green with the Oki Islands in bright yellow.
Map 8. Chugoku (Shimane-Tottori) and Shikoku Regions
Shimane Prefecture is the closest Japanese mainland to Dokdo Island. This prefecture was where all Japanese (illegal) voyages to Ulleungdo and Dokdo originated from. Here we see the map of Shimane includes a dotted voyage route to tiny Minoshima (見島) off of Japan’s West coast. The subsequent map showing Oki Islands shows no voyage routes beyond Oki Island. In 1895, no Japanese territory existed to the West Shimane Prefecture and Oki Island.
Above left: The 1895 Map book’s chart of Shimane and Shikoku. Above right: The overall modern reference map of Japan showing the related area drawn in bright yellow and light olive green.
Map 9. Kyushu, Tsushima and Adjacent Minor Islands
Kyūshū (九州, Nine Provinces.) or Kyushu is the 3rd-largest island of Japan and most southwesterly of its four main islands. Its alternate ancient names include Kyūkoku (九国 Nine States), Chinzei (鎮西 West of the Pacified Area), and Tsukushi-no-shima (筑紫島 Island of Tsukushi). The historical regional name Saikaidō (西海道 West Sea Circuit) referred to Kyūshū and its surrounding islands.
Above left: The 1895 Map book’s chart of Kyushu with Tsushima and other surrounding islands. Above right: The overall modern reference map of Japan showing Kyushu area drawn in red and dark blue.
Map 10. The Ryukyu Islands
The next map shows the Japanese island chain called the Ryukyus. This is another example of small outlying islands that were included and serve to stress the omission of Dokdo and Ulleungdo from the map book. The Ryukyu Islands, in Japanese called the Nansei Islands (南西諸島, Nansei-shoto) (literally Southwest Islands) are a chain of Japanese islands in the western Pacific Ocean at the eastern limit of the East China Sea. They stretch southwest from the island of Kyushu to the island of Taiwan.
In 1879, the Meiji government announced the annexation of the Ryukyus. China, however, diplomatically objected and the former President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant was asked to arbitrate. He decided that Japan’s claim to the islands was stronger and ruled in Japan’s favor. The claims of the indigenous Ryukyuans to the land were ignored. In the process of annexation, the Japanese military assassinated Ryukyu politicians and civilians who opposed the takeover.
Above left: The 1895 Map book’s chart of the Ryukyu Islands. Above right: The 1895 reference map of Japan included with the map book showing the Ryukyus boxed in pink.
Japan’s Newly “Incorporated” Taiwan (Formosa)
This map book can be understood to be very accurate and up-to-date chart because of the map of Taiwan that was included. Qing China was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), and ceded Taiwan and the Pescadores (also shown on map) to Japan in perpetuity in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. This map book was quickly updated to show newly acquired territories. Even so, Dokdo Island is nowhere to be found on any prefecture or regional map of Japan.
Above left: The 1895 Map book’s chart of Taiwan. Above right: The overall modern reference map of Japan showing Taiwan boxed in dark blue.
The 1895 Japanese Map Book – A Conclusion Based on the Evidence
The above publication represents the true territorial limits of Japan as of 1895. It is quite an accurate map book using modern cartographic techniques (ie appended maps) for remote islands. All of Japan’s regions are accounted for. In addition, Japan’s minor outlying islands such as the Bonin Islands and Ryukus are on the last map. Also included was recently annexed Taiwan. Some of the tiny island groups are almost 1000 kms away from Japan’s main island but were consistently included on national maps of Japan during the late 19th Century.
Takeshima (Ulleungdo) and Matsushima (Dokdo) can be seen on the overall map of Japan’s surrounding waters. However, these islands are not drawn as part of any region or prefecture of Japan. The only natural conclusion is Japan as a nation did not include either Takeshima or Matsushima as part of Japan around the turn of the 20th Century. There are no less than four pages of Japanese historical maps both national and regional that show Japan continually excluded Ulleungdo and Dokdo from what defined Japan’s boundary. .