Dec 11, 2017
Along my trips hiking in the mountains of Japan I have come across many maps and signs. As a person who grew up without GPS, printing off Google maps and memorizing which turns I needed to take before ever having been to the town, I didn't expect to be confounded reading a map. But maps are not only depictions of the routes we need to take but also the representations of landmarks. What our minds perceive as important. Some of these things are culturally ingrained. If everyone had to draw a map of the same area, it's likely that every map would be very different. What is represented on the map would depend on what that person thought of as noteworthy. I would likely have the funky looking tree, but a friend would put down the vending machine on the corner. Somethings that I noticed in Japan are the shrines and temples. They are clearly marked, shrine with a gate symbol and temples with this
Don't worry, it isn't a swastika. First of all, it's in the opposite direction from what the Nazis used. But if you are like most people who don't notice this, then know that the swastika was originally a symbol of peace and is now only tainted because of its use by horrible people doing horrible things. I think Wikipedia explains the swastika the best.
"The swastika (as a character 卐 or 卍) is an ancient religious icon used in the Indian subcontinent, East Asia and Southeast Asia, where it has been and remains a sacred symbol of spiritual principles in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. In the Western world, it was historically a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck, but in the 1930s, it became the main feature of Nazi symbolism as an emblem of Aryan race identity, and as a result, it has become stigmatized in the West by association with ideas of racism, hatred, and mass murder."
The meaning of peace still remains on all of the maps around Japan.
Maps are usually seen as a reference, a source of information. The thing that I've noticed about many maps here, they are full of information, but also very artistic interpretations of it. Everything about all of the maps I have seen is really freaking cute from the trees to the tiny mascots.
One of my favorites has to be the sightseeing map when I went to Otaru, Hokkaido.
There is so much going on that it is not useful to find things around the town, but it is cute and great for keeping memories. The streets are atypical from what you would find in Japan, laid out on a grid instead of haphazardly sprayed out, so it doesn’t matter anyway. But it is fantastic to have everything right there in English, with little descriptions of what each place is.
This one is basically just giving a bird's eye view with a few extra trees thrown in but it makes the area look great and attractive. The tourist maps are more wonderful keepsakes, but perhaps not the most practical. This style probably has roots in how Japanese designed maps a long time ago.
They were all works of art.
I suppose I am just accustomed to maps, even tourist maps, to look similar to the way Google presents the world.
But it is nice to know somewhat where I stand on the planet.
Even if I'm not completely sure how far away that next intersection is.
That's what makes hiking an adventure.
Or if I really need an overly simplified view of the entire prefecture, not knowing the scale between each site.
Now I have a visual idea of all the lovely places to site see.
Maps might not be the craziest of signs in Japan, but they certainly represent more than just geography. I am going to continue collecting pictures of all the maps I can and enjoy all the ways the world around me is represented.
American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too