Skip to main content

Treasures from the East Asia Library; Gaihozu Maps

March 6, 2017

The East Asia Library at UW is home to one of the most extensive collections of information about Japan, Korea and China in the USA. It’s also home to one of a kind materials, each with its own story unique story of how it was made and how it ended up at the library. This series tells some of those stories.

One afternoon in the Winter of 2014, Azusa Tanaka, UW’s Japan Studies Librarian, received a call from the Map Collection department in Suzzallo library.

“We’ve been moving some old documents around and have found some maps here with what we think is Japanese writing on it. Can you come and take a look at them and help us figure out what they are?”

“Sure, I will be right over”

What the Map Collections department had stumbled were a misplaced set of Japanese maps called Gaihozu. Gaihozu are special topographical maps of former japanese territories. These maps were made from the beginning of the Meiji era right up until the end of Asia Pacific War. Each one is unique, and each one is also incredibly rare.

Most Gaihozu were drawn by Japanese surveying squads, or reproduced from topographical maps drawn by the land surveying squads of other countries. They were used primarily by the former Japanese Imperial Army and were given to soldiers for tactical purposes. Some Gaihozu, including several at UW, still feature written notations from soldiers on the maps themselves, making those at UW even rarer still. The maps are rare in the US, as well as in Japan, in part, because most of the maps were disposed of by the Japanese Army before the surrender and Occupation of Japan in 1945.

“How many of these kinds of maps do you have?”

“We think it could be as many as 3000”

The Gaihozu at the UW are unique. Amongst the 3000 or so different maps, most focus on areas of China. There are hundreds of maps from the Qing Dynasty covering what was at the time Shengjing, Chihli and Shandong provinces, as well as some maps that show the Yellow river basin area of China. The maps show the basin as it was after the Chinese Nationalist Army burst the levee on the river in 1938 to stop the Japanese army’s approach. These maps are rarely seen in Japan, nor are they in the Library of Congress’s collection of Gaihozu either.

UW’s collection is not just limited to Gaihozu though, it also includes Naikokuzu maps as well. Naikokuzu are maps of the Japanese mainland rather than Asia, and UW’s collection is almost complete. Interestingly each Naikokuzu in the UW collection actually consists of a set of two maps; one created by the Japanese military before the war, and one made at the order of the Occupation forces after the war.

With each set you can see the impact that continued bombing throughout the war had on the Japanese mainland. The maps of Hiroshima before the war and after it are just one example that really shows the destruction that the war brought on Japan.

“Do you have any idea how these maps ended up here? Or when they got here?”

“No, we didn’t even know they were here until today”

Since finding the maps, UW librarians have searched several times for any information that might point to how these specific Gaihozu ended up in the map collection at UW. A few aspects of the maps’ journey are evident from closer inspection of the maps themselves. Some of the maps include handwritten Japanese characters which suggest they had been used by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war itself. Some also have marks of secrecy commonly used on Japanese army documents. Many of the maps have the stamp “LC” referring to the Library of Congress. All of these markings together make it likely that the maps were confiscated from the Japanese army by the Occupation forces and then sent to the US to be catalogued afterwards. After months of research though, how these maps travelled from the Library of Congress to the UW is still a mystery.

Whilst the origins of the UW Gaihozu may remain a mystery, Gaihozu themselves are being put to use by scholars around the world. Researchers at Tohoku University are using the Gaihozu there to research into climate change, whilst those from the UW have recently been used by researchers at Tokushima University and in a recent GIS analysis tracing irrigation aqueduct development in Taiwan.

Hopefully researchers will continue to use the Gaihozu at UW, so that no one misplaces them again.

East Asia Center

Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington
Box 353650
Seattle WA, 98195-3650