Well, we are well into April (start of the academic and financial new year) and no posts. I hope that this will remedy that.
March weather was a little different this year – we didn’t get so many of the high winds and dust storms. And while late March is supposed to be the period of sankan shion (three days of cold, four days of warm weather), we had days on end of glorious weather. At a time when it is unusual to have more than three consecutive days of sunny weather we received nearly two weeks of consecutive days with more than ten hours of sunlight. We even had a days where the temperatures soared past 25℃!
The weather really caused things to speed up. My persimmon tree and hydrangea burst into leaves, and the cherry trees exploded into full blossom much earlier than usual – in fact, the blossoms had all fallen well before entrance ceremony.
Curiously, this post is related to school, only because I was thinking of writing about a certain topic – an old map, specifically – and was comparing it to some later maps when I noticed something uncanningly close to one of our textbooks.
The old map in question is part of the digitally restored 1587 planisphere by Urbano Monte. Monte was able to meet the Japanese delegation to Milan in 1585, and his map of Japan – while not particularly accurate – has many more place names than later maps.
Monte’s projection of Japan. The country is laid out east-west rather than north-south, and Kyushu is not depicted as an island.
You can zoom this map by clicking on the link below.
Monte’s projection is something of a nightmare to interpret. Its geography is inaccurate, and trying to match the place names with their modern counterparts is very difficult due to his arbitrary transliterations.
The Kinki and Chubu regions on Monte’s map. This is one of the easier regions to try to deal with. Lake Biwa is not labelled but obvious. Kyoko is known simply as “capital” (Miyako), and rendered as “MEACO”. NABVNAGA almost certainly refers to warlord Oda Nobunaga. Guifo probably refers to Gifu, and Voari is probably Owari. Osaka is notably absent.
The Kyushu area on Monte’s map. The location “nagasaqui” is, without a doubt, Nagasaki. Kagoshima is rendered as “cangosina”.
Later maps still frequently borrowed spelling conventions from earlier maps, even when the mapmaker used a different language. So even some 18th century maps in English were rendering Oshu Province as “Oxo”, and the island of Shikoku as “Xicoco”!
So where am I going with all this?
The seed of crystallization set when I was flicking through the textbook for ideas for this year. The section in question is a conversation about Gulliver’s Travels, (correctly Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships) and Gulliver’s visit to Japan. (It’s worth noting that Japan is the only real place that Gulliver visits in the book, but it accounts for just 2% of the book’s content. Also of interest is that the emperor in the book actually represents the Shogun, and that Swift describes the practice of fumie.)
Ms. Wood: There is an interesting story in Gulliver’s Travels.
Mike: What is it?
Ms. Wood: On his way back to England, Gulliver visited Japan.
Ms. Wood; When he stayed in Japan, he visited”Nagasac” and”Xamoschi”.
Mike: Which cities are they?
Ms. Wood: Some people think that they are Nagasaki and Kannonzaki in Yokosuka.
Yuki: Why do they think so?
Ms. Wood; Write down these names.
Yuki: Now I understand.
From the textbook.
On the 9th day of June, 1709, I arrived at Nangasac
Let’s look at Nangasac first. I have no doubts that the town in question is Nagasaki. Older dialects of Japanese would often produce the “ga” mora as “nga”. We must also not forget received pronunciation – the same way modern Japanese think Australians say “die” when they say “day”. Japanese also tends to de-emphasise final -i and -u sounds in many words.
In researching for this post I looked at dozens of maps from the late 16th century through to the late 18th century and found spellings including Nangesacque, Nagasaky and Nangaſaki. I even came across one slightly newer than the first printing of Gulliver’s Travels that comes close.
Moll’s 1736 map. Yes, that is Nangasak. You can see a lot of other odd spellings – Tanegashima is “Tanxima”; Sakai is “Saccai”; Tosa is “Tonsa”…
We don’t know the exact source for Swift’s inspiration, but it is not difficult to see how he would have reached his eventual spelling.
Xamoschi, by comparison, is quite hard to crack.
We landed at a small port-town called Xamoschi, situated on the south-east part of Japan; the town lies on the western point, where there is a narrow strait leading northward into along arm of the sea, upon the north-west part of which, Yedo, the metropolis, stands.
While Kannonzaki is on the west side of Tokyo Bay, I have reason to doubt its claims to be the site of Swift’s Xamoschi.
Firstly, maps predating Swift were using “X” to represent “shi”, “tsu” and several other sounds. Shimosa, for example, is rendered “Ximoosa” on some maps. Some sources claim Shimosa as the site of Xamoschi; however, Shimosa was east of Edo. (Likewise, some have suggested Shimonoseki, but that is nowhere near the site of Edo.)
Secondly, of the dozens of contemporary maps I have examined, none have detailed sections for the area around Edo; Odawara and Kamakura are sometimes included, but never more than that. Where would Swift have heard of Kannonzaki?
From the first edition of Gulliver’s Travels. Note that there is no Nangasac or Xamoschi.
This illustration (exact source unknown) shows Xamoschi. However, Edo is not in its correct position, and the location for Xamoschi doesn’t match the description in the text.
My personal theory is that either Xamoschi is based on somewhere on either the Miura or Izu peninsulas, such as Shimoda, Jogasaki or Jogashima, or is pure fantasy – and should we not expect fantasy in a fantasy novel?