• Japan;
  • maps;
  • Pacific Ocean;
  • Tokugawa period

ABSTRACT. This article examines the ways in which oceans were depicted in Japanese geographical writings and maps from the Tokugawa period. It uses these texts to understand how early modern Japanese visions of the Pacific and of maritime Asian waters constructed epistemological frameworks through which the Japanese saw their place in an increasingly complex web of regional and global connections. In the absence of actual adventure on the “high seas,” Japanese writers, artists, and mapmakers used the inventive power of the imagination to fill in the cognitive blank of ocean space. I argue that the definition of early modern oceanic space was profoundly ambiguous, a legacy that, it can be argued, left its mark on Japan's modern relationship with the Asian Pacific region.