Nowadays we have satellites and computers that greatly aid the daunting task of map-making. But that wasn’t the case just 100 years ago. Cartographers had to actually go out and explore their subjects, taking precise measurements and making difficult calculations. One of these artists was Hatsusaburo Yoshida (1884-1955). Born in Kyoto and raised by a single mother, Yoshida originally was trained as a textile designer.
Yoshida was one of the most popular cartographers of his time, not because his maps were accurate – they were actually deformed and, at times, illogical – but because he spent an enormous amount of time surveying the land. Before even beginning his work he would spend months walking around the site, interviewing people and discovering local favorites.
The spots he chose to emphasize in his maps actually created landmarks that are now famous today. Orders were coming in from all over the country and Yoshida had to expand his practice, hiring several assistants to help him create over 3000 maps.
But Yoshida’s success was not permanent. When WWII began, the military deemed Yoshida’s maps to be a threat to homeland security, essentially crushing his practice.
After the war ended, Yoshida left behind one final map of Hiroshima, depicting the land just moments after the detonation of the atomic bomb.
Today (March 4) is actually his birthday and Google Japan has created an homage to his work.