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Tracing the Historic Steps of Geographical Surveyor Tadataka Ino

February 16, 2001
Back in 1800, during the late Edo period (1603-1868)--when Japan was still a feudal society--Tadataka Ino embarked on the first actual geographical survey of Japan. This project, which Ino started at the age of 55, took 16 years to complete. He then created a book of maps based on his surveys. Ino took a highly rigorous approach to his project, and his work remained influential until early in the twentieth century.

As one might imagine, Ino covered many miles in the course of his work. By the age of 70, he had traveled over 43,700 kilometers (27,160 miles) all over Japan--a distance greater than the circumference of the earth.

Round About the Country
In honor of this important historical figure, some 170,000 people took part in a two-year walk around Japan retracing Ino's footsteps. On January 1, 2001, the so-called Ino Walk ended, having covered an 11,000-kilometer (6,837-mile) course that covered a large area of Japan.

The Ino Walk--jointly sponsored by the Japan Walking Association, the Ino Tadataka Kenkyukai research society, and Asahi Shimbun Publishing Co.--started in January 1999 and took place in five stages. Stages covered during the first year were from Tokyo to Sapporo, Hokkaido (1,980 kilometers, or 1,230 miles), Aomori to Nagano (1,574 km, or 978 miles), and Nagano to Osaka (2,030 kilometers, or 1,262 miles); and during the second year, from Osaka to Ibusuki, Kagoshima (3,007 kilometers, or 1,871 miles), and from Nago, Okinawa to Kagoshima (by ship) and from Kagoshima to Tokyo (a total of 2,287 kilometers, or 1,421 miles, excluding the miles traveled by ship).

Not all participants walked the entire course. A total of 19 people--the official staff members assigned to the event--completed the whole course. Alternatively, a walker could elect to do just a single stage or stages. There were also area walkers, whose journeys included overnight stays of one night or more, as well as day walkers. Finally, some people took part in organized circuit walks in the major urban areas. People's motives for doing the Ino Walk, like their forms of participation, were diverse; among the variety of motives expressed were "to honor the memory of Tadataka Ino" and "to keep fit."

Nowadays, most travel is by car, train, or airplane, and speed is taken for granted. Many participants in the Ino Walk said that traveling on foot gave them the opportunity to take a fresh look at Japan and at their hometowns. Actor Go Kato, who has played the role of Ino on stage, walked part of the distance as an honorary leader of the main staff. Kato summed up his feelings as follows: "Walking is culture. Tadataka Ino said, 'As long as people have dreams and keep on walking forward, they don't need anything else in life.' Now, more than ever, we need to pay attention to his message."

First Geographical Survey of Japan
Tadataka Ino was born in 1745 in what is now Chiba Prefecture, one of Tokyo's neighboring prefectures. Scholarly by nature from his days as a young boy, Ino studied mathematics, geography, and astronomy. After retiring at the age of 50, he moved to the capital, then known as Edo, to study astronomy full-time. In those days, the distance equivalent to a degree of latitude had not yet been determined, and this was a problem for astronomers. To solve the problem, Ino planned to make a geographical survey of Japan along its full length, from north to south.

To begin, Ino asked the feudal government for permission to survey the southeastern coast of Hokkaido. The shogunate granted this permission, reasoning that this detailed geographic information would be useful in defending Japan's northern perimeter.

Ino's initial survey went according to plan, and he subsequently surveyed the rest of the country as well. During the 16 years it took him to complete this major undertaking, Ino spent a total of 3,736 days on the road, logged a total of 43,708 kilometers (27,165 miles) on foot, and made a total of 150,000 directional measurements. Though Ino used traditional methods to conduct his survey, he achieved an unprecedented degree of accuracy by being scrupulously attentive to detail and by using a large number of measurement points. By means of the data he gathered, he learned that a degree of latitude corresponds to 110.75 kilometers (68.83 miles). This figure was very precise, with a margin of error of only a thousandth of today's accepted value.

Ino produced a separate map for each survey he did, but he died in 1818 without having witnessed the ultimate success of his maps. It was not until 1821, three years after his death, that Dai Nihon Enkai Yochi Zenzu (Complete Compilation of Maps of Japan) was completed, with his pupils serving as editors. This magnum opus--comprising 214 maps on a scale of 1:36,000, 8 maps on a scale of 1:216,000, and 3 maps on a scale of 1:432,000--was presented to the shogunate.

Tadataka Ino's project was the first actual geographic survey of Japan, and its quality placed it on a par with Western European maps of the time. His work also helped the rest of the world become better acquainted with Japan. In the 1820s, a German doctor, Philipp Franz von Siebold, who was in Nagasaki doing research on Japan's flora and fauna, geography, and history, disseminated Ino's work outside of Japan, enabling foreign cartographers to depict this country more accurately in their maps.

After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the new government published the atlas. Thereafter, it was used by the military and the government and became a key reference work in the classroom as well.

Source: Nihon Daihyakka Zensho (Encyclopedia Nipponica 2001), Shogakukan.

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Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2001 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.