Digital // Traveling Hokkaido (ArcGIS)

Traveling Hokkaido is an attempt to visualize the travel routes of several popular explorers, artists, and anthropologists who ventured to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido (or “Yezo”) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This endeavor currently focuses on three popular texts, rather than purely scientific accounts, including Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (1880), A. Henry Savage Landor’s Alone with the Hairy Ainu (1894), and Frederick Starr’s The Ainu at the St. Louis Exposition (1904). By studying the actual routes traversed both physically and imaginatively in these works, we can better understand and study the persistence of literary and visual motifs of Japan’s northernmost extents.

These maps and map layers were created via a free Public Account with ArcGIS. As a result, Traveling Hokkaido was produced with a limited set of features available to all users. Each map is comprised of three layers: the topographic map layer, a layer containing multiple vector lines to visualize the travel route, and a layer containing a series of “pins” to indicate locations mentioned in the text using the map note feature. The comparative view that forms the framework for the project was accomplished through ArcGIS’s storymap application. Clicking from traveler to traveler, viewers can quickly and easily compare the routes of each person. Clicking on each pin will eventually load small vignettes from each book, and image thumbnails when relevant. The data regarding the locations each traveler visited was compiled over the course of my dissertation.

Although a work in progress, these maps demonstrate the surprising fact that travelers whose work gained academic acceptance–such as Starr and Bird–were not that well traveled in Hokkaido. Despite claims of going “off the beaten track,” their routes were fairly consistent with one another (and other explorers) in spite of a  twenty-six year gap. In contrast, Landor–an artist who is often discredited for his sensationalist writing style–actually travels to and describes far more of the island and its interior.

In the future, I aim to add new travel accounts and finish adding images and vignettes for Landor and Starr.


September 1, 2015

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Christina M. Spiker | Digital // Traveling Hokkaido (ArcGIS)
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