About this project
I seemed to be possessed by the spirits of wanderlust, and they all but deprived me of my senses. The guardian spirits of the road beckoned, and I could not settle down to work.
- Bashō, from Oku no Hosomichi ("The Narrow Road to the Deep North")
ー 松尾 芭蕉、おくのほそ道
A Land of Narrow Paths is a cartographic art and research project dedicated to bringing Edo period Japan to life for an English-speaking audience. The map includes period-specific locales, thoroughfares, shrines, temples, landmarks, and geographical features. The landscapes are drawn digitally, but the backgrounds and textures are created from handmade mokuhanga (woodblock prints) and washi (Japanese paper). Atop it all are hand-calligraphed, English-language labels.
Wanderlust and folklore are the narrative and aesthetic themes of this project. We are inspired by the vagabonds of the time period: blind musicians, nomadic poets, vagrant monks, tortured artists, disgraced rōnin, possessed priestesses, and other such wanderers. While working on this project, we kept these character types in mind. In a sense, this project is for those characters. What would a spiritual nomad want to see on a pilgrimage? Which roads lead to secluded getaways? Where are all the bustling cities and forgotten islands?
The works of authors such as Matsuo Bashō, Kabayashi Issa, Jippensha Ikku, Ueda Akinari, Ihara Saikaku, Santō Kyōden, and Chikamatsu Monzaemon have inspired the narrative, while the prints of ukiyo-e artist Andō Hiroshige have had a profound impact on the aesthetic.
Meticulous historical and cultural research has been put into developing the content of this project. These maps are not modern, satellite-perfect portrayals of Japan. Instead, this project is an attempt to create maps similar to ones that citizens of the era might have actually used in their travels -- albeit cleaned up and in English. The maps are thus illustrative moreso than political, though they can certainly be used as a reference for any wandering you might embark upon in Edo era Japan (or perhaps as a nifty educational tool!).
A Land of Narrow Paths began as an illustrative map for a Japan-themed tabletop roleplaying game called Vagabonds. I wanted to create an historically accurate representation of Edo period Japan, but one that kept to cartographic knowledge of the time period (as opposed to satellite). I went with a map I found at the Tokyo National Museum historical archives. This map created our map's base geography. With the help of fellow artist Maiko Shioda, I began to decipher the messy calligraphy of the original cartographer. We brooded over the map, cross-referencing the geography with a variety of other sources, and painstakingly pinpointing historically significant locations. After months of work, we realized that this project had grown far beyond our original expectations.
Due to exceptional record-keeping during the Tokugawa Shogunate, census data was not hard to come by. Yet our maps do not represent a specific date. We used population levels based on data from a few different census reports, and thus populations are either averaged or generalized.
Outlining rivers and other geographical features was a difficult task. These features are definitely “off” compared to contemporary representations. The reason: Japan has a modern history of rerouting rivers. Several Edo period rivers were in slightly different places than their present-day counterparts. We had to account for this. Luckily, we had visited many archives and museums while in Japan, and were able to get a few drawings, samples, and records to serve as guides. The details definitely show: mountain passes, forests, rivers, volcanoes, post towns, the Gōkaidō (the five major roads of the Edo period), several minor roads, religious sites, and so on all work together to create an immersive visual reference of Edo period Japan.
And while doing all of this, we stuck with the shape of the original map from the Tokyo National Museum historical archives. Instead of the north-south portrayal of Japan commonly seen in contemporary maps, our main map of Japan is east-west. Additionally, Hokkaido is barely represented here, as it was marginally populated during the Edo period.
After initial outlining and research, I handed our research to cartographer Josephe Vandel, who proceeded to trace the geography with sumi brush strokes, creating an overlay atop the accumulated data. From there, Josephe and I exchanged files repeatedly, until the map was ready to be fully illustrated. When Josephe illustrated, he avoided the use of repetitive map elements, which resulted in cartographic illustrations that made each region unique and organic.
We are employing traditional Japanese hand papermaking, woodblock printmaking, sumi ink calligraphy, and digital illustration to create this map. Backgrounds and textures are from real handmade papers and woodblock prints, and the text/labels are to be hand-calligraphed in English. Josephe's illustrative work and line art is based on ukiyo-e and brush drawings from the time period.
My papermaking process uses traditional Japanese techniques. I am by no means an advanced or master papermaker, although it has been the focus of my artistic studies for nearly a decade. Various papermakers in Japan, from Kochi Prefecture to Fukui Prefecture, have inspired my washi.
You can see a portion of the process above. It all starts with a Japanese mulberry tree (kozo). Younger branches are harvested and steamed, and the outer bark is stripped from the inner bark. The inner bark is soaked, cooked, and rinsed, and imperfections are removed. The strands of kozo are then beaten with a wooden mallet. Above, you can see our cooking setup, chiri-tori (separating imperfections from the fibers), basic sheet-making, and a final sheet of washi.
Scanned woodblock prints made with water-based pigment are used to create landscape backgrounds. These scanned prints instill beautiful woodgrain textures and color gradients into the map. I won't go into the mokuhanga (Japanese woodcut printmaking) process here. Instead, check out this great step-by-step post from printmaker David Bull.
Sumi Ink Calligraphy
Labels, outlines, and folkloric illustrations will be hand-calligraphed using sumi ink. All text and labels will be in English, with the exception of Japanese kanji used for the three major cities (Edo, Kyoto, and Osaka). We are attempting to give each location and geographic feature its historical Edo period name, not its modern name.
Landscape outlines and illustrations, such as volcanoes and roads, are drawn digitally. These illustrations are directly inspired by ukiyo-e and sumi ink illustrations. Most notably, we looked at numerous folkloric and popular picture storybooks from the Edo period. Many of these storybooks are about traveling and wandering, which made them perfect visual resources. And of course, Hiroshige's prints depicting scenes from major roads such as the Tōkaidō and Nakasendō were incredibly influential.
As we have described here, the map's research, planning, outlining, and base illustrative and fine art work have all been finished. However, there is still more work to be done. Most settlement calligraphy is ready to go, but we would also like to create hand-calligraphed labels for volcanoes, mountains, rivers, islands, and other such features. These labels will have to be placed neatly on our current image, without cluttering or disturbing the flow of Josephe's work. To do this, we would like to draw label boxes similar to ones used in Edo era cartography. We're talking hundreds of labels here, all of which must seamlessly interact with the map's illustrative landscape.
We also want to fund the creation of a series of original illustrations of region-specific folkloric/supernatural entities. We would then place those illustrations around the landmass of Japan, indicating which region they hail from or are commonly seen in. Both myself and Maiko Shioda will draw these by hand using sumi ink. We want these creatures to blend well with our current work and not clutter the maps too much, so we are going to ask Josephe to help us format the handmade drawings specifically for the map. These drawings will be simple and elegant, taking cues from the original sketches of yōkai, as opposed to contemporary portrayals. Best of all, you'll have the option of including them or not; maybe you want a purely historical map of Edo period Japan -- and that's fine.
While our supernatural illustrations will be original works of art, they will definitely be inspired by Edo era "weird" artists such as Sawaki Suushi, Hanabusa Itcho, and Toriyama Sekien. We're also always inspired by later figures of weird fiction, from Lafcadio Hearn (19th/20th centuries) to Shigeru Mizuki and Masao Higashi (20th/21st centuries).
A Booklet About Edo Period Culture & Folklore
As you can probably tell, a massive part of A Land of Narrow Paths has been the research. We want to compile this research into a digital PDF booklet -- your travel guide to the Edo period. The map is beautiful all on its own, but this booklet will provide understanding of the cartographic content and an accessible overview of the time period. If we get funding, we'll be able to perfect the book's layout and create sumi ink illustrations of major landmarks to go along with historical profiles, folkloric creature descriptions, and other written content.
This booklet will not be written in the past tense. Rather, it will be written from the perspective of a few different characters from the time period -- almost as if we have found and compiled excerpts of multiple travel diaries.
Archival Giclée Print Editions
And finally, we are asking for your help to create multiple editions of archival giclée prints on washi (Japanese paper). We want to turn A Land of Narrow Paths into a series of collectable artworks. We have planned 4 unique print editions:
1) A Land of Narrow Paths, historical version: The full-size map of Edo period Japan, fully labeled. Archival giclée printed on sized Japanese paper. Unique size (26" x 38"). Folkloric illustrations not included.
2) A Land of Narrow Paths, folkloric version: The full-size map of Edo period Japan, fully labeled. Archival giclée printed on sized Japanese paper. Unique size (26" x 38"). Folkloric illustrations included.
3) A Land of Narrow Paths, dai oban historical version: A smaller and more affordable version of the main map. Archival giclée printed on sized Japanese paper. Dai oban size (12" x 17"). Folkloric illustrations not included.
4) A Land of Narrow Paths, dai oban folkloric version: A smaller and more affordable version of the main map. Archival giclée printed on sized Japanese paper. Dai oban size (12" x 17"). Folkloric illustrations included.
Every edition comes with the A Land of Narrow Paths logo, a legend, and our cartographic collective stamp.
$10 // The PDF Pack includes a computer/tablet/phone/etc.-friendly PDF version of the full-color, full-resolution map of Japan. Feel free to take it to your local printing shop to get a poster made (we are not making posters for this project). You'll get both the folkloric and non-folkloric versions.
The PDF Pack also includes an exclusive full-color PDF booklet that contains 8 digital maps of the eight regions of Edo period Japan: Tōkaidō, Tōsandō, Hokurikudō, San'indō, San'yōdō, Nankaidō, Saikaidō, and Kinai. The regions are in focus, with surrounding areas "grayed out," and historical profiles are given for each region, describing what the area was like during the Edo period. The booklet also includes descriptive summaries for major locations / landmarks, roads, people, geographic features, and so on, as well as simple hand-drawn sumi ink illustrations of the locales.
The booklet itself will have a clean layout using Edo era bookbinding designs and handmade paper / woodcut textures. To top it off, we'll give profiles of each yōkai included in this project. All in all, the booklet's content will be a few dozen pages, designed for an 8.5" x 11" printout. This booklet is perfect for roleplaying gamers, history buffs, and teachers.
$15 // The Kitsch Pack includes a 4" x 6" postcard featuring the full map of Japan on one side, and the project logo, scanned seal, and a few yōkai on the other side.
This pack also comes with 8 bookmarks representing each region. The bookmarks will feature scanned hand calligraphy kana of the region's name in a vertical scrawl with a yōkai on one side, and then a close up of a section of the region on the other side.
$35 // The Obake Karuta Pack includes a deck of 108 cards inside of a single, elegant tuck box. The cards include: 50 yokai cards, 50 riddle cards, and 8 informational cards (the yokai illustrations are the same illustrations used on the map and in the booklet). Obake karuta is an Edo era card game where players match riddles read by a referee with the associated yokai. The yokai are spread out on a table, and players "grab" for the cards. The player with the most cards wins. See a full description here.
Informational cards include: the history of the game and how to play it, an Edo era hiragana alphabet chart, and a couple other extras. We'll also include a digital version of the information so that you can print it on a sheet of paper.
This pack also comes with the PDF Pack and a 4" x 6" postcard of the full map of Japan (from the Kitsch Pack).
Update 1: At $12,000, the physical obake karuta deck will come with alternate sides and riddles: a karuta game about the Tokaido! Explore the Edo period's most famous road by playing a karuta with remastered Hiroshige woodblock prints -- and riddles inspired by Edo era haiku and travel diaries.
Update 2: The Karuta Pack now includes the Kitsch Pack!
Kickstarter Exclusive: All print and book pledge levels come with the PDF Pack. The Kitsch Pack can be added on for an additional $10. All print backers also receive a complimentary piece of handmade washi from my personal stash.
$45 // The Main Map, Dai Oban Historical Version is a dai oban size (12" x 17") map of Japan archival giclée printed on washi with deckled edges. Folkloric illustrations (yōkai) are not included.
$45 // The Main Map, Dai Oban Folkloric Version is a dai oban size (12" x 17") map of Japan archival giclée printed on washi with deckled edges. Folkloric illustrations (yōkai) are included.
$85 // Two Main Maps, Dai Oban Version includes two dai oban size (12" x 17") maps of Japan archival giclée printed on washi with deckled edges. You can do 2 historical maps or 2 folkloric maps, or one of each.
$160 // The Main Map, Full-Size Historical Version is the full-size (26" x 38") map of Japan archival giclée printed on washi with deckled edges. Everything is labeled. Folkloric illustrations (yōkai) are not included.
$160 // The Main Map, Full-Size Folkloric Version is the full-size (26" x 38") map of Japan archival giclée printed on washi with deckled edges. Everything is labeled. Folkloric illustrations (yōkai) are included.
$310 // Two Main Maps, Full-Size Version includes two full-size (26" x 38") maps of Japan archival giclée printed on washi with deckled edges. You can do 2 historical maps or 2 folkloric maps, or one of each.
$500 // The Artist's Book is a limited-quantity item designed for collectors. We will tinker with the main map, and then print a significant portion of it onto a long piece of washi. That piece of washi will then be bound into a handmade orihon (accordion-style Japanese book). The covers will be handmade with Japanese book cloth and premium binder's board, and your name will be hand-calligraphed in kana on a vertical strip of handmade washi pasted to the front cover. If you want yōkai, we can include a whole parade of them printed on the end pages of the book.
The great thing about accordion books is that they can either be shelved and admired sparingly, or displayed upright, opened in a case or on a shelf.
$1,000 // The Wanderer's Book is the ultimate collector's item. We're only willing to make 3 copies of this book. The entire PDF booklet will be archival printed on washi. Those pages will then be bound into a handmade yotsume-toji style book (four-hole binding). The covers will be handmade with Japanese book cloth and thicker Japanese paper (softcover), and your name will be hand-calligraphed in kana on a vertical strip of handmade washi pasted to the front cover. Each copy of the wanderer's book will have unique hand-drawn sumi ink illustrations on the end pages and in other select spots throughout the book.
There are ways to display this book in a case, and we'll provide those instructions. What we would really love, however, is for you to hike or bike throughout Japan, using this book as your guide. Share photos with us if you do this!
All prints and books come with a certificate of authenticity. These certificates provide a brief overview of the project and what went into making it. They are then numbered and stamped.
Please refer to the following image for information regarding add-ons. International backers: please remember to add appropriate shipping costs.
If we reach these amounts, we'll offer some extras.
*Achieved!* $4,000: No icon stamps. We'll handdraw every icon so that each map icon is a little bit unique.
*Achieved!* $5,000: Obake karuta: A Japanese folkloric card game. Every backer of this project will receive a complimentary digital "print-and-play" version of our custom obake karuta, a simple card game invented during the Edo period. 100 cards: 50 yokai illustrations (directly from the map), and 50 corresponding narrative, eerie riddles.
*Achieved!* $6,000: Black-and-white maps. Properly formatted, full resolution, black-and-white versions of both maps of Japan so that you can easily print them from your home printer. We'll adjust the files properly so that artistic integrity is maintained. This will become part of the PDF Pack.
*Achieved!* $7,000: The people of Edo period Japan. The A Land of Narrow Paths booklet will include a more elaborate chapter on the variety of characters you'll find throughout Edo era Japan. We'll also use sumi ink to create entirely new illustrations of these various types of people, so that you can see their garb and imagine their gait!
*Achieved!* $10,000: Unique, illustrative map elements for famous places. We'll pick 8-12 famous places of Edo period Japan, and integrate all-new illustrations of those locations into the map.
*Achieved!* $12,000: Tokaido karuta. The obake karuta will have alternate sides and riddles: a karuta game about the Tokaido! Explore the Edo period's most famous road by playing a karuta with remastered Hiroshige woodblock prints -- and riddles inspired by Edo era haiku and travel diaries.
*Achieved!* $15,000: Japanese language map option + Japanese language PDF Pack extras. Maiko will write Japanese-language kanji/kana labels. If you are getting a print map, you will have the option to make it Japanese -- using the newly-written labels. Plus, the PDF Pack will include two new maps: a Japanese-only map, and a bilingual language-learning map.
Nicholas Cladis is the creator of A Land of Narrow Paths, and works as the project's art director and researcher. He has exhibited and lived in Japan, China, and Taiwan, and has curated exhibitions of woodblock prints and participated in international artist residences. He has both an M.A. and an M.F.A. in Art, with concentrations in Japanese papermaking and book arts. His interest in these art forms, and subsequent research of Edo period publications and Japanese folklore, are what initially inspired him to create A Land of Narrow Paths.
Maiko Shioda is the project's translator and calligrapher. Maiko was born in Kyoto, but grew up in Warabi, Saitama, Japan, a suburb of Tokyo. She has exhibited and lived in Tokyo, New York City, and Dallas, and she has both an M.A. and an M.F.A. in Art, with a concentration in drawing.
Josephe Vandel is the project's cartographer and Kickstarter sage. Josephe currently lives in Leipzig, Germany, and his work has been featured in several successful Kickstarters. His main field of work includes the creation of maps and concept art for novels, board games, roleplaying games, and digital media. He has an M.A. in Communications Arts (photography and illustration), as well as an M.A. in Fine Arts (new media, film, and installation art).
Risks and challenges
All three of us are professional, exhibiting artists. We have worked under pressure, and within tight deadlines. Unless our print shop catches on fire, we'll be able to produce these series of prints. Delays are possible if we end up with a massive amount of orders (something we would see as a good thing), though such delays shouldn't be significant.
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