Japanese Designer Creates Incredibly Detailed & Realistic Maps of a City That Doesn’t Exist

When he first spent time in Japan­ese cities, urban design and his­to­ry pro­fes­sor Bar­rie Shel­ton “was baf­fled, irri­tat­ed, and even intim­i­dat­ed by what I saw. Yet at the same time I found myself ener­gized, ani­mat­ed, and indeed inspired by them. The effect was lib­er­at­ing and my intu­ition was quick to sug­gest that fur­ther explo­ration of their chaot­ic vital­i­ty might be extreme­ly reward­ing.” That explo­ration involved vis­its to “alleys, shrine and tem­ple precincts, high­ways, rail­way sta­tions (and their ‘mag­net­ic’ fields), roof-tops, obser­va­tion decks, arcades, under­ground streets, bars, gar­dens,” and so on, and no less essen­tial­ly includ­ed “almost com­pul­sive por­ing over city maps (old and new).”

It all cul­mi­nat­ed in Shel­ton’s book Learn­ing from the Japan­ese City, a study that can help any West­ern­er bet­ter under­stand the likes of Tokyo, Osa­ka, Kyoto, Kanaza­wa, Hiroshi­ma, Fukuo­ka, or indeed Nago­mu­ru City. You won’t find that last, how­ev­er, on any map of Japan, nor will you find it in the coun­try itself. It exists in the land of Naira, which itself exists in the mind of Japan­ese graph­ic design­er and car­tog­ra­ph­er Imaizu­mi Takayu­ki. Imaizu­mi’s painstak­ing, ongo­ing work has pro­duced maps of Nago­mu­ru City that look at it in dif­fer­ent ways in dif­fer­ent eras, which you can browse on Let’s Go to the Imag­i­nary Cities! On this page you can explore scrol­lable maps of the city by first select­ing one of its thir­ty regions; just below that, you can also down­load a large PDF map of the entire metrop­o­lis.

Imaizu­mi’s urban car­to­graph­ic vision is so rich­ly real­ized that it has pro­duced art exhi­bi­tions, a book, and even a vari­ety of phys­i­cal arti­facts. On one page, for instance, you’ll find pho­tographs of the con­tents of sev­er­al imag­i­nary wal­lets lost on the imag­i­nary streets of Nago­mu­ru City by its imag­i­nary cit­i­zens. On anoth­er appear the imag­i­nary cash cards issued by the imag­i­nary Nago­mu­ru Bank, com­plete with a pair of imag­i­nary mas­cots with­out which, as any­one with any expe­ri­ence of Japan knows, no card would be com­plete. These arti­facts and oth­ers have all come as a result of the project Imaizu­mi began at just ten years old, a brief his­to­ry of which Japan­ese-read­ers can take in here.

“If I can imag­ine a fic­tive nation,” writes Roland Barthes in Empire of Signs, “I can give it an invent­ed name, treat it declar­a­tive­ly as a nov­el­is­tic object,” then “iso­late some­where in the world (far­away) a cer­tain num­ber of fea­tures (a term employed in lin­guis­tics), and out of all these fea­tures delib­er­ate­ly form a sys­tem. It is this sys­tem which I call: Japan.” Imaizu­mi chose to call his sys­tem Nago­mu­ru City, but one imag­ines that all its care­ful­ly cre­at­ed and posi­tioned fea­tures and details — the train lines and sta­tions, the shrines and tem­ples, the hous­ing devel­op­ments, the con­ve­nience stores, all the things cel­e­brat­ed in both Empire of Signs and Learn­ing from the Japan­ese City — would have fired up Barthes’ imag­i­na­tion just as much as did the real Japan.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Invis­i­ble Cities Illus­trat­ed: Artist Illus­trates Each and Every City in Ita­lo Calvino’s Clas­sic Nov­el

Invis­i­ble Cities Illus­trat­ed: Three Artists Paint Every City in Ita­lo Calvino’s Clas­sic Nov­el

William Faulkn­er Draws Maps of Yok­na­p­ataw­pha Coun­ty, the Fic­tion­al Home of His Great Nov­els

Japan­ese Design­ers May Have Cre­at­ed the Most Accu­rate Map of Our World: See the Autha­Graph

Artist Re-Envi­sions Nation­al Parks in the Style of Tolkien’s Mid­dle Earth Maps

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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