The national mapping agency the Geographical Survey Institute (GSI) is responsible for fundamental surveys and for producing and maintaining a wide range of topographic and thematic hard copy and digital maps and databases. Its history can be traced back to the establishment of a survey division in the Ministry of Civil Services in 1869. Systematic modern surveying began in the 1880s and the Army Land Survey carried out basic surveying and mapping until the end of the World War II. After the war surveying was transferred to the Ministry of Construction, and the civilian GSI was established.

The Japan Map Center (JMC) established in 1972 acts as the focal point for cartographic activities in Japan. It distributes GSI products and promotes surveying and mapping in the country. Other distributors of GSI products include Nagai Trading Company, Map House, and Nihon Chizu Kyôhan.

Most of the paper maps published by GSI are issued as very small sheets, so large numbers are required to cover the Japanese islands. Topographic and thematic maps use the same sheet lines, and sheet numbering in different series is related in a hierarchical system. Maps published at scales between 1:10,000 and 1:200,000 are based upon the UTM projection, and all GSI maps use the Tôkyô datum and the Bessel ellipsoid. Most GSI topographic and thematic programs were completed in the 1980s and effort has now shifted towards maintenance of series and the release of digital cartographic products. Official mapping in Japan is characterized by close cooperation between public and private sectors, and a longevity of sustained mapping programs established to meet national need, rather than market sector demand. There also continues to be an active involvement in overseas technical aid programs, with Japanese mapping agencies assisting in establishing and developing surveying, mapping and charting systems in many third world countries, often sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

A large-scale topographic mapping program was started by GSI in 1960, and regulated with the creation of the National Base Map Program in 1964. This comprises cyclical aerial photography at three yearly intervals for urban areas and five yearly intervals for other lowland areas, from which are derived map series at 1:2,500 and 1:5,000 scale on a Transverse Mercator projection. Mountainous areas are mapped by the Forestry Agency. Urban mapping at 1:2,500 is a cooperative project, in which local authorities compile mapping of their own areas, to an agreed specification, from the GSI aerial triangulated data. Almost all the 1:5,000 scale maps are now being published as photomaps. Since 1988 most large scale maps in Japan have been produced to conform with a new GSI digital standard. National digital large scale mapping carried out by the many different local public authorities has been brought together since 1989 in the Kokudokihonzu (KDB) project, which sought to avoid duplication, maintain accuracy and improve access to data. Since 1993 the digital data in the project have been made available. Other large scale digital projects have involved private sector capture of GSI and other public urban mapping. For example the Japan Construction Information Center (JACIC) has digitized 1:2,500 scale mapping of more than 112 cities, and in the JACIC TOWN project has distributed these data on magnetic tapes for use in the construction industries.

The latest topographic series initiative undertaken by GSI is the 1:10,000 scale program. This five-color production was designed as a new basic scale map for the major urban areas of the country: the first maps in the series were published in 1984 to cover Tôkyô and nearly 300 sheets were available at the end of 1996, including complete coverage of the Tôkyô, Nagoya and Ôsaka metropolitan areas. Four 1:10,000 scale sheets cover the same area as a single 1:25,000 sheet, and are derived from locally produced larger scale mapping, and from 1:20,000 scale aerial photography. Relief is depicted with 2 m contours, and considerable urban detail is shown, including a classification of building heights and a large number of functional symbols. A five-year revision cycle operates. Boundaries, roads, railways, public buildings, shore lines, place names and control points from these maps are available, and are the most frequently used Japanese digital map data, with 168 of the sheet areas available in digital form by 1999.

The basic scale map for the whole country is published at 1:25,000. Beginning in 1964 and completed in 1983 this series comprises 4,392 sheets, derived from 1:40,000 scale color aerial coverage. This series shows relief with 10 m contours, with supplementary contours at 2.5 m or 5 m and includes much more cultural detail than most other topographic series at this scale. Over 90 percent of these maps have been compiled by private companies under contract to GSI. The series is maintained in a continuous revision program according to the amount of unit change in the map sheet: this corresponds to revision at 10-yearly intervals in mountainous areas, three-yearly intervals in urban areas, and a five year cycle for intermediate areas. Complete recompilation is carried out after three or four revisions. In 1993 GSI adopted raster-based revision methods for this series and by 1997 all new editions were generated from the digital flowline. GSI also issues the 1:25,000 Topographic map of coastal areas, incorporating a mix of topographic and bathymetric data, with a projected coverage of the Inland Sea area.

The 1:50,000 scale topographic map has been under continuous revision since its completion by the Army Map Service in 1925. It is now derived from 1:25,000 scale data, and about 100 sheets are revised each year at the same time as revision of the component 1:25,000 scale sheets. 1,291 sheets give complete national coverage, contours are at 20 m, with supplementary intervals of 5 m or 10 m, and the map is printed in four colors. Each sheet covers 15 degree longitude by 10 degree latitude. In 1998 GSI adopted raster-based revision methods for this series.

Soviet military topographic mapping of Japan is available at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (16 sheets, complete coverage, published 1967-1989); 1:500,000 (40 sheets, complete coverage, published 1970-1994); 1:200,000 (169 sheets, complete coverage, published 1970-1994); 1:100,000 (451 sheets, complete coverage, published 1965-1995) and city (1:10,000 to 1:25,000) topographic mapping of Nagasaki, Tokyo and Yokohama published between 1966 and 1990. These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.

The 1:25,000 scale series has been used as source material for a number of different digital data sets. A project began in 1984 to capture 1:25,000 data to facilitate conventional map production and provide digital data. Vector data relating to administrative boundaries, rivers, lakes and shorelines cover the whole of the country on 86 discs, and are updated annually. These 25,000 Gyosei-kai data are topologically structured and viewing software is provided with the data. Raster versions of 1:25,000 scale coverage were completed in 1998 in eight data layers, available on CD-ROM since 1999.

Three digital terrain data sets with differing ground resolutions are produced by GSI. The least accurate offers 1 km resolution coverage for each 1:200,000 quadrangle. 250 m resolution DEM data covers the whole country, and was captured by interpolating raster contours scanned from 1:25,000 scale base material. This was complete by 1995. The Digital map 50 m mesh is also derived from 1:25,000 contours and issued for topographical sheets, with elevations recorded in 10 cm units for each grid. Honshu was covered first, and complete national coverage was reached in 1997. Municipal place names from the 1:25,000 map are available in the Latitude longitude index, coded according to feature type and geographically referenced.

A six-color 1:200,000 scale Regional map covers Japan in 130 sheets. Each quadrangle covers 1° longitude by 40° latitude, and the series includes relief shading and 50 m contours. Data from this map was digitized in 1990 and are available for the whole of Japan as vector data relating to boundaries, roads, railways, settlement, coastlines, and place names. These data are updated on an annual basis. The place name data set (Shizen chimeishu) comprises 20,000 names, but is not available with latitude longitude values. The eight sheet 1:500,000 District map is available in two different versions, a four-color edition or a nine-color map with layer shaded relief. Digital line and point data derived from the District map (supplemented by administrative boundaries and railways from the Regional map) is available for all of Japan on a single disk. At 1:1,000,000 a three sheet special version of the International map of the World is published, as twelve-color English or Japanese language editions, revised in 1994. The 1: 3,000,000 scale map Japan and her surroundings is also available as an English language version.

The Hydrographic Department (JHD) of the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency is responsible for the compilation and publication of oceanographic surveys of Japanese territorial waters, and the publication of nautical and aeronautical charts. A range of about 1,800 charts is maintained, covering the Pacific and Indian oceans and some Antarctic waters. A program designated the Basic map of the sea has been in production since 1967, to provide fundamental data in support of a variety of maritime activities. The largest scale charts in this program cover waters within 12 miles of the coast and over 70 percent of the coastal area around Japan, at scales of 1:10,000, 1:25,000 and 1:50,000, in bathymetric and submarine structural chart editions. Basic maps of the sea in continental shelf areas are published at a scale of 1:200,000 in four different editions; these are the Bathymetric chart, the Gravity anomaly chart, the Total magnetic intensity chart, and the Submarine structural chart. Since 1994 the sheet size of newly published charts has been doubled and the specification changed to incorporate more colors. A 1:500,000 scale series has been in production since 1992, with separately published bathymetric and composite charts, the latter incorporating submarine structural, free air gravity anomaly and geomagnetic charts. 1:1,000,000 scale coverage started in 1995. The same four themes are to be published for 16 areas covering a much more extensive area. Other smaller scales are also published.

JHD is also the agency responsible for the compilation of nautical charts of Japanese waters, which are prepared according to international specifications. Since 1992 JHD has had a digitizing program in operation and plans to capture about 900 charts in digital form by the year 2005. The first electronic chart on CD-ROM was published in 1995 and a system for the generation of paper charts from the database has been established. A simplified Electronic chart reference database was completed in 1996 to cater for some of the navigational needs of small ships, and from 1998 chart updates have been released in digital form, in parallel with Notices to mariners. Second generation electronic charts incorporate a number of different scales of chart data, with larger scale coverage of port areas packaged with smaller scale ENCs from 1996.

The Geological Survey of Japan (GSJ) is responsible for the compilation of earth science mapping of Japan. Its output is not perhaps as diverse as some other major earth science mapping agencies, some marine earth science mapping being carried out by JHD, and hazard mapping being the responsibility of GSI. Nevertheless GSJ has diversified its range of mapping beyond the traditional basic geological survey. Over half the country is covered in three of these medium-scale basic geological series. Work on the 1:50,000 geological series started in 1951, some earlier basic sheets are still available at a scale of 1:75,000, and a total of nearly 600 basic sheets are now available. About 10 new maps are published each year, most of Hokkaido is now covered, but coverage of Honshu and Kyushu remains very patchy. The maps are printed on topographic bases and include bilingual legends; Japanese language explanatory texts are available for most sheets, with English summaries. A series of special sheets of important geological areas is published at 1:100,000 scale and significant volcanoes are mapped at 1:25,000 or 1:50,000. At 1:200,000 scale on the same sheet lines as the regional topographic map, there is more complete geological coverage which now extends to three-quarters of Japan. GSJ is currently digitizing data from this series. This and other smaller scale geological series are when possible are derived from 1:50,000 scale geological data. Two 1:500,000 series are available: a geological map and a neotectonic map on the same sheet lines. 1:1,000,000 and 1:5,000,000 scale mapping is also maintained by GSJ, and a new edition of the 1:1,000,000 Geological atlas of Japan was published in 1992. At 1:2,000,000 GSJ issues a useful thematic earth science series, encompassing mineralogical and resource mapping. Amongst a range of terrestrial resource mapping are series covering coalfields, oil and gas fields and hydrogeology. In addition to its terrestrial interests GSJ carries out a range of marine surveys, including the publication of offshore 1:1,000,000 scale geological and aeromagnetic coverage, and collaborates with JHD in many of their various offshore resource mapping activities.

GSJ has also released two versions of its Digital geological map of Japan on CD ROM, in 1992 and 1995. This CD comprises digital versions of 1:1,000,000 scale geological mapping, together with yet another DEM data set, this time derived from GSJ source material. Raster data sets, and vector data in DLG and ARC/INFO format are packaged with several different types of viewing software. Other electronic earth science mapping on CD-ROM covers east and South East Asia.

The Remote Sensing Technology Center of Japan (RESTEC) was established in 1975 and is the focal point for remote sensing activities in Japan.

Soil in Japan is mapped by the Agricultural Administration Bureau, who maintain 1:50,000 scale coverage of cultivated areas, and by the Forestry Agency who completed soil coverage of public and private forest areas at 1:20,000 scale in the late 1970s. The Forestry Agency also maintains 1:5,000 scale line-maps of forest and mountain areas, including relief with 10 m contours, and has also began publishing of 1:5,000 scale orthophoto maps.

Since the end of the World War II there have been several land use surveys of the country, which have produced a number of different joint GSI and NLA products. A 1:50,000 scale series was compiled between 1953 and 1972, to cover nearly half the country. NLA produces the current 1:25,000 Land use map of Japan in conjunction with GSI on the same sheet lines as the topographic map. Work started in 1973, and this six-color map distinguishes 35 different units of land use. This series was originally intended to offer complete national coverage, but its remit was changed to cover only the lowland, habitable areas of the country, in about 1,300 sheets, completed in the mid 1980s. Since then, regular but limited revision has taken place for a few key sheets. A 1:200,000 scale land use map was published in 1984-85 on topographic series sheet lines to give complete coverage of Japan in 123 sheets. This series was derived from national digital land information, 1:25,000 scale land use cover, aerial photography and other local data and distinguishes 19 different categories of land use.

The Digital national land information system (Kokudo Sûchi Jôhô) has been in development since 1974 to provide access to land use data captured from 1:25,000 scale mapping, GSI land use series, and color aerial photography. Data is stored as grid values for 15 land use classes. Customized user-defined output may be generated from this system across a number of themes, and data are regularly updated. Related but more detailed land use data in digital form has been collected since 1981 by GSI, for urban areas of Tôkyô, Osaka and Nagoya in the Saimitsu Sûchi Jôhô program. This data is available as 10 m gridded data sets at five-yearly intervals since 1974, and with raster information classified into 15 land use categories.

Land classification mapping is the second kind of thematic coverage compiled by NLA. These surveys present geomorphological data for different levels of administrative units in Japan, so as to map land use capability and promote more effective land use planning. At 1:50,000 scale the Land classification map is in progress, and about 700 sets of maps were available at the end of 1996. Each set is published for a first order administrative unit and comprises three thematic maps: geomorphology, surface geology and soil. Six overlays are also available, mapping present land use, slope classification, relative relief, drainage, valley density, land use capability and disaster prevention. Progress was held up in the 1970s while effort was devoted to the completion of a second smaller scale land classification series. This 1:200,000 scale series was published on prefectural sheet lines between 1967 and 1978, to give complete national coverage. Four different themes were published as hard copies: geomorphology, surface geology, soils and land use capability. In addition, overlays were issued for slope classification, subsurface geology, soil productive capability and relief energy and valley density. Geomorphology, surface geology, soils and subsurface geological data from these sources have been digitized.

NLA and GSI are also involved in the production of water use and river system mapping at 1:50,000 scale for the 109 most significant river systems in Japan.

The Environmental Agency was established in 1971 and has carried out basic surveys of the natural environment every five years since 1973. Four major programs of mapping have been produced as a result of these surveys. The 1:50,000 scale Actual vegetation map series covers all of Japan in 1,293 sheets, and was completed between 1978 and 1989. It is revised every five years and the latest data were digitized in the mid-1990s. Two series are published at 1:200,000 scale on prefectural sheet lines, but with seven maps for Hokkaido, giving complete coverage of Japan in 53 sheets. The first maps plant and animal distribution, and was completed in 1978; a second prefectural map locates natural landscapes of geoscientific interest, and was published in 1989. These maps are all are published in Japanese, but the 1:50,000 map also includes an English abstract. The Natural environment in Japan was compiled by the Agency in 1981 and published as a bilingual environmental atlas which included small-scale maps showing ecological and plant and animal distributions. In addition to these projects the Agency has collaborated with local governments to compile several regional environmental atlases. The Biodiversity Center of Japan (BIODIC-J) was established in April 1998 within the Environment Agency.

Unlike most other national surveys GSI is an active publisher of thematic mapping. A number of different land condition maps are published. The 1:25,000 scale Land condition map is a general purpose geomorphological map series, which is intended to be published for the main habitable areas of the country. The map depicts landforms, elevation and the location of public facilities and is designed to help in disaster planning. About a third of the projected coverage (160 sheets) was available towards the end of 1996. Two other specialist geomorphological series are also available. The 1:25,000 scale Land condition map of coastal areas focuses upon land management issues around shallow sea margins, by presenting land and sea-bottom data relating to nearshore areas; 66 sheets were available in this series at the end of 1996, about a half of planned coverage. A more diverse and recent series is also in progress and relates to the special risks posed by the many Japanese volcanoes: the first sheet in this Land condition map of volcanic areas was issued in 1989. GSI also has a program to publish lake charts at 1:10,000 scale for over 100 lakes: nearly three quarters of projected cover had been published by the end of 1996.

Other thematic mapping is compiled by GSI in conjunction with the National Land Agency (NLA) which was established in 1974. The Land Bureau of NLA coordinates the compilation of Japanese language large scale cadastral mapping and also prepares land classification and use mapping. Cadastral coverage itself is compiled by local authorities, and by the summer of 1999 about 41 percent of national land was published in series varying between 1:250 and 1:5,000 scales, with 1:500 and 1:1,000 being most commonly used. NLA is promoting the digital capture of this archive, and by 1999 over a quarter of completed cadastral surveys had been digitized.

GSI also publishes the National atlas of Japan. The first edition was published in 1977 and a major revision of this lavish and expensive thematic overview appeared in 1990 in English and Japanese versions, each weighing over 5 kg. Most of the maps in this revision were prepared using computer assisted methods, but a fixed hard copy medium was chosen for dissemination. In 1997 an electronic version of the atlas was published on CD-ROM. Other thematic atlases published by GSI include the Regional planning atlas, the Lake atlas and the Land subsidence atlas. GSI has also been developing a geographic information database since 1990 for different regions of Japan, collating spatial and other data from many government agencies, and merging these with a variety of digital mapping, mainly derived from 1:200,000 scale data sets, to provide customized regional electronic atlases.

The Roads Bureau prepares 1:1,200,000 scale traffic volume maps. Other larger scale digital and hard copy road mapping are derived from the digital road map database prepared by the Japan Digital Road Map Association. This road data was digitized from 1:50,000 scale mapping, with urban areas captured from 1:25,000 scale maps, and give national digital road coverage.

There is a thriving commercial map publication sector in Japan, with over 50 commercial producers of maps and digital spatial data sets. The following are the four most significant producers of English language mapping of Japan: Teikoku Shoin publishes English and Japanese language atlases for the reference and school markets, as well as producing a wide range of international maps; Shôbun-sha concentrates upon the leisure market, and the publication of Japanese language city maps, road maps and tourist atlases, as well as some English language maps; Buyô-dô publishes a similar range, with an emphasis upon motoring maps, while Kodansha International publishes bilingual road and street atlases and maps.

In addition to publishers of English material for the leisure and tourist market there are agencies which specialize in particular market sectors or regional output. For example Zenrin dominate the market for large scale ‘residential’ maps. These are published as double-sided B3 sized two color plots at scales between 1:1,000 and 1:5,000, in atlases for almost every municipality in Japan, and depict the planimetric detail of the built environment. Annual revision cycles incorporate significant change and data is also made available in digital form. ALPS Mapping Company publishes road maps, in particular of Aichi prefecture and Nagoya. It released a CD-based electronic atlas of Tokyo in 1996. Atlas RD the Tokyo metropolitan area, supports the usual range of electronic atlas functions, but was also one of the first atlases to incorporate direct links to Web sites appearing on the maps, and the capability to link with data from GPS receivers. Like many commercial publishers map data is derived from GSI products. Giken Shoji Co. Ltd distribute census data for Demosphere International. This data is available for prefectures and cities in Japan in Mapinfo or ARC/INFO format under the trade mark Japansite.

Many overseas publishers issue general maps of the country and city maps of Tokyo. These include HarperCollins, the National Geographic Society (NGS) and International Travel Maps (ITM).

The Statistics Bureau (BS) of the Management and Coordination Agency attached to the Prime Minister’s Office maps the results of the five-yearly demographic censuses in Japan. These thematic maps are usually published within three years of the latest census and regularly map population distribution, change, and density, and employment change. The frequently revised Atlas of the population census of Japan is also issued by BS. BS was also responsible for the publication of an English and Japanese language place name list, derived from census results, and for administrative mapping. Other boundary maps are compiled by the Facilities Division of the Postal Services Department in the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and by various regional postal services bureau. These include 1:25,000 and 1:5,000 scale postal zone maps.

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