Sangoku tsuran zusetsu

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One of the maps from the Sangoku tsûran zusetsu, showing Ryukyu, Taiwan, parts of China, Japan, the Korean peninsula, Ezo, and parts of Russia, with colors indicating national/cultural boundaries. Sakamaki-Hawley Collection, University of Hawaii Library.

Sangoku tsûran zusetsu, or "Illustrated Outline of the Three Countries," is a publication written by Sendai-based Confucian scholar Hayashi Shihei describing the three "countries" closest to Japan - Ezo, Ryûkyû, and Korea - with an eye to national defense, and especially coastal defense, through providing a resource to inform others about geography, and about these countries.

It was published by Suwaraya Ichibei in 1785, a publisher based at Nihonbashi, Kitamuro-chô sanchôme. The illustrated book is accompanied by five maps, depicting respectively Ezo, Ryûkyû, Korea, the Ogasawara Islands, and the region as a whole (i.e. Japan and all its nearest neighbors). The latter is said to be the first Japanese map to depict all of Japan in a single color, distinguishing from other countries by different colors. A single shade of blue covers all of Kyûshû, Shikoku, Honshû, and part of Hokkaidô, the blue fading gradually into yellow at the fuzzy border between Matsumae han-controlled areas of Ezo and the Ainu lands beyond Japanese control. Yellows, blues, and reds are used to depict foreign lands, including the Ryûkyûs, the Ogasawara Islands, China - with several provinces labeled, Russia, and northern islands including Sakhalin and the Kuriles.

The five maps are titled as follows:

  • Sangoku tsûran yochi rotei zenzu (三国通覧輿地路程全図; Complete Picture of World Distances of the Outline of the Three Countries; 76.5 x 53.5cm)
  • Ryûkyû zenzu (琉球全図, Complete Picture of the Ryûkyûs; 76.5 x 53.5cm)
  • Mujintô no zu (無人島之図, Picture of the Uninhabited Islands; 66.4 x 26.6 cm)
  • Chôsen koku zenzu (朝鮮国全図, Complete Picture of the Country of Korea; 76.5 x 53.5 cm)
  • Ezo koku zenzu (蝦夷国全図, Complete Picture of the Country of Ezo; 97 x 53.5 cm)[1]

Hayashi's text has been described as "the first attempt to define Japan's position in relation to its neighbors."[2] In it, he advocates the Japanization of the Ainu, and the colonization of the then-uninhabited Ogasawara Islands. It includes a preface by Hayashi, as well as one by Rangaku scholar Katsuragawa Hoshû.

Shortly after its publication, Hayashi was arrested and imprisoned for daring to suggest that the shogunate was insufficiently prepared, or insufficiently powerful, to defend the country, and for publishing ideas about national defense as someone other than a shogunate official.

The volume was taken out of publication in Japan in 1791, along with another volume he authored entitled Kaikoku heidan ("Discussion of the Military of a Maritime Nation"). A French translation was published in France, however, as early as 1832.


  • Hayashi Shihei. Sangoku tsûran zusetsu. Edo, 1785. University of Hawaii Hamilton Library Sakamaki-Hawley Collection. HW 552-553.
  • Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. Re-Inventing Japan: Time, Space, Nation. M.E. Sharpe, 1998. p23.
  • "Sangoku tsûran zusetsu." Hyakka jiten Mypedia. Hitachi Solutions, 2010. Accessed via
  1. "Sangoku tsûran zusetsu." Kyushu University Museum Digital Archive.
  2. Morris-Suzuki. p23.