Old Japanese Maps Stir Old Japanese Controversy

Old maps of Japan from David Rumsey’s collection that are viewable as a layer in Google Earth have gotten Google into a bit of hot water in Japan, the AP’s Jay Alabaster reports (Huffington Post, Japan Times, Washington Post). The maps show the locations of buraku villages, marked with a term now considered derogatory. Descendants of the burakumin, who were considered an outcast community because their work was associated with death (whether animal or human: gravediggers, leatherworkers, butchers), still face discrimination in Japan, and buraku rights activists were angry that the maps lacked the explanation of historical context that normally accompanies such maps in Japan. Japan’s justice ministry is investigating, and Rumsey has since edited the maps to remove the references to buraku villages. Via MapHist and Map History/History of Cartography.