183 - Map of the USA, Made in Japan
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
“This map is basically what would happen if you got a bunch of Japanese guys in a room, got them drunk, and then asked them to draw what they could remember about America on a bar napkin. Hell, that’s probably how this game was originally designed,” says Andrew Vestal on Yukihime.com, here.
This map is included in Tengai Makyou: Daishi no Mokushiroku (The Fourth Apocalypse), a RPG (role-playing game) known for its historical parody humour, Vestal explains. The first three games take place in Japan, the fourth in an America that, cartographically at least, looks like it’s in or near Japan.
• Alaska is an island, including the fictional city of Ice Palace. • Montana is located oceanside, under Seattle, which apparently has a thing with cats. • Portland and Lake Tahoe are near the supersized San Francisco Bay, which contains an equally inflated Alcatraz. • San Fran itself is placed on the wrong side of its bay. • Los Angeles (under the sign still reading ‘Hollywoodland’) is just north of Arizona; close by are the cities of Las Vegas, Tombstone, Phoenix and Carlsbad Caverns. • So great they named it twice: another Carlsbad Caverns appears near El Paso, which is separated from Houston by a large bay, near which can also be found the (Mexican) cities of Oaxaca and Mexico City. • The north (labeled ‘Minnesota’) is dominated by St Paul, Minneapolis, Yellowstone and Chicago, which boasts an enormous skyscraper (probably but not recognizably the Sears Tower). • The northwestern peninsula of America is called Michigan, and counts two major cities: Detroit and Indianapolis. • New Jersey apparently is a hole in the ground, while New York is located on an island way off the mainland. • New Orleans is placed about right, Atlanta is too far south (and south of Florida). • The centre of the country is dominated by the gigantic monument of Mount Rushmore, not far from the town of Missouri. To the south, apparently surrounded by desert, is the city of Dallas. • Oh yes, and there is no Canada! Makes one wonder where that waterfall on America’s northeastern peninsula comes from…
This map was suggested by Erik Wensstrom, Nils Jeppe, Lucian Smith, “Richardson”, Wil Grewe-Mullins, Stancel Spencer, Jeff Matthews and probably a few others I now forget.
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