Interesting look at some ancient Japanese maps over at Tofugu.com.
I think it’s easy to forget that world exploration didn’t really start until fairly recently. The 1400′s was only 600 years ago, and in that short time we’ve mapped just about everything (that’s not underwater, at least). Even then, I’d say it took until the 1600′s for maps to start looking kind of like what the world looks like, and then another hundred or two hundred years after that for maps to look good. Heck, we just got Mapquest like ten years ago (though everyone knows Google Maps is the best, true that double true).
All that being said, that’s only “Western” people we’re talking about. Japan was pretty xenophobic until the 1800′s, and they didn’t “get out” much. You could say that about all the Asian countries hanging about back then. It wasn’t until the 1600′s that Japan “saw the world for the first time” (in map form)… and boy did it look beautiful.
‘Nansenbusho’, Buddhist world maps before knowledge of other countries. Only 3 countries on here: India, China, Japan.
Another Buddhist map depicting mainly Japan, India, & China.
You can play around and zoom in on some of the old maps here. Really fascinating to see how Japanese viewed themselves and the rest of the world at that time.