While the average human has not yet come unstuck in time, it doesn’t mean we’re completely at a loss when it comes to time travel. Yes, we may only move in a singular direction, but at least have artifacts from the past to help us look back! Everything from old photos to old pottery help us dig through our murky cultural memory to see how things used to be.

And, thanks to Zenrin, a Japanese mapping company based in Oita Prefecture, now you can travel internationally with their collection of digital maps from the Edo and Meiji periods. Whether you think England is a conspiracy of cartographers or you know the name of every mapmaker since Babylonia, there’s something here for everyone!


Putting their decades of experience in the map-making business to good use, Zenrin’s Virtual Museum features both domestic and international maps, including one of Paris, though the primary focus is on Japan. Like the map pictured above, which was produced in 1606 by Gerhard Mercator and Jodocus Hondius, the charts span a period of nearly 450 years. Below is a map of the Seto Inland Sea, produced in 1872.


You can also find representations of Asia, like this colorful map from 1570. The way we represented the world certainly looked a lot different 444 years ago!


Here’s a slightly newer map of Asia from 1640, produced by Michel Van Locho. If you zoom in and look carefully around the map, you can even spot a few sea monsters!


This mess of lines is actually a map of Paris that apparently traces its growth from old castle walls to the end of the 18th century.


The website boasts around a hundred maps from various times, with a large cache of maps produced between 1927 and 1945 related to the Second World War. Unfortunately, the website is mostly in Japanese, so it could be a bit difficult to navigate. If you want to explore the full range maps they offer, it might take some exploration on your part, but here’s a brief guide to help you get started!

First, the historical maps are primarily under “Collections,” so just click that at the top of the page.


This is the page that you’ll be taken to. Click the time period you want and then select from the subdivisions that appear on the right. “世界・外国図” (the top-right column) is “World and Foreign maps” and “日本図” is Japanese maps. Each time period has different subdivisions, including “道中図、旅行案内図、観光案内図” (“Road, travel guide, and sightseeing guide maps).


Zenrin also has maps showing the changes in residential areas of Ochanomizu and Kokura City Area from 1963 to present day. First, click the button that reads “住宅地図の時の旅” (“Time travel with residential maps) at the top of the screen.

▼Like this!


The screen below will be shown, and you can select either Ochanomizu or the Kokura City Area.


▼We’ve added the location names in the picture below.


There’s a whole host of maps for you to explore at the Zenrin Virtual Museum, but our favorites are without question the old ones from the 16th and 17th centuries. They really make you appreciate have GPS on your smartphone!

Sources: ITMedia, Zenrin Virtual Museum
Images: Zenrin Virtual Museum