The Edo Past and Present Wanderings app appeals not only to old map buffs, but to anyone with a sense of adventure

One of my favorite things to do when I have some spare time is to take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. Whether it’s while traveling or in the same city I’ve lived in for years, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of meandering down hidden pathways and immersing myself in the local flavor right around the corner.

For others with the same hobby, we’d like to share a couple of friendly tips. First, no matter how many times you go, there will always be another unknown corner around which to explore new scenery. Today might be that day when you find something amazing that was right under your nose the whole time! Second, if you happen to live in Tokyo, your meandering has just gotten even more exciting with the introduction of a new smartphone and tablet app called Edo Past and Present Wanderings on December 19th. This app should undoubtedly satiate the curiosity of anyone who has ever wondered, “What was my neighborhood like in the olden days of Tokyo?”     

▼ The new app displayed on a smartphone and on a tablet

Edo Past and Present Wanderings features a fully functional map service that can switch between street maps of modern-day Tokyo and maps of the city in the latter years of the Edo period, the era between 1603-1868 which were marked by the Tokugawa Shogunate and isolationism from the rest of the world. It was laboriously developed by five different agencies: East Japan Marketing and Communications, JAF Media Works, Seiei Co., Ltd., BeMap, and Fuji Television, which should give you a hint about the high level of craftsmanship poured into its creation.

▼ Figure 1 demonstrates the app’s ability to overlay old maps with modern ones.

Here’s an enlargement of Figure 2 above. By sliding the gray bar from the left (Edo time) to the right (modern time), you can even adjust the degree of transparency between the maps. By the way, Edo (literally “bay entrance”) was renamed Tokyo (“eastern capital”) when Emperor Meiji moved the capital to there from Kyoto in 1868.

What makes Edo Past and Present Wanderings so special? Similar apps detailing the streets of Edo/Tokyo have previously been released, but they have always come with a few pointed drawbacks, namely being digitized versions of extant maps from the Edo Period which don’t always match nicely with modern terrain and localities. They may also contain handwriting that is difficult to decipher due to its age or outdated writing style. In contrast, the new app utilizes newly rendered images derived directly from Edo-period maps, which were painstakingly traced by experts in a way that could easily overlap with modern maps.The writing has also been converted over to contemporary script for ease of reading, all while maintaining authenticity.

Finally, as shown in the image below, the app also captures approximately 3,000 important landmarks and monuments such as temples and bridges, which makes it even more fun to walk around until you–literally–bump into something interesting!

Edo Past and Present Wanderings for either Apple or Android can be downloaded here. Might we suggest that you only download it when you’re sure to have at least a spare hour on your hands, since you probably won’t want to leave anytime soon once you discover the streets of Edo.

Source: Tokyo IPO
Featured image: EdoMap
Top image: EdoMap
Insert images: Tokyo IPO, EdoMap