This highly attractive large format Japanese map depicts Australia, New Guinea and the Eastern Indonesian. Archipelago as it appeared in 1942, during the height for World War II, in the wake of Japan’s stunning offensives in the region, which included the first attacks by foreign power upon Australian territory. The map embraces all Australia, New Guinea and what was the Dutch East Indies a far west as Bali. All jurisdictions including the Australian states and territories are shaded in their own appealing pastel hues. Australia is shown in detail with all cities and towns of any note labeled, all rivers are clearly charted, and all railway lines delineated. Of particular importance, the map shows the incomplete Adelaide–Darwin Rail Corridor, an envisaged 2,975 kilometres (1,849 mi) line that was to connect the south coast of Australia to the strategically vital port of Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory.
The map was issued in November 1942 by Tokyo’s Niriki Shoten, a bookstore which specialized in printing maritime books. The information on the map was carefully reviewed by the South Manchuria Railway Research Bureau, a leading Japanese think tank based in Dalian (in Japanese-occupied Manchuria), that compiled and analyzed the most up-to-date knowledge on foreign affairs relevant to the war. The map would have been greeted with great interest by Japanese officials and members of the public (the map was available for sale for the price of 80 Yen, as note din the lower right margin) who would have been fascinated by their country’s military exploits in far way lands that most knew very little about. The map would have severed vita role on contextualizing what the Japanese people read in the newspapers or heard on the radio. Indeed, it the is the most substantial WWII Japanese general map of Australia and New Guinea we have ever encountered. New Guinea of which we are aware.
Historical Context: Japan takes the War Down Under
By the beginning of the summer of 1942, shortly before the present map was issued, Japan had, in only six-months, accomplished one of the greatest military feats of all time. While Japan’s thirst for conquest was already well-known, for it had seized large parts of China in stages since 1931, nothing could prepare the world for what would commence on December 7/8, 1941. That day, Japan executed a stealth strike upon the American base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, and at the same time attacked British and American positions in East and Southeast Asia – all without a declaration of war. The Japanese took Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941, and proceeded to roll over British Malaya, completing the operation with the fall of Singapore on February 16, 1942.
Relevant to the present map, Japan invaded and secured control of the Australian eastern half of New Guinea in January 1942, while taking control over the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) by March 1942. They then conquered the Philippines from American-Filipino forces by May 1942. That same month the Japanese took Burma, bringing their forces to the edge of India, the jewel of the British Empire.
Focusing upon Australia, on February 19, 1942, the Japanese Air Force executed the Bombing of Darwin, attacking the strategic port in the Northern Territory. The Australians were caught off guard and the Japanese managed to destroy much property and resources, including 30 Allied aircraft and 11 ships, while killing 236 people, making it the largest ever attack upon Australia mounted by a foreign power.
From May 31-June 8, Japanese submarines attacked the harbours of Sydney and Newcastle, Australia, and while the assaults did not do too much damaged, they severely undermined Australia’s sense of security.
However, beginning in November 1942, right when the present map rolled off the press, the Australian and American forces took the offensive, landing forces in New Guinea, and until the end of the war in the late summer of 1945 gradually liberated the islands, in a campaign that the late military historian John Laffin said, “was arguably the most arduous fought by any Allied troops during World War II”.
A Note on Rarity
The map is very rare, as it seems to have been ‘boutiquey’ production made in limited print run, while the survival rate of such large, fragile maps from the period is quite low.
We can trace only 3 institutional examples of the map, held by the National Diet Library; Kyoto University Faculty of Law Library; and the Capital Library of China (Beijing). Moreover, we are not aware of any other examples as having appeared on the market, at least in recent times.
References: National Diet Library: YG833; Kyoto University Faculty of Law Library: 297.2||Go782305; Japan National Bibliography No. (JPNO): 21112983; OCLC: 964442076.