Imperial Ambition through Bird’s Eye
Japanese colonization revealed through bird’s-eye view
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Imagine that a bird is observing the world while flying over the sky. The holistic insight of a bird’s-eye view displayed at Hanyang University’s museum may overwhelm the audience. A bird’s-eye view designed and drawn by Hatsusaburo Yoshida during the Japanese colonization is evaluated as a creative and fresh masterpiece of the era. However, professor Han Dong-su and Seo Dong-chun of Far East Architectural History Lab have discovered that the vast coverage and amplification of specific geography behind the bird’s-eye view may imply the colonial ambition of Japan.
Ambitious bird flies over the world
Bird’s-eye views drawn by Hatsusaburo Yoshida contains not only the geography of Japan, but also that of Korea, China, Europe, and further America. “It is hard to exactly beg the question that the intention behind this bird’s-eye view is for the colonial purpose due to the different stance between Korea and Japan. However, Korea’s assertion can be supported by several historical and architectural evidence,” said Seo.
First point of focus is the view’s extensive, yet unnecessary coverage of geography. “Unlike the early views drawn in 1913, the 1922 view created during the peak of the Japanese Colonization era is peculiar in that the view resembles more of a world map conquered by Japan,” said Seo. The 1913 view has a narrow perspective of geography focusing only on Japan and the surrounding countries, while the 1922 view has an enormous spectrum of the world in Japan’s interest at the time.
Another aspect to pay attention is from whom Yoshida received requests to draw more than 3,000 views. “We thought that if we discover who asked for these views, it can help explain the intention behind the map. The investigation was worth it because the client was the Japanese Railroad Administration, the key organization of colonization,” said Seo. In addition, Yoshida himself has arbitrarily served in the war in 1940, which supports the claim. “It is also eccentric that Yoshida magnified specific locations and buildings in the view, which were vital buildings to colonization, such as the Japanese Government General of Korea or shrines,” said Seo.
Complementary history and architecture
Far East Architectural History Lab has hosted several architectural history exhibitions including this year’s bird’s eye view. “Professor Han’s ultimate goal was to collect as much data on Korea’s architecture for his junior researchers that have been lost due to numerous wars and colonization.” Seo has been working with Han for 15 years to create the central historical axis of the three East Asian countires- Korea, Japan, and China. “Korea has lost a lot of historical reference on architecture despite the fact that our forefathers built great edifices. To restore all the data and develop future architecture in the sense of Korean traditional style, we must approach architecture in the perspective of the entire far east,” explained Seo.
Three countries of the far east have been in close relationship since the early history. Through long-time interactions, cultures were exchanged including architecture, and the lab suggests that Koreans pay attention to Chinese and Japanese culture by analyzing the past interchanges. “Historical background of Korean architecture after the Japanese colonization is sometimes depressing in that we had to lose all the great work of our ancestors. However, it is now the time that we build a new beginning cheerfully,” said Seo.
Kim Ju-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Kim Youn-soo
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