The Kobe City Museum displays a rare map of the world that dates back to 1695. Copied from a Dutch original by a Japanese artist, it shows the four continents, Europe, America, Asia and Africa, surrounded by illustrations of people in traditional costumes. If the Shogun and his court were always eager to purchase updated maps from Dutch traders, it was less for their geographical interest than for the artistic representations  of the unknown world, they offered.

Similarly, in 1670, f...

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