“These four maps, made when doing fieldwork in a village in Japan, not only helped me to orientate myself within the village, but also to illustrate various ways in which villagers support each other and maintain their public places. The basic map numbers houses as a record of who lived where, and over time, a quick way to denote the families who lived in each house. It also shows where all the public places were located.

A separate map indicates the occupations that each house held. Map 3 divides the village into neighbourhood groups and sub-groups that take turns to clean and look after the shrines and their surroundings and organise the regular festivals. Houses in these groups also take it in turn to collect taxes, and to deliver a weekly notice board from the city hall to the next house in the scheme indicated by red arrows. The notice board is handed to the next house once seen and insures that people are in touch with each other at least once a week, as well as delivering news and public notices.

The final map indicates smaller groups that take responsibility, collectively, for helping with any kind of special occasion such as birth, death, illness or fire, ensuring that everyday life continues while the family concerned concentrates on the demands of the occasion. Together the maps illustrate much of village life.”

Four maps that tell a story of village life

Fieldwork aid developed in Kyushu, Japan.

The screenshots above are taken from a film about Joy’s research. In this clip she explains the meaning behind the maps. See the whole film on Youtube: ‘Understanding Japanese Culture – 45 years researching a village in rural Japan’, produced by Leaf of Life Films.