Plotting the rise and set of the Japanese sun

TitleLand of the Setting Sun
CreatorRichard Edes Harrison
Year1943
Dimensions90 × 120 cm
LocationLeventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library
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This 27 December, 1943 edition of Newsmap features a globe centered on Japan, drawn by the influential cartographer Richard Edes Harrison. Harrison’s unique projections challenged traditional views of the world and were regularly featured in Newsmap.

See another Richard Edes Harrison map where he experiments with map projections.
Wander across the exhibition →

In “Land of the Setting Sun,” Harrison’s globe uses red shaded areas to show the territorial extent of the expanding Japanese control of the western Pacific. Along the right side is a timelapse series of the Japanese Empire’s expanding reach into the Pacific; this kind of device to show change over time is sometimes called small multiples. These maps, taken together, were meant to show that the Japanese Empire was a greedy devourer of nearly half the globe—and Harrison’s global projection, with Alaska in clear sight and northern Canada peeking over the North Pole, was meant to show that the threat was a real one for the United States.

If this map made choices to make Japanese power seem threatening and formidable, it also set American readers at ease about the strength of the Allied forces, by promising the eventual “setting” of the Japanese sun. Noting that “the three great Allies […] covet no gain for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion,” this map tells both domestic and foreign readers that the United States is a principled fighter, and casts Japan as the villain deserving of punishment.

Newsmap’s core readership was the ordinary soldiers and sailors who made up the United States’ vast military force. A poster like this would have both geared them up for a long fight while reassuring them of the justice of their cause.