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Friday, Nov. 16, 2012

Women break stereotype, actually take to maps


YOKOHAMA — There are those who say women can't read maps, but this theory about navigation and gender appears to be taking a hit these days.

News photo
Global explorer: Hanae Watanabe, a Waseda University student, shows her favorite books on maps and graphics during a symposium in June in Yokohama. KYODO

Ai Yashiro, 30, was fascinated with maps when she came to Tokyo from Akita Prefecture to study at a university.

She always took maps with her to find the locations where she promised to meet friends.

"When I read maps, I can feel that towns are connected with one another," Yashiro said.

After graduating, Yashiro went to work at Zenrin DataCom Co., a provider of map applications.

"Now that I have become a creator, I hope I can make maps that will entertain and mesmerize readers as fashion magazines do girls," she said.

"Maps have changed and there are different kinds of maps now available," said Masatoshi Arikawa, a professor of cartography at the University of Tokyo. "That is because an increasing number of women are involved in making maps."

Hanae Watanabe, 24, a geography and history major at Waseda University in Tokyo, likes to examine vintage maps.

She was in junior high school when she first immersed herself in them. She bought a map of Paris from the late 19th century to adorn her bedroom wall.

Watanabe said she was amazed with the map's accuracy and "was intensely curious about how it was created even before airplanes were invented."

She said she has since saved money by working part time and has visited major libraries around the world, including the British Library in the suburbs of London and the Library of Congress in Washington, to study the history of maps.

"When I see old maps on TV and in films, I can't go to bed until I find when and who made them," Watanabe said during a June symposium hosted by the Japan Cartographers Association in Yokohama in June.

Miki Maya, a popular actress, is also known for her keenness on maps. She is currently playing an investigator who tries to find clues from maps in the TV drama "Sosachizu no Onna" ("Woman of Investigative Maps"), which started this fall.

"I love reading maps and consulting them while walking around," she said, adding she likes to spend her free time reading maps while drinking.

She said Edo Period surveyor and cartographer Ino Tadataka (1745-1818), who drew Japan's first modern map, is one of the people she most respects.

Arikawa of the University of Tokyo says theories in the best-selling book "Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps," which explores behavioral differences between men and women, may no longer be true.

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