KSA Japan 2013: The Maps

In December, several OSU professors and I will be leading a group of 30 students on a two-week architecture tour of Japan. With over 400 buildings on our “master list” and over 150 assigned as student research, we would obviously need some maps.

On similar tours in previous years, we’ve used Google maps to locate buildings and plan out our daily itineraries in advance, but we had nothing but printed copies once we were out on tour. In China last year, we discovered the benefits of bringing a working cellular-enabled iPad on tour… with live navigation we were able to move more efficiently and reroute on the fly if we encountered traffic jams, road closures, or if certain buildings took more or less time to see than we had planned. (This may be fairly obvious… but of the 6+ tours of this kind I’ve done – as student or guide – last year was the first time I brought an internet- and GPS-enabled device on the trip.)

In planning the trip this year, I culled GPS locations from a number of sources (World Architecture Map was good, but Botund Bognar’s excellent Japan Architectural Guide was indispensable) and added each point of interest to a massive spreadsheet.

While it’s now possible to upload Excel spreadsheets directly to Google Maps, a few months ago the process was more involved: we’d have to export to a CSV file, convert to KML, make a few minor corrections in a text editor, then upload, a fairly involved process. Even then, Google Maps would paginate the results, and show only 100 dots per page, making it impossible to see the complete set of buildings and plot the best path through the country.

We needed an alternative. After some hours of searching, I came across Leaflet, “An Open-Source JavaScript Library for Mobile-Friendly Interactive Maps”  – it sounded perfect. Luckily, getting the basics set up was easy and I was quickly able to find a workflow that would take me from my Excel spreadsheet to a mobile-friendly, location aware map with just one copy-n-paste operation. I was also able to create a ‘print version’ of each city, using the same setup, streamlining the process considerably.

So, for those interested, here are the online maps we’ll be using for daily navigation in Japan. On the full-japan map, the dots are color coded based on my arbitrary ratings, and on the city maps (in fact, the same full country-map, just with default zoom and location adjusted) the dots are numbered to correspond with our printed map keys. The “arrow” navigation icon will zoom to your current location.

(Unfortunately, I haven’t yet figured out how to add menus, or a clickable list of buildings in the area. It may be simple, given how extensible Leaflet seems, so if anyone knows a way I’d love to hear it!)

map test


So, in the spirit of share/share-alike, here are the online maps I developed for the trip:

Japan by Color Rating

1. Central Japan

2a. greater tokyo

2b. central tokyo

2c. ginza, tokyo

2d. shibuya & roppongi, tokyo

2e. ueno & asakusa, tokyo

3a. greater nagoya

3b. central nagoya

4a. greater osaka & nara

4b. central osaka

4c. central nara

5. takamatsu

6. hiroshima

7a. greater kyoto

7b. central kyoto

8. kanazawa

And here is a preview of the final print layout, which we will include in the student handbook (to be covered in a future post): KSA Japan 2013: Map Pages (on Issuu).


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