The bicycle touring experience is more a jagged path than an itinerary. That’s really all there is to it, a scratch in the terrain, a maze through a city, a line on a map. I love maps, not least for what they represent—the unknown. Then there’s the aesthetic value: the texture of the paper, the colour, the topographical description. I use maps all the time, and not just for direction. In foreign places the map is a communicative tool, sometimes the only means of communication. An explanation, a story, a history lesson, a riddle, an encounter, a friendship, a memory, maps represent much.

Hand drawn maps, like handwriting, are as varied and unique as their authors. They can be messy, illegible, creative, or precise. Here’s a selection of scribbles, many by strangers, that have assisted me during my time in Japan.


  1. Anonymous says

    I did a few weeks of cycling in Japan and was blown away by the sheer detail of their maps. The Shobunsha ‘touring mapple’ series are some very impressive maps.

    • Benji says

      I agree! The Touring Mapple series (specifically for bike touring in Japan) is unique with every scenic route and onsen marked out. My Touring Mapple of hokkaido is well worn.

  2. simon jackson says

    BRW – Are the map-makers using their own pens/writing instrunments?
    It would be interesting to see some “drawn” with a finger on the beach or scratched with a knife into a park bench! Next time give them some coloured pencils so they can add colour to their art!

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