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Old maps are repurposed in a unconventional way

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    The Japan Map Center is using outdated maps featuring famous spots and other landmarks as paper fans. A sample fan is made from a topographical map.

TOKYO >> Folding fans made out of discarded old maps made by the Japan Map Center (JMC) have proved to be enormously popular.

With sales fueled by social media, a number of versions have sold out since going on sale in May.

The JMC is a general incorporated foundation based in Meguro ward, Tokyo, that prints and sells topographical maps from the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI). The JMC’s regular work involves selling aerial photographs, conducting research on maps, and public education activities.

GSI constantly updates its topographical maps with changes to land, elevation and other information. The center then wholesales these updated maps to bookstores nationwide and sells them directly. The old maps are no longer needed, and dealing with the leftover stock has become a problem.

The center has used maps slated for disposal as printer paper and made them into notepads. Still, with more people owning smartphones and fewer people using paper maps, the JMC had too many old maps.

The solution: Turn them into fans.

The JMC employee in charge of the project said they searched 1:25,000-scale maps for geographical features that would show famous spots and other landmarks when made into folding fans. Nine different types were selected. Shikoku Dansen Co., a fan maker in Marugame, Kagawa prefecture, was contracted to produce 1,000 fans.

The Kanazawa fan includes Kanazawa Station and Kenrokuen garden. A western Tokyo fan is centered around Shinjuku Station, and was arranged to show the Diet building and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

The fans were first made available by mail order and at the center’s shop. Each fan costs about $7.

“It’s not like we had a big advertising campaign,” said Hiroyuki ­Inoue, of JMC’s production department. “We realized there are a lot of people who can enjoy maps in unconventional ways.”

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