View Full Version : August Entry: Oten'jo - River City

08-02-2009, 12:15 PM
True to character, I am putting things on "paper" before I've done more than a couple of hours of research on feudal Japan, guaranteeing that I will have to go back and change something fundamental half-way into the project.

The first thing I did was create a 3300x5100 300dpi blank in PhotoShop, portrait. I then pasted the rough map on the base layer and resized so it just hit the edges. I played with it for a while, then looked at the image size critically. The only reason to have an image 11x17 is so that the published production is 8.5x11, so it stood to reason that the map would go in landscape.

I started again, changing the orientation (no pun intended). I again pasted the original image and then sized it so that the city itself took up the majority of the vertical expanse of the page and then extended the right bank to give plenty of space for legend.

Satisfied, I threw up a 50% gray layer and then bumped opacity down to 50% so I could see the original image below. I then cut out everything that was water. That brought me to my first challenge: the canals. Canals have two primary purposes other than short cuts and river re-direction. First, they allow water-borne cargo to be moved into the city easily. Second, they make irrigation practical much further away from the river. As there isn't a lot of agriculture going on inside the walls of the city and the rear of the city butts up against rising elevations, the canals I put in are almost exclusively for traffic. I followed the spirit, if not the letter of GP's concept drawing.

I then went in and added wharves and docks. At that point, I decided that my Oten'jo would have a great bridge, and that the lord would control passage up and down the river by means of a mighty chain that would be used to block any craft of significant size attempting to go through the hundred-twenty foot span at the center of the bridge.

This is the image with the original back-lit for your convenience.

And this is my WIP:

### Latest WIP ###

08-02-2009, 12:21 PM
Nice start. That bridge is indeed huge?

08-02-2009, 12:30 PM
The bridge looks large enough that you could have plenty of houses built on it. I don't know how appropiate that would be for a japanese-styled setting, but buildings-on-bridges certainly is a workable concept, as it has been done in Florence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponte_Vecchio).

Can't think of any other reasons you'd want to have a bridge that wide. Having two carts be able to pass each other should be wide enough for most any ordinary bridge.

08-02-2009, 01:13 PM
Good point Ghostman. Lots of Medieval cities had houses on bridges. They were preferred because they had good sanitation. In some cities there were floating mills under the bridges (the water flowing faster between the bridge pillars). Still, this was all in Europe. Not sure how it was in Japan.

08-02-2009, 01:35 PM
Points well taken. The purpose of the grandeur of the bridge is to overawe and intimidate. The purpose of it's bulk is to make it impassable. However, 200' is more than would be required to make the bridge effectively indestructable. I will give it some thought.

08-02-2009, 02:02 PM
There are examples of Japanese bridging with buildings on it. Though not for a full expanse across a river, though not impossible to imagine. I would think on the city of the river, that is possible, with a narrowing to true bridge site for the remainder. But I'm not the cartographer here, so it all works for me.


08-02-2009, 04:50 PM
Not happy with the bridge yet, but I've been focusing more on the wood-cut technique so it will be revisited.

### Latest WIP ###

08-03-2009, 12:40 AM
I like the toned down bridge. The wood cut effect is nice as well. This is going to be such a fun challenge. Especially if we get a good look into all the entries' processes. I love watching process, and yours is going to be fun to watch.

08-03-2009, 12:34 PM
Immolate, I posted some reference images of bridges in Japan (ukiyo-e prints) in the main Challenge thread - check it out for some ideas.


08-03-2009, 12:40 PM
The effect on the water could be just a bit sharper I think. Otherwise the map base is looking good.

08-03-2009, 06:46 PM
m^5pig: I know if I get any votes it's more for the "story" of my map than how it actually looks. As a reader, I really like a detailed journal of how the cartographer is learning about the art and the subject as they develop the map.

GP: Thanks! I'll take a look.

Jykke: sharper as in less blur, larger wood cuts or something else?

08-03-2009, 11:55 PM
hmm, less blur and smaller woodcuts :)

08-09-2009, 08:55 PM
Sorry for the lack of activity of late folks but I've had company over and that, along with some volunteer work, has absorbed all of my free time.

On a related note, for those of you who have a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, I can't recommend a more worthwhile charity to give your time to. It's also a good way to learn a thing or two that you don't already know about construction. That may translate into added ability to do it yourself at home.

I should be back to mapping presently, in the next day or two.

08-15-2009, 11:37 PM
Hi all! The rain came this afternoon and gave me an excuse to work on my map. I'm still trying to "discover" the style I want to use on this map, but it is beginning to come together.

The river bridge underwent a significant metamorphosis. It is now a collection of stone islands with arcing bridges between. The two large islands in the center serve to span the channel and deny passage to any vessels that have not paid the toll.

I put in the walls and towers and some streets in the Samurai district. The streets are not very grid-like, but the terrain near the castle is not-at-all flat, so the roads conform to the land.


08-16-2009, 06:36 AM
I like it... need to see some buildings now :)

08-20-2009, 11:13 PM
Buildings galore and docks! The docks were a huge challenge with the grain of the wood following the actual angle. I think I came up with over sixty custom patterns at different angles to make it look right. There is probably a better way, but I couldn't think of it.

Comments and suggestions are welcome. Nearly everything on the map is adjustable.

08-21-2009, 12:48 AM
That's lookin good, far more buildings than I've done. Keep on keepin on.

08-21-2009, 01:44 AM
I love the roofs, they definitely have that curved feel to them.

08-21-2009, 04:46 AM
Very, very nice. Love the toned down colors. No critique so far.

08-22-2009, 12:01 AM
Another almost-midnight comes and I am bleary of eye and exhausted of whimsy. I have added the "downtown" section with residential, temple, samurai and castle districts remaining.



08-22-2009, 12:48 AM
Good work, Immolate!

I appreciate the amount of work required for this city map challenge I sponsored. I kind of wished I picked an easier format - wilderness area, village, etc, which I may yet do later in the year. But I need city maps, so its why I did so for this challenge.

I say, thank you all participants for the level of commitment this type of map requires and the great efforts shown thus far. I promise even those who don't win the challenge, you'll get an immense level of satisfaction in completing a city map and be able to place it in your portfolio as a keystone project.

Thanks for all your efforts.


Steel General
08-22-2009, 11:09 AM
This is really coming along nicely... you're a lot further along than I am.

08-22-2009, 11:33 PM
Another long day of city building in between the mowing of the lawn and the making of the dinner. I have added the residential, temple and samurai areas, leaving only the castle zone untouched.

You may notice a lack of accessories such as trees and shrubs. I haven't forgotten, but I haven't gotten to that yet. I get a lot of pleasure from that sort of thing, so I want to leave it until last. Now the fact that I like it does not mean that I'm any good at it. That will be for the rest of you to decide.


08-23-2009, 05:20 AM
You made some great progress!

08-23-2009, 06:12 AM
This is looking really good, Imm!

08-23-2009, 09:58 PM
Added castle zone buildings, bridges, and three horses! Of course at this scale, they may be a challenge to find. I spent a good bit of time going through the map and fixed stuff that wasn't working for me. It is amazing how much time you can spend just tweaking and polishing when you still have a lot of work left to do.

Had to bring the quality level down a bit as I've exceeded the board limit on JPG's.


08-23-2009, 10:02 PM
Those obsidian black roofs are cool and the horses look fine to me. I spend about 90% of my time tweaking, readjusting, experimenting, and playing. If I ever did a map the same way as the previous one it might actually go a lot faster but wouldn't be as much fun :)

Steel General
08-24-2009, 06:47 AM
I really like everything you've done, except your river water - I think it's to green.

But if you are happy with it, than it's all good.

08-24-2009, 09:01 AM
There is a lot I like about this map, but the bridge really takes the cake. I think the large amount of detail around it really helps to make it a focus of the map. Also, I dig the black roofs.

I have a few bits of feedback. First, the water is very green (whether or not that's your color blindness or intentional I'm not sure). Also, I think it would be nice if there was some effect with the river noise that helped it to follow the river's path. That "cloud" noise I think looks ok on oceans where there is no direction, but on rivers I usually like to see the course of the river represented. Finally, maybe add some trees to the courtyards?

08-24-2009, 05:02 PM
Excellent feedback all. The green is my color sense failing me... sorry about that. Red/Green color-blindness is more about green than red. I'll address that. Also the "flow" of the water. The trees are on the docket for tonight. I haven't started them yet.

08-24-2009, 05:59 PM
This has become an excellent map. Like msa I think the bridge is beautiful. I like the docks very much as well. They look very natural, with parts of the river showing in between. The river is indeed very green, but you are going to address that I read.
My only nitpick is that some of the black houses to the north almost give off an metallic shine. I like the houses near the docks a lot more.

08-24-2009, 06:41 PM
My only nitpick is that some of the black houses to the north almost give off an metallic shine. I like the houses near the docks a lot more.

I kinda thought they looked lacquered, which looks very Asian to me. In hindsight, they probably don't lacquer roofs.... not sure I've ever seen any in Japan in any case. So its probably a good point, but it worked for me.

08-25-2009, 12:42 AM
I put in some more hard work today after the work I get paid for, but I want to save it up with whatever I can do tomorrow so those of you who've been following the map's evolution will get enough change to make it worth looking at again.

08-25-2009, 11:45 PM
Well I don't feel done, but I'm out of time so here it is. It's silly the amount of time I've spent on this thing, but it was worth it. It may not a great map, but it wasn't for lack of pouring myself into it. What is remarkable is just how many others put serious time and effort into their entry this month.

Thanks for all the help and encouragement everyone.

(PS: After MM mentioned the white noise in the trees, I had an unexpected opportunity to take a final look at my map tonight and took a hard look at the issue. Seeing it through his eyes, there were a lot of random white flecks. I went through and eliminated them and then re-uploaded the file after checking to make sure the contest hadn't been closed.)


08-26-2009, 12:46 AM
I like your layout and details...like the divided road with trees in the middle. The roofs look a lil plasticky but you'll develop that more in time. I dig it so keep on doing towns :)

08-26-2009, 02:13 AM
Very nice. I like the different trees, but it is kind of strange to see them contained to different districts. Maybe a base green tree spread throughout might help sell the individual different trees. Also, some of them have bright white spots that look like noise, rather than leaves, that makes them appear "harder" than some of the other soft trees without the harsh white.

08-26-2009, 05:18 PM
MM: This is one of those times when it helps to spend more time explaining the concept, but time was at a premium for this map. The Oten'jo of my imagination is a city in conflict between the rigid authoritarian government and the indomitable spirit of man that refuses to be cages or controlled. The former is evident in the unbending zoning ordinances that seek to keep each city dweller in his or her place. But you can see the iron fist starting to crumble a bit in the haphazard hodgepodge of the dockside community and the patchwork planting of a variety of trees in the adjoining merchant district where some tedious bureaucrat forgot to dot an "i" in his ponderous rule-making and inadvertantly left a window of opportunity for individual expression.

I took inspiration for this dichotomy from the late Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' city of Carhein with it's contrast of stodgy inner city and raucous "foregate", where any real adventurer would stay in between episodes of killing things and taking their stuff.

As for the specks... it is spring and the trees are in bloom! The effect was a feature rather than a bug, but subtlety isn't my forte. I hope you enjoy the map in spite of its shortcomings.

08-27-2009, 02:32 AM
I like the map a lot. I will admit that understanding it without a little explaining is challenging for me, but I don't think it has any shortcomings. That you have a reason for every detail in the map is great, and I think we could all benefit from hearing each other's train of thought during a process as complicated as this challenge. If we don't experiment or push our boundaries of comfort I think we would get much less from the experience. I applaud you for sticking to your guns.

08-27-2009, 07:03 AM
Fabulous work! Make those purple trees pink and you'll get cherry blossom! I love the detail in this. Now you've nailed the style keep with it, it's glorious. As MM said, well done for the sheer hours and effort you've put into this. I find any city map to be a learning process and the great thing about doing them is that you carry all the lessons you learned to your next city map.