Tag Archives: Cipangu

The Lost Island 'Atlantis' as a Reference to Japan?

Strange Maps, the source of much cartographic delight, features an overlay of the real “new world” and what Columbian era transatlantic explorers expected to see on their way to Cipangu, which is what the Portuguese were calling Japan at the time.

Among the many “phantom islands” that turned out not to exist is Antilla. Here, Strange Maps notes that the very name Atlantis may be a contraction of a phrase that would mean essentially “Island on the way to [Japan].”

The muddled legends of Antillia have been around since at least Plutarch’s time (ca. 74 AD). Its name might be a corruption of Atlantis; or a derivation of anterioris insula, Latin for an island located ‘before’ Cipangu; or a transformation of Jazeerat at-Tennyn, Arabic for ‘Island of the Dragon’. Toscanelli on his map uses Antillia as the main marker for measuring distance between Portugal and Cipangu.

This all sounds like wild speculation, but that can be fun when talking about imagined geographies.

Also from Strange Maps: Someone’s argument that China should be considered an island, despite the fact that it shares with Russia the record for number of other countries bordered.