Significant Look Around expansions for Tokyo, Chiba, Shizuoka, Kyoto and Osaka covering most if not all of the public roads in those prefectures are coming this spring (2023). There are also select city and district Look Around additions for Gunma, Okayama, Fukuoka and Kumamoto prefectures. Yet after 5 years of Apple Maps image collection in Japan, brand new revamped maps similar to recent European rollouts remain an elusive goal. There has been some interesting discussion on Reddit and other sites about when revamped Apple Maps are coming to Japan. Even Justin O’Beirne initially listed Japan as a 2023 new maps candidate but wisely removed it.
Many people assume entire prefectures have been mapped when this is not the case, easy to do if you don’t live here. Apple has a simple formula for image collection in Japan: Cities + Districts = Prefectures. That is to say Apple has never mapped an entire prefecture in one concentrated sweep: they started with select large cities and districts then gradually added less populated areas over several mapping seasons. Yamanashi Prefecture will be the first prefecture Apple is mapping in one season (February~November 2023). Perhaps this is a new strategy. I have tried to come up with (what else?) a map that hopefully explains the complicated situation with easy to understand terms of what’s mapped and what’s not.
- Mostly Mapped Prefectures
I say ‘mostly mapped’ because Apple only maps public roads (city, district, prefecture, national). There are plenty of publicly used local community maintained ‘private roads‘ in urban areas that Apple does not map (nearly 40% of all roads in my city), that Google does. This means there are significant Look Around and AR Walking Direction dead spots in areas after Apple Maps image collection vans and backpacks have ‘completely covered’ them, and this has major implications for creating Apple proprietary ‘New Maps’.
- Partially Mapped Prefectures
Major metropolis areas that include suburban parts of multiple neighboring prefectures: Greater Tokyo (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Ibaraki), Greater Osaka (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Shiga, Hyogo), Greater Nagoya (Aichi, Mie). For some reason Apple has not mapped traditional greater area regions like Gifu (Greater Nagoya) and Wakayama (Greater Osaka).
- Selectively Mapped Prefectures
One or two of the biggest cites in select prefectures: Miyagi, Niigata, Ishikawa, Kagawa, Ehime, Okayama, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kumamoto.
In short Apple Maps Japan continues its gradual measured expansion which means no proprietary New Maps, detailed city experiences or 3D landmarks, etc., are coming in 2023 or 2024. I still think Indoor Station Maps with AR directions are in the works (WWDC23 maybe?) but for regular maps Japan is stuck with the very mediocre GeoTechnologies cartography…and will be for some time to come.
Look Around #1 August 2020: Greater Tokyo, Greater Osaka, Greater Nagoya
Look Around #2 January 2021: Fukuoka City, Hiroshima City, Nara (Greater Osaka), Takamatsu City
Look Around #3 May 2021: Sendai City, Kanazawa City
Look Around #4 May 2022: Sapporo City, Niigata City, Shizuoka City, Akashi City
2022 mapping season: the basis for Look Around #5 expansion
2023 mapping season seems for Look Around #6