Eyeballing Google Earth

From 3,200 miles up, dots are visible representing the major population centers of Japan.

From 3,000 miles up, I can see the country’s name in English, as well as labels for the dots: Kōbe, 大阪, 神戸, Nagoya/名古屋, Yokohama, 東京, Saitama (yes, in this precise mix of kanji and romanization), and I gain one lonely dot in Hokkaido. Amusingly, I also gain two labels for the body of water to the west of Japan: East Sea, and Sea of Japan.

Just below 3,000 miles, that dot in Hokkaido gains the labels Sapporo and 札幌. Also, prefectural boundaries begin to fade into view.

At 1,700 miles, Chiba/千葉 gets a dot and two names. Since I’m centering the main island in the viewport, so does Fukuoka/福岡, and four islands get names: Shikoku, Kyushu, Hirado-shima, and Tanega-shima.

(note: mousing over any of the points highlights it for the renderer, so if my mouse passes over 大阪, it will gain the label Ōsaka, which will persist out to 3,000 miles until I highlight something else; after discovering this feature, I’ve been careful not to disturb GE’s natural selection mechanism…)

Just above 1,500 miles, the 東京 dot adds the name Tōkyō. The main island Honshu joins the list, as do Awaji-shima and Fukue-jima. We also pick up Seto Naikai, the inland sea.

Just below 1,500 miles, a dot and a name for 横浜, and off in the corner, lonely little Okinawa-jima gets a name. From here on in, I can’t keep everything from Okinawa to Hokkaido in view, so I’m going to center on roughly where I believe Kyōto to be. I can’t see it yet, but I know it’s near 大阪, whose label just disappeared. When I center it in the viewport, I don’t get 大阪 back, but the point is now labeled Ōsaka, so onward!

400 miles up, and still no sign of Kyoto. 300 miles, 200 miles, still nothing.

Just under 200 miles up, I get prefecture names for Osaka, Nara, Wakayama, and Mie. Perhaps if I shift the view a bit? Success! Moving Ōsaka to the bottom third of the viewport gives me prefecture names for Hyogo, Kyoto, Shiga, Fukui, and Gifu (and, yes, the prefecture names lack the long-o).

100 miles up, still no dot for Kyōto; the prefecture name is in the upper third of the screen, but it looks pretty sparse up there; that can’t be where the city is.

Below 100 miles, city boundaries start fading in, but still no new dots.

50 miles up, and the dots for Ōsaka and Kōbe are nearly offscreen, and the Kyoto prefecture name is soon to follow. Still no new dots.

40 miles up. Ōsaka and Kōbe gone, Kyoto prefecture name gone, no more dots, no more labels. There are two city-looking areas on the map, a small one near the center and a bigger one off to the right. Let’s center the big one in the viewport. Nope, still nothing.

25 miles up, and I’ve got ku! Within a single unlabeled border, I see Kita-ku, Kamigyo-ku, Nakagyo-ku, Shimogyo-ku, Higashiyama-ku, Yamashina-ku, Minami-ku, Kishikyo-ku, Fushimi-ku. Nearby bordered areas gain the labels Muko-shi, Nagaokakyo-shi, Uji-shi, Oyamazaki-cho, and Shimamoto-cho. I’ve got all the wards of Kyōto, but not the city itself.

12 miles up, and I’ve got new dots. Most of them add detail and kanji to my previously-known ku’s, but one of them actually says 京都市. Also, off in the corner, I now see Ōtsu/大津市.

As I pass the 10-mile mark and the display switches to feet, there it is at last, the label Kyōto. From this distance, I can see that Kyoto Station is neatly centered in the viewport.

Of course, I could have just typed “kyoto” into the search box and flown there in an instant, but where’s the fun in that?

Oh, and when I let GE find Kyōto for me, it took me straight to City Hall. When I zoomed in close and turned on the Panoramio layer, I found a photo insisting that City Hall looked a lot like Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion. I logged into Panoramio and suggested relocating that one 3 miles northwest.