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Newcomer's neighbourhood maps highlight hidden gems

Masami Teramachi creates community maps that are whimsical and person, showing secret paths, hidden gems and favourite haunts for coffee as well as local characters
Masami Teramachi, who started creating hand-drawn walking maps of different Victoria neighbourhoods during the pandemic, shows the one she just completed for the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A new resident of Victoria who believes there is “no such thing as a boring area” has turned her knack for noticing interesting things and people around her into what may be a lifelong career.

Masami Teramachi left her hometown of Gifu, Japan, to study at the University of Victoria in 2020 — and almost immediately went into lockdown due to COVID-19.

Not knowing anybody and unable to attend social gatherings to meet others, she took to walking around her Fernwood neighbourhood to ease her isolation.

“I chose to come to Canada to learn more about marketing — to network and connect with people — but because of COVID, I could not do that in person,” said Teramachi, 30. “But I have a good antenna to catch interesting things and people.”

For more than a year, she wandered her neighbourhood and met a lot of people — from an appropriate distance.

“I fell in love with my neighbourhood and decided I wanted to do something for them in return,” said Teramachi, who has finished her studies but has decided to stay in Canada.

She drew Walk with Masami, a map of the North Park/Fernwood/Oakland neighbourhood, seen through her eyes but drawn from the heart. In early 2022, more than 1,000 copies were printed and distributed within the neighbourhood.

While it is geographical, it is also whimsical and personal, with secret paths, hidden gems and favourite haunts for coffee. Not forgotten are the people — the characters of the community.

“Community maps such as this are usually drawn from the heart,” said Crystal Tremblay, assistant professor of geography at the University of Victoria. “They don’t just map the environment, they also map relationships with the area. These maps don’t have to be spatial. They work because they are relatable, accessible and engage the viewer.”

She says with art-based maps, such as Walk with Masami, the creator does not have to be an artist nor have the skills of a professional mapmaker to connect with the intended audience and impart the information about a geographical area.

“In maps such as this, different people experience different kinds of information,” said Tremblay who teaches a community mapping course at the university. While her classes did not contribute to Teramachi’s project, they do collaborate with municipalities and other government bodies on creating maps.

“I believe each community has a unique character and, by introducing local businesses and their stories, allows people to better enjoy the community,” said Teramachi, who calls Fernwood her home turf.

The positive response by businesses and residents to the North Park/Fernwood/Oakland neighbourhood map caught the attention of the Burnside-Gorge Community Association, which commissioned Teramachi to create a new community map for that neighbourhood.

Last September, the association invited the community to an event where residents were asked to describe the neighbourhood from their perspective and to share their hot spots, hidden gems and everything else in between. The information and comments were then given to Teramachi, who would walk the neighbourhood to experience it through her eyes.

This project is part of the community’s Strengthening Communities’ Services, which is funded by the B.C. government.

That map was unveiled last month. Like the first map, the new Burnside-Gorge community map highlights local shops, little libraries, historical sites, an old tree and other landmarks, such as the Galloping Goose Trail.

“I believe we can create values from anything if we appreciate small things we already have,” said Teramachi of the new map. “I hope that people see the map and feel joy from it.”

The new community map is available at Burnside-Gorge Community Centre. You can request a PDF of either map from Teramachi on Instagram, @walk_with_masami.

[email protected]

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