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Japanese studies collection

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This collection consists of materials in the Japanese language, largely housed in Van Pelt Library (fifth floor, East Asia Stacks), Fisher Fine Arts Library, the Museum Library, and the LIBRA storage facility. The focus of the Japanese collection is on the humanities and social sciences, supporting faculty and students across the School of Arts & Sciences--from the East Asian Languages & Civilizations, History, Art History, Religion, Architecture, History and Sociology of Science, Anthropology, and Archaeology departments--and the Weitzman School of Design and other schools at Penn. We collect a wide range of materials, including primary and secondary sources from throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in addition to rare and special materials dating from the Edo (1603-1868), Meiji (1868-1912), Taishō (1912-1926), and early Shōwa (1926-1989) periods.

Collection description

The Japanese collection has historical and current strengths in literature, history, archaeology, religion, and the history of art, all ranging from ancient to modern periods. Recently, art catalogs from regional museums in Japan, urban exploration and "ruins" photography, women's photobooks, comics and graded readers for language learners, Imperial Navy materials, and contemporary fiction are being collected in more breadth and depth, making Penn's collections in these areas relatively unique among North American and, in some cases, worldwide library holdings.

Special collections

The Penn Libraries collects a variety of Japanese rare materials, including but not limited to books, periodicals, scrapbooks, limited-circulation newspapers, manuscripts, photographs, and art prints. These come to the Libraries both from targeted purchases from Japan, and from gifts in kind. The Penn Libraries, over time, has built on historic strengths and been guided by collection usage in teaching and research, as well as generous gifts and local community member discoveries and donations. The Libraries’ major collections at present include the Arthur Tress Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books, the Japanese Juvenile Fiction Collection, and the Japanese Naval Collection.

Links to special collections will go here if they exist.
Links to policies will go here if they exist.

Related collections

Doing research

Due to romanization and script complexities, Japanese materials can be tricky to research in libraries that are not located in East Asia. We recommend that you search in romanized Japanese (PDF) in Franklin if at all possible, because some common characters (such as 巻, 録, and 戸) are variant characters in the catalog that cannot be entered on a normal keyboard. In Worldcat and Japanese catalogs, you should not encounter these problems. If you are searching a Japanese catalog or article database, of course, search in Japanese rather than romanization.

E-journals and online articles are generally not available for Japanese humanities research, except in the case of university kiyō 紀要 and some open-access publications (which can be found in CiNii or JAIRO). To locate Japanese articles, start with CiNii, MagazinePlus, or Zassaku Plus to obtain your citation. Then request the article either via Digital Delivery (in the Franklin record for the journal if we own it), or if Penn does not own it, via Inter-Library Loan. In these forms, use both romanized Japanese (with no diacritics) and the original Japanese (e.g., in kanji), and fill out as much information as you can. Page numbers, journal title, and year/issue are most important.

If you need to find information on a person or author, some helpful places to start are Whoplus, NDL Authorities, and Webcat Plus (which is also a Japanese book database).


CiNii  |  JAIRO  |  MagazinePlus (PennKey required)  |  Zassaku Plus (PennKey required)  |  Whoplus (PennKey required)  |  Web NDL Authorities  |  Webcat Plus  |  more...

Reference works

Major journals

Book databases & eBook platforms

Research guides

Other e-resources

Yomidas Rekishikan ヨミダス歴史館 (Yomiuri Newspaper)  |  Kikuzō II Visual for Libraries: Asashi Shinbun Kiji Database 聞蔵IIビジュアル朝日新聞記事データ…  |  Maisaku まいさく (Mainichi Newspaper)  |  The Japan Times Archives  |  WEBRONZA (Asahi Shinbun)


The Japanese studies librarian provides in-class and in-library workshops and instruction sessions, as well as individual reference consultations in person and virtually.

To obtain materials not in Penn's collection, patrons can use BorrowDirect+, E-ZBorrow, and Inter-Library Loan. Generally, the first two networks will have common works in Japanese, and ILL includes the National Diet Library as well as North American institutions (although it does take some time to get articles or book chapters from NDL). ILL can also be used to obtain PDFs of articles in Japanese. Thus, patrons can get nearly any non-rare book or article in Japanese sent to the Penn Libraries for their use.

Students of the Japanese language will be interested to know that their tadoku 多読 class sessions take place in the East Asia Seminar Room (526 Van Pelt) and there are graded readers, short fiction, and comics available for their use in Van Pelt. Students who would like to learn more about language-learning resources in the library can visit the guide to Resources for Japanese Language Learners.

Japanese new books