Research NavigationFind Old & Rare Japanese Materials

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Guide to finding old and rare Japanese materials written roughly before the end of the Edo period.

Reference Sources

There are various books, databases, and other tools to research about Japanese history and Japanese literature, but the following materials are the first ones to be referred to.
  • Kokushi Daijiten  (Japanese History Dictionary) [Yoshikawa Kōbunkan] (book)
  • Kokushi Daijiten  (Japanese History Dictionary) (JapanKnowledge Lib) (Library subscription database)
    A comprehensive dictionary with more than 54,000 entries covering all areas of Japanese history including the adjacent fields such as archeology, folk customs, religion, fine arts, linguistics, literature, geography. Features many photographs, charts, and illustrations to aid understanding of the text.
  • Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten  (Japanese Classical Literature Dictionary) [Iwanami Shoten] (book)
    A comprehensive dictionary on Japanese classical literature. Indexes about 13,000 entries of the topics such as works, personages, editors, and events. Includes information on reproduction and honkoku.


Find and Use Honkoku

Honkoku is the material on which the textual information researchers deciphered the original work is typed. Compared to the original material, it is easier to use for the beginners.
  • WINE (Library web site)
    By using WINE’s KEYWORD search, you can find honkoku and other annotated versions of classical works in our libraries. Type in Japanese words such as “翻刻” (honkoku), “注釈” (annotations), and “評釈” (exegesis) with the work’s title. For example, you can get the honkoku of Saikaku Ihara’s Japanese Treasury of the Ages, which spells “日本永代蔵” in Japanese, with the keywords “翻刻 and 日本永代蔵.”
  • Union Catalogue of Early Japanese Books [National Institute of Japanese Literature] (public web site) (in Japanese only)
    This catalog contains the location information of the originals as well as honkoku and reproductions
  • Database of Research Articles in Japanese Literature   [National Institute of Japanese Literature] (public web site) (in Japanese only)
    A database of information of academic paper related to Japanese literature published in Japan. The database is edited and compiled in parallel with Kokubungaku Nenkan (Japanese Literature Almanac), which ceased publication in 2006, although the database does not cover all entries in Kokubungaku Nenkan.
  • Kokubungaku Fukusei Honkoku Shomoku Soran (Index to Japanese Literature Reproduction and Honkoku) [Kichōbon Kankokai] (book)
    This two-volume set contains information on reprinted books issued by Kichōbon Kankokai. Each volume contains the list of all works mentioned in the series.
  • Shin Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei  (The New Compendium of Japanese Classical Literature) [Iwanami Shoten] (book)
    This series runs to 104 volumes. It is the complete works of classical Japanese literature based on the Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei (The Compendium of Japanese Classical Literature) and incorporates recent research findings. Includes the index of all volumes.
  • Shinpen Nihon Koten Bungaku Zenshu  (New Compilation of the Complete Works of Japanese Classical Literature) [Shogakukan] (JapanKnowledge Lib) (Library subscription database)
    This series published by Shogakukan runs to 88 volumes. The main text is given in kundoku annotated with modern Japanese transliterations, head notes, and the original text.
  • Kokushi Taikei: Shintei Zōho  (Compilation of Japanese History: Revised and Expanded) [Yoshikawa Kōbunkan] (book)
  • Kokushi Taikei: Shintei Zōho  (Compilation of Japanese History: Revised and Expanded) [Yoshikawa Kōbunkan] (eBook Collection (NetLibrary)) (Library subscription database)
    This series runs to 66 volumes. Contains edited works from ancient times to early modern times.
  • Dainihon Kokiroku  (Record of Ancient Japanese Texts) [Iwanami Shoten] (book)
    Edited by the Historiographical Institute, the University of Tokyo. Contains important historical records from ancient times to early modern times. Parts of the texts can be viewed with the Full Classical Texts Database and the Full Ancient Records Database introduced below.
  • Full Classical Texts Database and the Full Ancient Records Database  [Historiographical Institute, the University of Tokyo] (public web site)
  • Zōho Shiryo Taisei  (Expanded Historical Records Compilation) [Rinsen Book Company] (book)
    This series runs to 45 volumes and three appendices, published by Rinsen Book Company. Contains historical records and annals of the Imperial Court from the Heian period to the Kamakura, Nanbokucho, and Muromachi periods.
  • Shiryō Sanshu  (Collection of Historical Archives) [Gunsho Ruijū Kansei Kai] (book)
    Honkoku of historical materials from ancient times to early modern times, including previously unpublished works. Divided into the ancient records part and the ancient archives part.


Find and Use Facsimiles (reproduction or digital image)

Facsimile edition is the reproduction made by taking photograph of the original text. Recently, the number of libraries which publish on their web sites the digital images of their old and rare materials is increasing.
Facsimile can be used as substitutes of original texts.

Facsimiles in Waseda University Library

  • WINE  (Library web site)
    By using WINE’s KEYWORD search, you can find facsimile editions of classical works in our libraries by including words such as “影印” (facsimile) or “複製” (reproduction) with the work’s title.

Facsimiles of Waseda University Library’s Materials

  • Japanese and Chinese Classics Online (Library web site)
    A database of Waseda University Library’s old and rare materials started in 2005. All pages of the texts can be viewed in full color.
  • Waseda Daigakuzo Shiryō Eiin Sōsho: Kokusho Hen  (Facsimile Series from the Archives of Waseda University: Japanese Literature) (book)
    A total of 48 volumes. Contains facsimiles of selected books and historical documents related to Japanese literature and Japanese history held by Waseda University Library. Readers can see facsimiles of many valuable works, with a particular emphasis on early modern literature and old documents including four important cultural properties.
  • Waseda Daigakuzo Shiryō Eiin Sōsho: Yogaku Hen  (Facsimile Series from the Archives of Waseda University: Western Studies) (book)
    A total of 18 volumes. This collection contains the materials related to Western studies in the Edo period. The materials are drawn mainly from our Western studies collection (Bunko 8 in the Central Library) which , includes rare works such as Otsuki Gentaku Kankei Shiryo (Otuski Gentaku related materials), an important cultural property.

Other Institution’s Material

  • NDL Search  (public web site)
    Permits searches for the digitized images of the rare materials published by the institutions such as public libraries and local public organizations. A part of Japanese and Chinese Classics Online can also be searched. The coverage of the databases can be checked here(only available in Japanese).
  • National Diet Library Digital Collection  (public web site)
    Go to “Rare Books and Old Materials” and you can limit the search result to the rare books and old materials. Within the about 280,000 materials stored in Rare Books and Old Materials Room in National Diet Library, about 70,000 images of the materials are uploaded such as old Japanese books published in pre Edo period and classical Chinese books published in pre Han Dynasty.
  • Rare Materials Exhibition, Kyoto University Digital Library  (public web site)
    Many university libraries, such as Kyoto University, publish on their web sites the digital images of old and rare materials and the information about them.
  • Union Catalogue of Early Japanese Books  (public web site) (in Japanese only)
    Contains the information on facsimiles of manuscripts, block prints, reprinted/reproduced/mimeographed editions from the Kokusho Sō Mokuroku (General Catalog of National Books).
  • National Archives of Japan, Digital Archive  (public web site)
    The digital archive of National Archives of Japan which holds the materials such as Chinese and Japanese old materials in and after Edo period.


Find and Use Originals

When you use old and rare materials held by the institutions like university libraries, you must locate where the materials are stored and check if they can be used through the library of the institution you belong to beforehand. In many cases, you will need to submit an application in advance. Please note that it may take several days to several weeks before you can actually browse old or rare books.

Old and rare materials are culturally and historically valuable properties. Most of them require a certain amount of experience and skill to handle. Therefore, it is best that you begin your research with using honkoku or reproductions.

  • Union Catalogue of Early Japanese Books  (public web site) (in Japanese only)
    Contains information on facsimiles of manuscripts, block prints, reprinted/reproduced/mimeographed editions from the Kokusho Sō Mokuroku (General Catalog of National Books).
  • Shinpen Teikoku Toshokan Wa Kosho Mokuroku (New Catalog of Japanese Historical Archives at the Imperial Library) [Tokyo dō Shuppan] (book)
    Like this catalog, many libraries publish the catalogs of the old and rare materials they hold. These catalogs are often available at the Waseda University Library mostly in the Reference Book section on the second floor of the Central Library.


Guides to Deciphering Classical Writings

  • Dai Kanwa Jiten  (The unabridged Kanji-Japanese Dictionary) [Taishūkan Shoten] (book)
    Edited by Morohashi Tetsuji. The world’s largest Japanese kanji dictionary with over 50,000 character entries and more than 530,000 kanji compounds.
  • Cursive Script Dictionaries and Handbooks (book)
    We have a number of cursive script dictionaries and handbooks including Kuzushiji Kaidoku Jiten (Dictionary of Cursive Character Interpretations). Please browse R728 in Reference Book section.

Research Navigation No.6-E Waseda University Library Mar.15.2017