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Tale of Genji, last page, vol. 54 Tale of Genji, cover

Gemji Monogatari a.k.a. Eiribon Genji Monogatari
[Tale of Genji] (1654)
Woodblock printed. Japanese Collection.

Tale of Genji, sample page

The Japanese collection began in 1875 when the governments of the United States and Japan agreed to exchange their respective government publications and for them to be housed in the Library of Congress. The first shipment arrived in 1876 and the collection grew slowly until Dr. Shiho Sakanishi became the first Area Specialist on Japan in 1930. During her tenure, Dr. Sakanishi collected about 900 titles, most of which were literary works. In 1938, the Japanese Section was established as part of the then Orientalia Division, which was renamed the Asian Division in 1978. The Japanese language collection, probably the most extensive in the world outside Japan, has grown to over 1.15 million books and serial volumes, 10,100 reels of microfilm, and 15,000 sheets of microfiche. The Japanese collection covers research materials in virtually all subjects except clinical medicine and technical agriculture. The collections are strong in the humanities and social sciences, central and local government publications, and academic journals including the areas of science and technology.

The collection received an important gift in 1905 when Crosby Stuart Noyes, the journalist and editor of the Washington Evening Star, donated 658 illustrated books, watercolors, drawings, woodblock prints and lithographs to the library. Dr. Kan’ichi Asakawa, who first purchased books in Japan on behalf of the library in 1907, began early acquisitions. These included works on Tokugawa government laws, local administration, history, regional geography, and Buddhism. Dr. Walter Tennyson Swingle, a botanist with a special interest in Asian botany, also purchased Works for the library between 1915 and 1926.

The collection also has approximately 5,500 titles of rare publications and manuscript copies of works produced before the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868 and the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912). These collections include one of the world's earliest surviving printed materials, the dharani prayer charms from 770 A.D. Also noteworthy is a collection of 403 titles of traditional mathematics called wasan. Among other pre-Meiji classics on religion, history, and literature are a rare edition of the Japanese literary masterpiece Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji), that was published in Kyoto in 1654 and is complete with all 60 volumes, and the rare manuscript Kabuki sugatami, written by the kabuki actor Nakamura Nakazo in 1776.

The Japanese collection increased dramatically after World War II when an estimated 300,000 volumes of Japanese language research materials were added with the transfer of resources acquired during the Occupation of Japan from 1945-1952 and sent initially to the Washington Document Center (WDC). These materials contain extensive research reports prepared by the South Manchurian Railway Company and the East Asia Research Institute. Much of these materials are pre-World War II studies on such areas as Korea, Taiwan, China, Mongolia, and the Pacific Islands. Included in this collection are Japanese military publications, censored materials from the former Japanese Ministry of Home Affairs, and other important collections vital to comparative research of Japanese thought before and after the end of World War II.

The microfilm collection includes pre-1946 censored books and serials, and other Japanese government documents, as well as national and local Japanese newspapers, and titles of the South Manchurian Railway Company publications. Selected materials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives, materials of the Japanese Army and Navy and other agencies of the pre-1946 period are available in the Microform Reading Room.

The Japan Documentation Center (JDC) was established in 1992 to collect and disseminate difficult-to-obtain unpublished public policy literature, often referred to as "grey literature," the bulk of which were issued between 1993 and 1999, and 95% of which are in Japanese. The project successfully developed an information management system and a database of over 5,000 items that included policy studies and reports, white papers and annual reports, draft legislation, think-tank reports, and public opinion polls. With the closing of the Japan Documentation Center on March 31, 2000, the JDC database will not be updated. Materials already in the collection, however, will be serviced by the Japanese Section staff and can be searched online at http://www.loc.gov/rr/asian/jdc.html

The modern holdings of the Japanese collection also include such major Japanese newspapers as the Asahi shinbun (microfilm edition), Mainichi shinbun, Nihon keizai shinbun, and Yomiuri shinbun (reduced print editions).


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  October 18, 2013
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