Japanese collection

Fight on Gojo Bridge. From Benkei monogatari [The Tale of Benkei]. Late 17th century. Or. 12439 volume 2, ff.64-65.

The Japanese language collection material ranges from the 8th century to the latest books, journals, newspapers and electronic resources.

About the collection

Our collection includes:

Illustrated materials include:

  • books and manuscripts from the Edo Period
  • 500 surimono prints
  • late-19th and early-20th-century design and pattern books
  • 100 modern calligraphic works.

There are also a number of books and manuscripts in the Okinawan and Ainu languages as well as Elements or contributions towards a Loochooan and Japanese grammar and English Loochooan dictionary, compiled by the missionary Bernard Jean Bettelheim.

We also have Japanese maps, works of visual art and sound recordings.

Documents relating to the East India Company’s early relations with Japan (1600-1623) are to be found in the India Office Records.

What is available online?

Find books and journals published after 1904 on our online catalogue, Explore the British Library.

You can view our collection of 235 woodblock prints of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 as part of an online exhibition hosted by the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR).

A selection of digitised Japanese material is on our Digitised Manuscripts and Online Gallery pages.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

To find Japanese manuscripts and early printed books, you need to use the printed catalogues available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

You can consult Japanese printed materials and manuscripts in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. A selection of Japanese reference material is available on the shelves in the Reading Room.

We subscribe to a number of electronic resources for the study of Japan. Most are accessible from within the Library’s Reading Rooms only. These include:

  • JapanKnowledge - a portal to Japanese encyclopedias, dictionaries and databases including Encyclopedia NipponicaKodansha Encyclopedia of Japan and Nihon Jinmei Daijiten
  • Asahi Kikuzo II Visual - the Asahi Shimbun newspaper from 1879 to the present
  • Gunsho Ruijū - 3,750 key Japanese-language works for the study of Japanese culture from ancient times to the early 19th century.

What is available in other organisations?

The CiNii Books database hosted by the National Institute of Informatics (NII), Tokyo, allows you to search our collection of printed books and periodicals along with those of UK, European and Japanese libraries.

How to guides

Find Chinese manuscripts and printed books

There are several catalogues for our Chinese material

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