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Japanese Studies

Collection Details

Japanese Studies held at SOAS Library [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

The primary focus is the humanities and social sciences, new subjects are added, for example the development of the film studies collection began in 2000 and its development is currently receiving a strong emphasis.

History and development

The origins of the collection lie with the material received from the London Institution. Donations from various private libraries were received, including 400 volumes of 19th century Japanese wood block prints. Early works on Japan from the Marsden collection were transferred from Kings College. After the 1939-45 war a considerable amount of material formerly held by Japanese embassies and consulates in Europe was presented to the Library, including many classified documents relating to Japanese foreign policy. In 1949 a large purchase of Japanese books was made in Japan, which filled gaps in the holdings of basic books and helped establish this as a major collection. From this date important contacts were made with the Historiographical Institute of Tokyo University, the Imperial Household Agency and leading national universities, the library has benefited from gifts, exchanges and other contacts from these institutions over the years.


One of the strengths is English language works on Japan, academic writing in particular has been collected thoroughly. The Japanese language collection is strong in local history, laws, the collection on the literature of the Edo period is outstanding. Works to support the study of Japanese religions is developing rapaidly. Several Japanese newspapers from the late 19th century onwards are held in reprint format.

General arrangement and access regulations

Chiefly open access. The Japanese language collections are arranged as one sequence arranged by subject, with the exception of material on art which is in the art section. The western language collection on Japan is arranged in one sequence organised by subject except for works on art and law which are in the relevant subject sections of the Library.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

East Asia.



Languages of material

English, French, German, Japanese.


Agriculture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts, Communication and media, Development, Economics, Education, Environmental sciences, Geography, History, Human rights, Industries, International relations, Language, Law, Literature, Medicine, Music, Philosophy, Politics and government, Recreation, Religion, Science and technology, Sociology, Travel, Women.

Languages as linguistic focus


Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Archival materials (includes non-published & mixed material), Audio materials (includes cassettes & CDs), Books, Computer files (includes CD-ROMs & other electronic material), Manuscripts, Maps (includes all types of cartographic material), Music (only includes printed & manuscript music), Newspapers (includes microfilm editions), Official publications, Serials, Theses, Visual materials (includes photographs, prints, drawings, videos & films).

Total size of collection

c. 97,000 volumes

Size of collection - vernacular

c. 82,000 volumes

Size of collection - western

c. 15,000 volumes

Collection Management Information

The collection is being actively developed, and the average intake has stayed the same.

Annual intake

1,700 volumes (1,200) titles

Content date range

1600 to present

Interlibrary loan procedure

Collection policy

The Library aims to acquire the important contributions to Asian and African scholarship published anywhere in the world in the humanities and social sciences, as well as representative collections of literature written in Asian and African languages. It aims to be responsive to changing interests and new developments; at the same time it bears in mind its role as a leading national and international resource for Asian and African studies. For the text of the policy apply to the Director of Library and Information Services.

Retention policy

At present all material is retained with the following exceptions: outdated editions of teaching texts, multiple copies of teaching material no longer used, material for which there is no evident demand, material which has been replaced by microform, unless it is of historic value. Academic advice is normally sought before a decision is taken. Apply to the Director of Library and Information Services for further information.

Collection Catalogue Information


The online library catalogue offers access to all material acquired since 1989 and a substantial part of the material collected prior to that date. Work to add records from the earlier collections is ongoing and by the end of 2002 all material acquired since 1979 will be included as well as significant parts of the rest of the collection. For those who cannot access the card catalogue on site the Library's catalogues have been published (details below).

Catalogue transliteration schemes

Modified Hepburn

Catalogue scripts

Current catalogue records include Japanese script in author and title fields, older records are being upgraded to include this as time permits.

Collection printed catalogues

Rondon Daigaku Toyo Afurika-ko shozo Nihon kotenseki zenpon kaidai narabi ni mokuroku
Nozomu Hayashi
Tokyo: [s.n.], 1986
Catalogue of the SOAS holdings of wood block prints published in Tokyo Kokubungaku vol. 18 (March 1986, p. 119-198.)

A catalogue of books dealing with the Ainu in the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
B.Hickman, with a foreword by Prof. C.J.Dunn
London: SOAS Library, [1974]

A catalogue of Jōrurihon (maruhon and yukahon) in the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies
Susumu Matsudaira and Brian Hickman
London: SOAS Library, 1974

A descriptive catalogue of the pre-1868 Japanese books, manuscripts and prints in the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies
D. G. Chibbett, B. F. Hickman and S. Matsudaira
London: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Links to other collections

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