Asian Studies Collections in Japan


A review of Asian Studies Collections in Japan

Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia Library, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
tel: +81-3-5841-5893; website

School for International Studies Library, University of Osaka, Minoh, Japan
大阪府箕面市粟生間谷東8-1-1 大阪大学外国語図書館石浜文庫
tel: +81-7-2730-5126; website

The Institute for the Advanced Studies on Asia (IAS) at the University of Tokyo and the School for International Studies (SIS) at University of Osaka (formerly Osaka University of Foreign Studies) specialize in materials from China to Iran, and rank among the top Asian collections in Japan. IAS has over 600,000 books and 5,000 periodicals, including some of the oldest printed books from the Ottoman Empire, published out of the eighteenth-century workshop of Ibrahim Müteferrika. (Please consult the full list of special collections here.) I visited IAS several times in Summer 2011 and Winter 2012 for its colonial-era publications on Inner Mongolia, a handful of them now the only copies in existence, but readily available through the university’s online catalog.

SIS houses the personal library of Ishihama Juntarō (1888-1968), a former student of noted Sinologist Naitō Konan, who later became a leading expert on Dunhuang. Though Ishihama originally focused on Chinese studies, he expanded his collection to cover Inner and West Asia. Numbering a modest 40,000 items, the library features works in Manchu, Mongolia, Tangut, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Xixia, though half of the cache is in Chinese. About a quarter of the collection consists of periodicals, including the Mongol-language newspaper Küke tuγ from in the 1940s, the object of my quest to SIS in September 2012. For holdings in the Ishihama Collection in particular, consult its catalog 石濱文庫目錄 : 大阪外国語大学所蔵 available at many libraries in Japan, as well as at Harvard and Indiana. Note that besides the Ishihama Collection, SIS owns about three thousand books from Burma, India, and Pakistan. (Click here for the names of those collections and corresponding catalogs.)

Access. Make arrangements to visit each of these institutions through the Inter-Library Loan counter of your affiliate university in Japan. The ILL staff will fax your request to these libraries; receiving permission from them may take a few days to a week. If traveling from outside Japan without a local sponsor, do email these libraries in advance, preferably in Japanese, with an introduction, a research itinerary, and a list of works (titles, authors, call numbers) for viewing. I showed up unannounced at SIS, and had to wait several days for the staff to contact my home institution in order to research there. For IAS, you also can attach a copy of a reading request form 閲覧申請書available for download from their website. Contact for IAS and for SIS. Present a university ID card and paperwork from your university’s ILL counter at the front desk of the library to sign in.

Hours. Both libraries close on national holidays and for a week-long break for New Years. IAS also shuts down every second Wednesday of the month, whereas SIS observes the university’s anniversary on May 1. The IAS library opens at 9:20AM and closes at 4:50PM (last call before 4PM) every weekday, but the circulation desk does not take requests from about 11:50AM to 1PM. The reading room remains open during the lunch hour. While the SIS library keeps longer hours, the rare books desk—which manages the Ishihama collection—opens at 9AM and closes at 5PM only on weekdays. Do anticipate returning materials to the desk thirty minutes before closing time.

Location. The IAS library stands on the southwest corner in Hongō campus of the University of Tokyo, behind the museum. It takes five minutes to walk from the Hongō Sanchōme subway stop on the Ōedo and Marunochi lines, ten minutes from the Yushima subway stop on the Chiyoda line (but up a steep hill), and fifteen minutes from the Todaimae subway stop on the Namboku line. In comparison, visiting SIS means trekking to the middle of nowhere, requiring a long ride out from Osaka proper past the Expo Commemoration Park in Minoh. To reach SIS, take the Osaka monorail to Saitō Nishi Station and walk the shortcut to campus in fifteen minutes, or go via Hankyū bus No. 59 from Kita Senri Station and get off at Madani Jyūtaku 3, or hitch a ride with the shuttle service from University of Osaka’s two other campuses.

Collections Search. If you have contacted these libraries in advance about your visit, the staff will have already pulled out your books from storage for your arrival. Nevertheless, you may find that you need to see more materials, in which case, browse the online catalogs at computer terminals in the reading room. I did find it difficult to locate Ishihama Collection materials via the online catalog so I relied on the paper version. Write down call numbers and titles of items—up to ten at a time for IAS—on the request form 閲覧申込書, also available at the front desk.

Photocopies. Both libraries do not allow photography, but let researchers self-copy pre-approved books in the reading room for 10 yen per page. For IAS, fill out photocopying forms 複写申込書 at the front desk and bookmark appropriate sections using white strips. The circulation desk will confirm that the request falls within the limits stated by Japan’s copyright law. Sometimes the staff will reject applications based on the poor condition of the item.

Miscellaneous. IAS has mandatory coin-operated lockers (100-yen coins only) in the lobby of the reading room. The area around the University of Tokyo offers many scrumptious choices for lunch, like yuzu ramen at Sesame, across the street from Akamon. Bring a bentō for SIS, though, as no food options exist in the vicinity of SIS, save for university hall (closed at time of visit).

Sakura Christmas
History Department
Harvard University


Image: University of Tokyo campus. Photo by author.

 Important Note: Dissertation Reviews, its members, and affiliates assume no responsibility for the accuracy of this material. Access, location, times, and other data are subject to change, and readers assume all responsibility for making direct contact with the institutions in question and double-checking all information before any visit. If you discover errors in this description, or changes to the policies or relevant information in one of the sites features on “Fresh from the Archives,” please contact us at

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