The Meiji Newspaper and Periodical Archives


A review of the Meiji Shinbun Zasshi Bunko (明治新聞雑誌文庫) (Tokyo, Japan)

Despite its name, the holdings of the Meiji Shinbun Zasshi Bunko are not limited to newspapers and other periodicals. Its collections also extend well beyond the Meiji era to encompass even post-war materials and holdings from the Edo period as well. Its unassuming exterior belies the wealth of its collections, such that a descent through its basement entrance can feel like stumbling on a buried treasure. In addition to a wide range of periodicals, books, prints, and photographs, it is also home to the over 1,500 documents used by Oka Yoshitake in writing his seminal political history of Meiji Japan, the Yoshino Sakuzō collection, which includes over 3,000 titles in Japanese, English, French, German and Dutch (some with the scholar’s own marginalia), and Ide Saburō’s eclectic collection of Japanese, Chinese and Western books.

I first visited the Meiji Shinbun Zasshi Bunko in early 2015 to conduct research into the dissemination of scientific knowledge in late nineteenth-century Japan. I went in pursuit of a short-lived popular science magazine published in Osaka in the late 1880s. With increasing literacy rates and changing reading habits, periodicals became a highly popular format in the Meiji period, and their success makes them an attractive resource for investigating societal trends in modern Japan. Many publishers have capitalized on this scholarly demand to issue bound reprints of works, and digitizations on CD-ROM. Consequently, the more successful magazines and journals are increasingly available in major academic libraries. What makes the Meiji Shinbun Zasshi Bunko so attractive is that, alongside these major collections, there is an array of provincial and otherwise obscure newspaper and periodical titles, as well as its aforementioned collections of rare books and visual material.

The titles held in the Bunko’s newspaper and periodical collections can be found using the University of Tokyo’s online public access catalog (OPAC). Keyword searches of its newspaper, periodical and print databases can be carried out onsite using the terminal provided (the Bunko has also produced hard copy catalogs*, which are available in the library itself and at many institutional libraries). The newspaper holdings comprise over 2,000 titles, including many in Chinese, Korean and English, held in both paper and microfilm form. The newspaper catalog allows you to conduct searches by title, date range, place of publication, language, and so on. Lists of holdings of its special collections can be browsed using PDF lists available on the library’s well-presented and easily navigable site.

The library is situated just inside the akamon entrance to the University of Tokyo’s Hongō campus (the closest metro stops are Hongō sanchōme on the Marunouchi and Toei Ōedo lines and Tōdai mae on the Namboku line). Once through the akamon gate, immediately turn left and walk about 20 meters. The entrance to the Bunko will be to your right. Its hours are from 9:00 to 16:30 on weekdays, but staff are not available for enquiries between midday and 13:00. The library is closed on public holidays, over the year-end closure period, and during entrance examinations in January and February. Be sure to consult the website, including the ‘news’ section, in advance as materials may be unavailable if loaned out for exhibitions.

To use the library, visitors must present institutional identification on arrival. Visitors affiliated to the University of Tokyo need only present their university-issued identification, whereas those from outside the university will also need to present a letter of introduction from the library of their home institution. If you will be visiting over several days, it is advisable to let the staff know of this in advance so that you are not asked to present this on every visit.

You will be asked to fill out an etsuranhyō to consult materials. This will require call numbers for items, as well as volume and issue number for periodicals. I would recommend making a note of this information beforehand. There is a sole computer terminal from which to search the catalog. The library is rarely busy, but if the terminal is in use there is little to do but wait. Requests to view special collections can usually be made using the etsuranhyō, but procedures differ depending on the collection so be sure to check these on the website. Consulting the Ide Saburō collection, for example, requires a reservation at least three days in advance.

The procedures for duplication differ depending on the type of material you wish to copy. Each type of material has its own duplication form, and these can be downloaded from their website (although you can also request these from staff). Requests for duplication of some materials can be made by post.

To preserve the quality of materials, pre-1945 material is photographed rather than photocopied. If you wish to take only a few copies—about ten pages of a journal volume—the staff will let you take photos of these yourself after you fill out a photo duplication request form. For larger quantities, photographing its carried out by an external company, which sends the material by post with an invoice (payment is completed by bank transfer). It takes about three weeks for these copies to arrive. The procedures for requesting copies of microfilm are similar—these too are sent to a third party for duplication. Copies are then sent to the requestor by post (again with an invoice to be paid by bank transfer).

Duplication of material from after 1945 is carried out on the premises and there is no option to request that these be sent by post. Once the appropriate form has been filled out, your materials are checked and you can then use the coin-operated photocopying machine to make your own copies. It costs 10 yen for each black and white copy and 50 yen for color photocopies. Similarly, copying from CD-ROM is done on site and in person using the desktop computer (the same single terminal that is used for searching the catalogue). However, payment for CD-ROM copying must be completed by bank transfer. Once you submit the items for printing you must then make your way to the ATM on campus to complete payment by bank transfer (the Mitsui Sumitomo ATM in the Yasuda Kōdō charges no handling fees). Once this is completed, you return to the library where you can then pick up your copies.

As the library is located on the University of Tokyo campus, there is no shortage of places to have lunch. There is a cafe immediately in front of the library, and you will be spoilt for choice if you chose to lunch outside the akamon gate. The staff are welcoming and helpful, and the atmosphere is laid back. You may be one of only a few researchers working at a time so material is likely to arrive very quickly. The reading room—a small room with two microfilm readers and three large tables—is located right next to the staff room so you can pop around the corner with questions or to request more material. There are no lockers and space is at a premium, so it is best to pack light (lockers are available in the metro station anyway). My main advice, however, is to check the website and, when necessary, contact the staff in advance. If you do this a wealth of material will be at your fingertips just minutes after you descend into this rich archive.

Address: 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-0033
Tel: 03-5841-3171
Fax: 03-5841-0212
Special collections:
University of Tokyo OPAC:

*『明治新聞雑誌文庫所蔵雑誌目録』, 『明治新聞雑誌文庫所蔵図書・資料類目録』

Ruselle Meade
JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of the History and Philosophy of Science
University of Tokyo

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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