International Research Center for Japanese Studies


A review of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (国際日本文化研究センター, “Nichibunken日文研), Kyoto, Japan.

In this installment of Fresh from the Archives, I am pleased to introduce the library and collection of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies 国際日本文化研究センター, also known as Nichibunken 日文研.  First, a little bit about me. I am a PhD candidate in pre-modern Japanese literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Stanford University.  My dissertation examines the religious writings, poetry, and temples of Rinzai Zen prelate Musō Soseki 夢窓疎石 (1275-1351), and will include the first full English translation of Musō’s waka (Japanese short verse) collection, Shōgaku kokushi wakashū 正覚国師和歌集. Thanks to a generous Fulbright IIE grant in 2010-2011, I was able to undertake dissertation research at Nichibunken. My affiliation with Nichibunken has continued and I am writing my dissertation while continuing to make use of the resources on-site, including Nichibunken’s extensive holdings of Japanese language periodicals and books in Japanese and English, hard-to-find materials related to Japanese gardens, as well as the center’s growing collection of books on Japanese Buddhism.

My current status as a graduate research student of the Graduate University for Advanced Studies 総合研究大学院大学 grants me formal affiliation with Nichibunken. Nevertheless, the library may also be used by non-members conducting research, but only with prior permission and introduction from one’s home library. Inquiries are accepted in English and assistance from English speaking-staff can be arranged for the day of your visit. See Nichibunken Library, “Guide & Regulations,” for more information, especially “Library Use by Unaffiliated Persons.”

Located in a quiet neighborhood high in the mountains of Western Kyoto, Nichibunken can be a bit challenging to access for those who are not familiar with the many ways to get there. The street address is 3-2 Oeyama-cho, Goryo, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 610-1192 (website).  I have found that Nichibunken is best accessed by the Keihan Kyoto bus 京阪京都交通21, 21A, or 27 bound for Katsurazaka chūō 桂坂中央. This line runs from Kyoto station via Gojō 五条 two to three times per hour and takes about 45 minutes to reach Nichibunken (get off at Hananomai kōen-mae 花の舞公園前), provided there is no traffic. The 21/21A/27 is by far the fastest way to reach Nichibunken from Kyoto station, the subway Karasuma line (change at Karasuma Gojō station), and the Ōmiya and Saiin areas. From the Shijō Kawaramachi area, Osaka, or Kobe beyond, take the Hankyū 阪急 line to Katsura station (7 to 10 minutes) and change there to the Keihan bus 20/20B (approximately 20minutes, get off at Hananomai kōen-mae) or the Kyoto City Bus West 6 (30 minutes, get off at Katsurazaka shōgakkō-mae 桂坂小学校前).  Both lines depart from the West Exit of Katsura station.

In addition to a large regular collection, which includes databases and CD-ROMs, the Nichibunken library has an extension collection of books in other languages about Japan, many of which are hard to find elsewhere in Japan. Nichibunken’s special collections include:

  • Akazawa Collection 赤澤文庫: Archive containing roughly 3,000 books pertaining to archaeology.
  • Calendrical Calculations Collection 暦算文庫: Archive of Japanese books on astronomical calculations for the calendar. 100 volumes.
  • Basic Materials in Folklore Studies 民俗学基礎資料: Approximately 500 items, including histories of temples and shrines and various localities, all dating from before the early modern period.
  • Hazama Collection 間文庫: Labor archive featuring materials from the prewar period; company-issued documents; publications such as magazines and newspapers; as well as books in Western languages.
  • Jilin Prefectural Archive 吉林省档案館: 549 sets of microfiche, totaling 4,196 pages, and also including materials from central Manchu, such as statistical information, materials related to laws and law-enforcement, and government registers.
  • Tetsu Hiroshige Collection 廣重徹旧蔵図書: the library of former Nihon University Professor of Science and Technology, Tetsu Hiroshige, who specialized in history of physics and the history of modern science.
  • Nicchū Collection 日中文庫: Large collection on the history of modern relations between Japan and China. Digitized index is available online.
  • Noma Collection 野間文庫: Medical materials from the 16th century. This collection has been digitized and is available online.
  • Okazaki Collection 岡崎文庫: Collection of books in Japanese and Western languages related to gardening, as well tens of thousands of photographs.
  • Sōda Collection 宗田文庫: Major works in the study of the history of Japanese medical treatment, as well as maps and images. This collection has been partially digitized, especially its images.
  • Masashi Takahashi Collection 高橋虔氏旧蔵: Large archive of materials on Christianity in the Shōwa period, Protestant Christianity in Japan, as well as translations of the bible into Japanese and other related materials.
  • Unno Collection海野文庫: Sizable archive of old maps.
  • Prange Collection: Microfilm collection of periodicals and newspapers dating from the American Occupation. 18,047 titles on 3, 826 reels of microfilm. A special reservation procedure is required to use this collection; see Library website for details.

Select library holdings have been digitized and can be accessed remotely from the Nichibunken website. Collections of note include: the Picture Scroll (emakimono) Database 絵巻物データベース, which consists of 20 scrolls depicting monstrous beings (yōkai 妖怪); and The Database of Images of Strange Phenomena and Yokai (Monstrous Beings) 怪異・妖怪画像データベース containing 2,770 images of monstrous beings culled from the library’s holdings and assembled together in an easily searchable database. Online searching is available in Japanese only.

Full library services are available Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday visits can also be arranged, as the library is open with limited services from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is open during lunch hour. The library is closed on Sundays, national holidays, during the New Year’s holiday, and usually has a short closure during summer break (mid-August). On Saturdays, the circulation desk is closed, and items from the closed stacks cannot be requested, and rare books, maps, and photographs cannot be accessed. Microfilms can be viewed on Saturdays, but only by advance appointment. It is not necessary to check your bag, and laptops can be used throughout the library.

Visitors to the Nichibunken library can make use of a wireless network by logging in as a guest, as well as several photocopy machines and a scanner that can save PDFs to USB drives. However, some specified materials cannot be copied due to their fragility. Visitors are not permitted to borrow books but can freely browse the stacks and the online catalogue, in addition to viewing requested materials.

There are a few dining options in and around the center, although there are no vending machines, so it is advisable to come with your own beverage. In the center, there is the Akaoni 赤おに restaurant (open weekdays and Saturdays, lunch: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.), which serves a variety of Japanese and Western dishes, as well as coffee and tea. There is also a grocery store with a bakery café that is a seven-minute walk from Nichibunken (common room staff can give directions). It is also possible to bring your own lunch and enjoy in the spacious common room.

Those affiliated with Nichibunken as faculty, visiting research fellows, or graduate students can make inquiries about materials held at other libraries, museums, shrines, and temples at the reference desk. The friendly and hard-working Nichibunken librarians have made many inquiries on my behalf, to other libraries, private collections, and even temples holding rare manuscripts. It is advisable to provide the librarians with as much information as possible, especially the location of the material, if known.

Molly Vallor
PhD Candidate
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Stanford University

Special thanks to Nichibunken librarian Toshinori Egami 江上敏哲 who provided supplementary information for this article.

Image: Hyakkiyagyō emaki 百鬼夜行絵巻 (Picture scroll of the night procession of a hundred demons)


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