Three Colonial Collections in Japan


A review of Three Colonial Collections in Japan

The Northern Studies Collection, Hokkaidō University, Sapporo, Japan

札幌市北区北8条西5丁目 北海道大学附属図書館 北方資料室
tel: +81-1-1706-2994; website

The Northern Studies Collection of Hokkaidō University focuses on materials related to Hokkaidō, as well as the Aleutians, the Kuriles, Manchuria, Mongolia, Sakhalin, and Siberia. Its holdings remain unparalleled for publications on the indigenous peoples of northern Japan and its surrounding islands. Visitors must arrange to see the collection via the Inter-Library Loan counter of their affiliate institution in Japan. For those traveling from abroad, email the library in advance at with a self introduction, research itinerary, and list of titles. When I visited in February 2013, the city gave up on clearing or salting the snow, making the streets and sidewalks extremely treacherous (even for someone who has lived in northern climes for the past decade). Expect to bruise like a peach from multiple wipeouts before learning to waddle across the ice. The library, located on the center of campus by a lake, opens from 9:00 to 17:00 on weekdays and closes for national holidays. Hours may vary through spring and summer vacations. Upon arrival, fill out a visitor’s form at the counter to the right of the library entrance and present this slip along with a student ID to obtain a numbered badge for the day. Researchers can view and photograph rare manuscripts—including maps, woodblock prints, and scrolls—in a special room behind the circulation desk. The university archive, which I did not use on this trip, occupies the fourth floor, and requires a separate registration process. Copies cost 10 yen per page, but declare titles and page numbers on the request form (複写申込書) found by the copy machines. As for lunch and dinner, delicious food options—from butter corn ramen to sea urchin gratin—await the hungry in the underground arcade of Sapporo station, a fifteen-minute walk southeast from the library.

Archive of Materials Related to the Former Colonies, Takushoku University, Hachiōji, Japan

東京都八王子市館町815-1 拓殖大学図書館 旧外地関係資料アーカイブ
tel: +81-4-2665-1483; website

Founded in 1900 to educate its students in tactics of ‘colonization,’ the aptly named Takushoku University sent its boys off to Taiwan, then the Asian continent as the pencil-pushers of empire. While Takushoku now has distanced itself from its imperial past, its library remains a valuable reminder of the university’s original goals, with hundreds of economic reports, statistical studies, and government bulletins from the late nineteenth century to the end of World War II. This online gallery displays some of the collection’s more beautiful material including rare posters, magazines, and travel guides. Though many of the volumes overlap with holdings elsewhere in Japan, Takushoku’s books often came from personal libraries of former students carried back from their posts abroad, rather than donated as pristine desk copies from government agencies. As a result, I sometimes found relevant newspaper clippings slipped between the pages or anonymous notes scrawled in the margins. Like other university libraries, researchers should schedule trips via the Inter-Library Loan counter at their Japanese affiliation or email Takushoku University in advance at – otherwise they may be turned away. It takes over an hour to commute to Takushoku’s Hachiōji campus from Tokyo proper. Take the south exit from Takao Station, serviced by the Chūo and Keiō line, and walk to the bus terminal. A shuttle bound for Takushoku University departs from the terminal’s first lane every fifteen to twenty minutes and drops off passengers down the hill from the library. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 19:30 and on Saturday from 9:00 to 16:30. Copies cost 10 yen per page, and require a documentation of titles and page numbers (though the staff does not check if the amount adheres to Japanese copyright law). Food options consist of a school cafeteria, convenience store, and the ubiquitous Yoshinoya restaurant chain.

Institute of Economic Research Library, Hitotsubashi University, Kunitachi, Japan

東京都国立市中2-1 一橋大学経済研究所資料室
tel: +81-4-2580-8320; website

Hitotsubashi University began in the Meiji era as a business school, and has grown into a leading institution for the social sciences in Japan today. The library collections are especially strong in terms of materials pertaining to the economy, and this extends to the coverage of the former colonies as well. One can find scores of pre-war journals, reports, and statistical compilations on trade and industry in Korea, Manchuria, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, including several original studies by Hitotsubashi scholars on the Chinese agrarian sector in the 1940s. The holdings are divided among the university’s various libraries, which are all (thankfully) in close proximity to one another. In addition to its vast array of tomes old and new, the main library also boasts a separate annex specifically for journals, a good number of which date back to the Meiji and Taishō eras. These are all conveniently open stack, with a set-up conducive to leisurely browsing. The Institute for Economic Research Library, in particular, holds many a gem for those prospecting for sources on the economic activities of the Japanese empire and its colonial possessions. While generally focused on more contemporary affairs, the Research Center for Information and Statistics of Social Science, which is technically also part of the Institute for Economic Research, contains several important reprints of pre-war economic sources. Email for specific inquiries. These libraries are all on Hitotsubashi’s main campus, which is located in the city of Kunitachi to the west of central Tokyo, as shown on this map. From Shinjuku, take the Chūo line to Kunitachi, exit the station to the south, and follow the cherry-blossom-tree-lined Daigaku dōri to the university for ten minutes before turning right towards the libraries on west campus. During the semester, the main library is open Monday to Friday, from 8:40 to 22:00, and Saturday and Sunday, from 9:30 to 17:00. The Institute for Economic Research Library is open Monday to Friday, from 9:00 to 17:00, and closed on weekends and public holidays. Self-copying cost 10 yen per sheet, payable via copy cards bought from vending machines around campus. Copy requests at the Institute of Economic Research Library counter, however, cost 20 yen per sheet for Hitotsubashi affiliates and 35 yen per sheet for outsiders. There are a number of decent places to grab grub around Kunitachi, with fare from good Indian curry and naan to nutritious Korean samgyetang.

Victor Seow
Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Harvard University

Sakura Christmas
Department of History
Harvard University

Image: Photograph by author from Keijō teikoku daigaku tairiku bunka kenkyū kai, Mōkyō no shizen to bunka (Kokin shoin, 1939).

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  1. This is great, and really helpful. Thanks!

    Note: the link to the online gallery for the Takushoku archive is broken.

  2. Dear Peter,
    Thanks so much — we have fixed the link to the online gallery for the Takushoku Archive.
    With best wishes,
    Leon Rocha (Managing Editor of DR)

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