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Accordion List

Japanese Studies permeates academic programs offered by such departments as East Asian Languages & Civilizations (EALC), History, Religion, Economics, History of Art, Design, Musicology, History and Sociology of Science, Political Science, Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology. Researchers associated with the University Museum focus on Japanese archaeology and early civilization; scholars at the Wharton School concentrate on Japanese economics, finance, and commerce; and students at the Lauder Institute endeavor to earn a joint MBA/MA degree in Management and International Studies with a concentration on Japan.

Many faculty and students with a focus on Japan are located in the EALC department. Formally established in 2005 when the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies divided along geographic lines, the department dates back to the 19th century, when Penn was one of the first universities to offer courses in the languages and civilizations of what scholars then referred to as “the Orient.” EALC is now a department of interdisciplinary scholars who focus on the humanistic tradition of East Asia, covering both the classical and modern civilizations of China, Japan, and Korea. The EALC department teaches and researches the disciplines of history, literature, linguistics, art history, performance and gender studies, philosophy, religion, and ethics. The department offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Studies.

The Penn Libraries’ Japanese collection is primarily intended to serve the needs of researchers and students at all levels: faculty in specialized disciplines, PhD and MA students, advanced undergraduates studying Japanese language and culture, beginning language students, and those outside the humanities disciplines (such as Lauder and Huntsman students). Collection development thus focuses on building a strong foundation for current and future needs, while expanding our holdings vis-à-vis current community research interests and existing collection strengths, across general and special collections. In connection with current collection strengths and future needs, and in coordination with Penn’s other Global Collections, the Japanese collection strives to feature diverse and underrepresented voices and to collect materials that speak to issues around borders, identity, and national belonging.

1. Chronological

Comprehensive, ranging from ancient to contemporary.

2. Formats

Because the Japanese publication market is still almost entirely focused on print, the Penn Libraries largely collects print resources such as contemporary works, older in-print and out-of-print titles, and reprints of primary sources. The Libraries collects digital resources where appropriate, preferred, and available; major examples include reference databases and digital newspaper archives.

3. Geographical

Collection development focus is on Japan as well as broader East Asia when relevant—such as colonial Korea, Taiwan, China, and the former Manchuria.

4. Language

Collecting is primarily in Japanese, but includes works in other languages—such as English, French, German, or East Asian languages—that pertain to Japan or are translations of Japanese literature and key scholarship.

5. Publication Dates

While the main focus of collecting is on contemporary publications, some out-of-print primary and secondary sources are collected, particularly from the Meiji period (1868–1912) to the present.


Materials for the Japanese collection are generally purchased directly from Japan through Japan Publications Trading Company or Kinokuniya. Selections are made from current publisher and vendor catalogs as well as through targeted searching on the used book market (via portals like Nihon no Furuhon’ya and Yahoo! Auctions) based on current collecting areas and recommendations from scholars and students.

Current collection development emphases:

  • Materials to support language learning and extensive reading (tadoku) activities in the library (including literature, graded readers, textbooks, and comics)
  • Literature from premodern to contemporary periods
  • Ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern history
  • Japanese empire (1895-1945), across disciplines and national borders
  • Modern and contemporary art publications (particularly photography)
  • Pop culture and contemporary performing arts (including film and theater)
  • Gender studies
  • Disability studies
  • Reprints of relevant primary sources (including newspapers and magazines) not available digitally

Collecting areas unique to Penn include:

  • Primary (rare) and secondary sources on the Japanese military, especially the Imperial Navy, with a focus on the interwar period
  • Small-format juvenile fiction from the late Meiji through early Shōwa periods (approx. 1900-1935)  
  • Works by Japanese women photographers
  • Urban exploration publications, including ephemera such as zines (not generally collected in North America, and some not in Japan)
  • Contemporary art exhibition catalogs from regional and small museums
  • Japanese illustrated books from the Edo through Taishō periods (approx. 1600-early 20th century)

The following categories of materials are generally not collected:

  • Gray literature
  • Translations of Western works into Japanese