Japanese Studies permeates academic programs offered by such departments as East Asian Languages & Civilizations (EALC), History, 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 was 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. We teach and research the disciplines of history, literary history, linguistics, art history, performance and gender studies, philosophy, religion and ethics. The department offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in both Chinese and Japanese Studies and is building a parallel program for Korean Studies.

Penn's Japanese collection is primarily intended to serve the needs of researchers and students at all levels: from faculty in specialized disciplines to PhD and MA students, advanced undergraduates studying language and Japanese culture, beginning language students, and those outside the humanities disciplines (such as Lauder and Hunstman students). As such, collection development focuses on the twin goals of a strong foundation for current and future needs, and materials specific to what is currently being studied and which complement existing collection strengths. The Penn Libraries also collect limited rare materials that build on existing strengths and serve a community interest.

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 current works, retrospective purchases, and reprints of primary sources. Digital resources are collected where appropriate, preferred, and available; major examples include reference databases and newspaper digital 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 English, French, and German works on Japan or that are translations of Japanese literature and key scholarship.

5. Publication Dates

While the main focus of collecting is on contemporary scholarship, some out-of-print primary and secondary sources are collected 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. Selections are made from current publisher and vendor catalogs as well as the used market (via portals like Nihon no Furuhon'ya and Yahoo! Auctions) and recommendations from scholars and students.

Current collection development focuses:

  • Materials to support language learning and extensive reading (tadoku) activities in the library (including literature, graded readers, textbooks, and comics)
  • Colonial period (1895-1945)
  • Literature from premodern to contemporary periods
  • Ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern history
  • Disability studies
  • Pop culture and contemporary performing arts (including film and theater)
  • Modern and contemporary art publications
  • 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
  • Current nonfiction on the Abe administration and constitutional revision (not being widely collected in North America)
  • Urban exploration publications, including ephemera such as zines (not generally collected in North America, and some not in Japan)
  • Small-format juvenile fiction from the late Meiji through early Shōwa periods (approx. 1900-1935)
  • Contemporary art exhibition catalogs from regional and small museums

The following categories of materials are generally not collected:

  • Ephemeral works
  • Gray literature
  • Translations of Western works into Japanese
  • Works on science in general