A Guide to Searching Japanese Scholarship

This guide introduces some of the resources that I use most frequently when looking for Japanese language scholarship. The assumed reader is a Sinologist working at a North American university, but the post might also be useful for others with a similar background. The first part describes how to find works on a particular topic; the second part provides tips on locating a particular work after having found the relevant bibliographic information.

Finding Japanese Language Works

1. 東洋学文献類目検索 ( Ver. 7 | Ver. 6 )

A Digitalized version of the Annual Bibliography of Oriental Studies 東洋学文献類目, published by Kyoto University’s Institute for Research in Humanities (人文科学研究所). Also includes non-Japanese language works. There are two “versions” of the database, with slightly different periods of coverage:

Version 7: Contains items covering 1934-1980; 2001 and later. As of the date of this post, I have confirmed the inclusion of items from the year 2012.
Version 6: Contains items covering 1981-2010?

2. 国立国会図書館サーチ

Searches the holdings of the National Diet Library (NDL) as well as several outside databases. The database includes not only books, but also titles of individual journal articles. (I mainly use it for searching the latter.)

Note: Holdings of the NDL include a significant body of PhD dissertations, but they rely on donations from individual universities and are not comprehensive. For more on searching for dissertations, see this page: 国会図書館調べ方案内: 国内博士論文. My understanding is that there is no single database that provides comprehensive coverage of all universities, and it is necessary to check the catalogue of each degree awarding institution. (On the other hand, many dissertations consist of already-published articles, which will show up when searching NDL’s holdings.)

3. CiNii Articles

Searches NDL’s index of journal articles as well as indices of various journals and university repositories. My impression is that most items found on CiNii will also be available on NDL’s database, but it is a good idea to double check on this database because it will occasionally have links to university repositories where you can download free PDF copies of the articles. (There are also articles that are only available by subscription.)

4. 科学研究費助成事業データベース

Provides access to proposals and reports of research projects that have been awarded funding by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (日本学術振興会). Useful for learning about ongoing research projects that may not have been published.

5. Published Books (Important!)

Most books by Japanese scholars consist of revised versions the author’s already-published articles, so if you know the name of the relevant author, it might be best to first check his/her book publications. Not only will you be able to read more updated versions of the original articles, it will also save you a lot of time compared to tracking down the many individual articles that might have been published on minor journals that are hard to locate.

6. 史学雑誌

Every year, the May issue of the journal Shigaku zasshi 史学雑誌 is devoted to reviewing scholarly publications of the previous year. One scholar will be responsible for a chapter covering a particular geographic area and time period (Ming-Qing China, for example). Useful for historians who need to catch up on recent scholarship.

Locating Japanese Language Works

Some articles are available in PDF copies through CiNii, but the great majority are only available through paper copies. The major journals are available in many university libraries, but you might need to make interlibrary requests for the minor journals. Again, if an article is hard to access, check if it has been incorporated into the author’s book publications (refer to #5 above).

If a book is not immediately available at your library and you want to take a quick look at its table of contents, try searching it on Webcat Plus. This database provides the table of contents for some (but not all) books. Sometimes the information is abridged, so the safest way is still to check the physical book itself.

Many online library catalogues do not handle searches in East Asian languages well, so it might be best to search using the Romanized title. Worldcat (as well as Harvard’s Hollis catalogue) is very good with searches in East Asian languages, so if you do not know the correct Romanization of a book title, search it on Worldcat first to find out the Romanization.

Downloading Siku quanshu Text Files

I’m sure most of us who have worked with the Siku quanshu 四庫全書 database have dreamed of extracting texts of whole books without having to copy them page-by-page. It turns out that some books are indeed available as text files in here. The list is not complete, but it includes quit a few books from the History (史), Philosophy (子), and Literature (集) sections. Some books from the Classics (經) section are also available, but not that many.

If you are lucky enough to find the title of your interest, you might need to convert the encoding of the downloaded file before you can see the text properly. A tool that I have found handy is Encoding Master. Use it to open the file, and convert from DOS Chinese Simplified (GBK) to UTF-8. Now you have a clean text file of your favorite book!

Some points of caution:

  • The text is in simplified Chinese.
  • This comes from an online forum, so it can disappear anytime (although apparently it has been there for over a year now).
  • Not all files are from Siku quanshu. (Read the disclaimer in Paragraph #6 at the top of the page.) In any case, the files come from totally unknown sources, so they are as reliable as Wikipedia.
  • Depending on your understanding of the copyright of digitalized old texts, you might feel guilty using these files.

This is the most comprehensive list of clean Siku quanshu texts that I have seen so far. If anyone knows of a better source, I’d appreciate the information very much.

Why I deleted my account on academia.edu, and why I’m starting a blog

I set up the infrastructures of this blog over a month ago. And then I just let it sit without posting anything, partly because I was busy writing papers but also because I was somehow reluctant to write that “first post.” So I thought I’d get it over with by briefly describing what I’m hoping to do in here:

1. To replace my old public profile on academia.edu.

I first joined academia.edu so that I could put a profile online without having to go through the trouble of creating a website. I enjoyed the convenience for a while and even had fun finding profiles of people with similar interests, but quickly got suspicious of its use because 1) there is not much exchange of ideas going on in there, and 2) it clutters Google search results with too many irrelevant pages. (If you haven’t tried Googling your own name, try it now —unless you’ve published a lot or have a strong web presence elsewhere, most of the results will come from academia.edu… assuming that you have a profile there, of course.)

Now that I’m producing papers and other research-related materials that I will potentially want to share online, I want a platform where I can have greater control. WordPress seems like a good option because of its ease of use, and also because it has the potential of expanding into a quasi-website.

2. To help ease writer’s block.

Somehow as I proceed further in my studies and supposedly become wiser (or not), I have found the process of writing to become harder (not that it was ever easy), more painful, and unbearably slow. I think part of it has to do with the fact that my newly-polished critical reading skills have made me become too critical of anything that I write myself. The consequence is that what I write now is less “flawed,” but also less interesting compared to what I wrote as an undergraduate.

I suspect that one way to make writing less painful and potentially fun is to add an intermediate layer of writing between the research and the final product, where you are writing immediately after making exciting research findings. Some people recommend keeping a research journal, which sounds like a good idea. Here, I want to experiment with writing the equivalent of a public research journal by posting things that I find fun and exciting in the course of my research. I have been doing this previously through my Facebook updates, so the posts will probably look brief and scattered until I figure out how to write more coherent-looking blog entries.

3. To make orals exam preparation more meaningful and enjoyable.

I’m scheduled to take my orals exam this coming May, meaning that I will be reading, reading, and reading during the coming months. To motivate myself in the process, I plan to post short abstracts of some of my readings. In order to pretend that I might be producing something potentially useful, I plan to write abstracts to Chinese and Japanese works in English, and those of English works in Japanese. (The latter posts will be connected to my account on Twitter, where my primary working language is Japanese.) If this actually works as a motivational strategy, I will continue doing this after I’m done with the orals. We’ll see…

To sum up, whatever I put on here in the next few months (if I actually manage to do so) will be quite brief, informal, and probably not very useful. I expect anywhere between 0 to 3 people to see each post, but the potential of having an audience will help me keep going, I hope.