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This content is taken from the Keio University's online course, Japanese Culture Through Rare Books. Join the course to learn more.

Welcome to the Library

Many of the resources used in this course are archived and generously shared by Keio Libraries. Let’s learn their origins and evolution over time. Watch the video and read the introduction to Keio University library and the Keio Institute of Oriental Classics where the rare books shown in this course are preserved.

Keio University Library

Keio University was founded by Fukuzawa Yukichi (All names are given in Japanese order [family name first and then given name] order in the following steps.) in 1858 as a school of Rangaku (“Dutch studies”). The history of the library began in 1871 with the opening of the first reading room shortly after the school’s relocation to its present location in Mita, Minato ward, Tokyo. In 1912, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation, the library building (now the Old Library) was built. It is the university’s most iconic building and it is now designated an Important Cultural Property. Despite severe damage and the loss of many valuable books during the Great Kantō Earthquake in 1923 and World War Ⅱ, the library has continued its mission to store and safeguard books. As the result of these efforts, Keio currently holds 5 million items in total as the collection of six libraries. The new library building was opened in 1981. The “Rare Books” room, which is located on the fifth floor, houses the collection’s rarest and most valuable books. The number of rare books held by the library is in excess of 120,000 items. The Index of Rare Sino-Japanese Books in the Collection of Keio University Library (Keiō Gijuku toshokan wakan kichōsho mokuroku), published in 2009, lists approximately 1,200 items.

Keio Institute of Oriental Classics

The precursor of the Institute was first founded in Fukuoka in 1938 by Aso Takakichi, president of Aso Trading (now Aso Group), one of the leading coal mining companies operating in the Kyūshū area located in the southern part of Japan, with the purpose of studying the cultural traditions of Japan and Asia. In the aftermath of World War II, the Institute ceased operations in 1946. In 1958, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Keio University, 70,000 items of the Institute’s collection were gifted to the university as a preliminary step toward opening a new research institute. After some preparation, the Institute was finally reopened in December 1960, for the purpose of “to collect, preserve, and research materials on pre-modern Japan and Asia.” After more than fifty years of activity, the Institute now has holdings in excess of 170,000 items. Now 6 full-time scholars are engaged in textual research on the book histories of Japan, China, Korea, and Vietnam.

In this course, two of the Institute’s members, Prof. Sasaki and Prof. Ichinohe, will use materials in the collections of Keio Library and the Institute to guide you on a three-week journey through the history of Japanese book culture.

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This video is from the free online course:

Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

Keio University