Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsProf. Ichinohe, Few places are as exciting as Jimbōchō, don't you think? It is said to be the largest area dedicated to rare and second-hand books in the world. Apparently there are more than 140 shops in this area alone, of which 40 deal with pre-Edo books. Is that so? I know well about ten of them. And the one we're in now, Ōya Shobō [Ōya Books], is the one with the largest assortment of traditional books. Yes, they specialize in Edo-period printed books and ukiyoe prints. It's just wonderful that you can come here and find so many traditional books to purchase. It seems that recently the number of foreign buyers has increased and I can see why.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 secondsYou can come here and buy Japanese books and prints that are just like art objects. By the way, the book you are holding now is not easy to find in stores. You're absolutely right. This is a scroll I have borrowed from the owners here. Among the various traditional formats, scrolls are rather unique. They are not so rare, but you couldn't say there is a huge number of them either, could you? Precisely. I wouldn't go as far as saying that the scroll is the single most important format in the history of Japanese bookmaking, but it definitely played a very important role. I'm an Edo specialist, so I was not aware of their role. I look forward to hearing more. Absolutely.

Skip to 1 minute and 32 secondsIn the first week of the course, let us talk about binding methods and the special position of the scroll among them.


Welcome to the course “Japanese Culture through Rare Books”! Before we begin, read the article below about the first week, the organizing team, and some notes that might be helpful as you proceed in this course. Then watch the conversation between Prof. Sasaki and Prof. Ichinohe from the booksellers of Jimbocho, Tokyo’s book town. A lot of old and rare books are still on the market in Japan.

First week

In the first week of the course, we will talk about binding methods and the special position of the scroll among them.

One of the defining characteristics of Japanese books is their great variety of appearance. The main bookbinding methods were imported from China, but over time Japanese bookmaking took on distinctive characteristics. Different binding methods came to be used for different purposes. In this week, we will explore traditional binding styles and their uses, and also look at the practice of rebinding.

Organizing team

This course will be lead by Professor Takahiro Sasaki and Professor Wataru Ichinohe both at Keio Institute of Oriental Classics. Prof. Sasaki specializes in bibliography and Japanese literature in the medieval period with a particular focus on waka. Prof. Ichinohe also specializes in bibliography and Japanese literature of the Edo period.

Japanese contents have been translated and edited by Dr. Gian-Piero Persiani, a specialist of Heian literature. The course has been produced by the Research Institute for Digital Media and Content and the Global Education Project at the Graduate School of Media Design of Keio University.

Educators and Organizers From the left: Takahiro Sasaki, Wataru Ichinohe, and Gian-Piero Persiani.

Akinori Takanobu, Goki Miyakita, Yumiko Murai, and Professor Keiko Okawa, all from the Graduate School of Media Design, will assist you during the course!

Follow the team to read their responses to learners throughout the course.

Important notes

  • All historical names follow the Japanese convention (family name first and then given name).
  • Sometimes ō and ū will appear with a straight bar above the letters (i.e., macron or diacritical mark) . This represents long vowels, for example, ō for “oo” or “oh.”
  • All book titles and Japanese keywords will be italicized.
  • All video transcripts in Japanese and English can be found at bottom of each step.
  • All steps have English and Japanese translations which you can find as PDFs under the “DOWNLOADS” section at the bottom of the first step of each week (Step 1.1, Step 2.1 and Step 3.1). The list of items used in each week is also available in PDF at the same section.
  • The numbers in [brackets] represent the reference number. Figure numbers simply represent the order in which images appear in the article.
  • You can view the images that are used in the articles and part of the videos in larger size by clicking the links marked Click to take a closer look.
  • You can also view better quality of images with more detailed information about the items introduced in the course in a separate page (the link is listed under the “SEE ALSO” section at the bottom of each step as “MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE IMAGES USED IN THIS STEP” ).
  • Some words and names that may be unfamiliar to learners are listed in the glossary located in Step 1.4.
  • Names of the historical periods will also be introduced in Step 1.5.
  • When you complete each step, select the Mark as complete button before selecting the arrow to move on.

Would you like a certificate?

If you want a record of your course, you can buy a Certificate of Achievement from FutureLearn.

The Certificate of Achievement is a great way to prove what you have learned on the course and as evidence of your Continuing Professional Development. This is a personalised certificate and transcript, detailing the syllabus and learning outcomes from the course. It comes as a printed certificate as well as a digital version which you can add to your LinkedIn profile. To be eligible, you must mark at least 90% of the steps in this course as complete.

There is also the option to purchase a personalised Statement of Participation, to celebrate taking part. To be eligible for the Statement of Participation, you must mark at least 50% of the steps on the course as complete. This also comes in a printed and digital format and you can add it to your LinkedIn profile.’

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Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

Keio University