Skip main navigation


2 professors are talking in one of the bookseller in Jimbocho, the book town in Tokyo. A lot of old books, rare books are still on the market in Japan
Prof. 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.
You 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.
In 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.

Motoki Yasui from Keio University Press, Goki Miyakita and Professor Keiko Okawa 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 videos have English and Japanese subtitles. You can choose one of those by clicking the bubble mark at the right cover of the video.
  • All steps have English and Japanese text of articles and video scripts which you can find as PDFs under the “DOWNLOADS” section at the bottom of the first step of each week.
  • All historical figure’s names follow the Japanese convention (family name first and then given name, ex. Tokugawa Ieyasu)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 is listed in Step 1.5.
  • When you complete each step, select the Mark as complete button before selecting the arrow to move on.

Get extra benefits, upgrade your course

You can now get extra benefits by upgrading this course, including:

Unlimited access to the course: Go at your own pace with unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn.

A Certificate of Achievement or Statement of Participation: To help you demonstrate your learning we’ll send you a Certificate of Achievement or Statement of Participation when you become eligible.

Find out more

This article is from the free online

Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education