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History of Japanese Literature: Useful Terms

This article works as a glossary and gives an overview of some of the most important terms when studying the history of Japanese literature.
© Keio University




  • aihagi: 相剥ぎ Sheet-splitting [2.4]
  • Akera Kankō: 朱楽 菅江 A fiction writer late in the Edo period (1740-1799) [1.9]
  • Asuka era: 飛鳥時代 The period between 592 and 710 in Japanese history.
  • Azuchi momoyama era: 安土桃山時代 The period bewtween 1573 and 1603 in Japanese history.


  • bakufu: 幕府 Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun (the authority of the central government) [3.4]
  • bunjin: 文人 a scholar [3.7]
  • Bunmei: 文明 A Japanese era name (Nengo) in Edo period. [1.11] [3.1]



  • Daigoji: 醍醐寺 A Shingon Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan [3.3]
  • daimyō: 大名 A Japanese feudal lord in Muromachi period(14c) [3.3] [3.4] [3.7]
  • detchōsō: 粘葉装 Pasted paper leaf book, a binding style in which each sheet of paper is folded in half and bound together using glue on the folded ends of the sheets. [1.10]
  • Dharani: 陀羅尼 A prayer consisting of a series of invocations by the priest with responses from the congregation [3.2]


  • Edo era: 江戸時代 The period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan.


  • fukurotoji: 袋綴 Pouch-Binding – a binding style in which the text and illustrations are printed on one side of a single sheet of paper, which is then folded in half and bound at the open end. [1.12]


  • gajōjitate: 画帖仕立て Album-Format Binding – binding similar to that of an accordion book, but in which the leaves of paper are pasted together back-to-back and only one side of the paper can be written on. [1.9]
  • ganpi: 雁皮 (also hishi ひし, tori no ko 鳥の子) Smooth, heavy paper made from various species of Wikstroemia [1.7]
  • gedai: 外題 External title
  • Genshin: 源信 A Buddhist monk of Tendai school in Japan (942-1017) [3.3]


  • haikai: 俳諧 A poetic form that was popular in 16c [3.7]
  • Heike monogatari: 平家物語 The tale of the war between the house (家) of Taira (平) and the house of Minamoto [3.4] [3.5]
  • ho: 舗 Unit for counting books with folded-up bindings [1.11]
  • hōhaisō: 包背装 Wrapped-Back Binding – binding in which a single sheet of paper is wrapped from the back to the front cover of the book. [1.13]
  • Hōryūji: 法隆寺 One of the oldest temples founded in 607 that contains the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures [3.2]
  • hyōshi: 表紙 Cover sheet



  • jiku: 軸 Unit for counting scrolls [1.8]
  • jō: 帖 Unit for counting accordion books [1.9]


  • kabuki: 歌舞伎 A genre of Japanese classical play [3.12]
  • Kaibara Ekken: 貝原 益軒 A neo-confucious philosopher in Edo period (1630-1714) [3.11]
  • Kamakura: 鎌倉 A city Kanagawa Prefecture, Kanto distinct in Japan. It is a former capital of Japan for the Shogunate and of the Regency during the Kamakura Period. [2.10]
  • Kamakura era: 鎌倉時代 The period between 1185 and 1333 in Japanese history.
  • Kansei era: 寛政時代 One of the eras in the Edo period (1789-1801) [1.9]
  • kanshi: 漢詩 Classical Chinese poetry [3.7]
  • kansusō: 巻子装 Scroll – a binding style for scrolls, which may contain written text and/or illustrations. [1.8]
  • Kantō: 関東 One of the district of Japan, and the capital Tokyo is there. [1.15]
  • keizu: 系図 Genealogy
  • Kenchū mikkan: 顕註密勘 Commentary of Kokinshū, compiled by Lord Teika in the Kamakura period [3.15]
  • Kitagawa Utamaro: 喜多川 歌麿 Ukiyoe artist in the Edo period (1753?-1806) [1.7] [3.1]
  • Kofun era: 古墳時代 The period between mid-3rd c. CE and 7th c. CE in Japanese history.
  • kokugaku: 国学 Nativist Studies. One of the intellectual schools of the Edo period. They championed Japanese beliefs and traditions over foreign (especially Chinese) ones. They also produced some of the finest philologists and scholars in Japanese history. [3.15]
  • koyori: 紙縒 Rolled paper strips used in bookbinding
  • kōzo 楮 Soft, fibrous paper made from various species of mulberry (Broussonetia) [1.7]
  • Kūkai: 空海 A Buddhist monk, the founder of the Shingon school (774-835) [1.8]
  • Kusazōshi: 草双紙 popular illustrated books read by ordinary people, mostly in hiragana with a few kanji [3.7]



  • masugatabon: 枡形本 Square Books – almost-square multisection books (tetsuyōsō) made by cutting the sheets of paper into thirds horizontally. [1.12]
  • Meiji era: 明治時代 The period between 1868 and 1912 in Japanese history
  • mitsumata: 三椏 Smooth paper made from the mitsumata, or paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) [1.7]
  • monogatari: 物語 Tales; prose narrative in Japanese [1.6]
  • Muromachi era: 室町時代 The period between 1392 and 1573 in Japanese history.
  • musubitoji: 結び綴 Knot-Binding – binding in which two or more holes are made near the spine of the booklet and paper strips or cords are passed through from the back and knotted decoratively on the front. [1.13]
  • mutsuhan-bon: 六半本 Sixth-Size Books – almost-square multisection books (tetsuyōsō) made by cutting the sheets of paper into thirds horizontally. [1.11]


  • nagachōtoji: 長丁綴 Long-Leaf Binding – elongated pouch-binding in which sheets of paper are folded along the bottom and bound along the right-hand edge. [1.12]
  • Nanbokucho era: 南北朝時代 The period between 1333 and 1392 in Japanese history.
  • Nara era: 奈良時代 The period between 710 and 794 in Japanese history.
  • Nativist Studies: Kokugaku, Wagaku, One of the intellectual schools of the Edo period. They championed Japanese beliefs and traditions over foreign (especially Chinese) ones. They also produced some of the finest philologists and scholars in Japanese history.[3.15]
  • noh: 能 A genre of Japanese classical play [3.4]


  • orihon: 折本 Accordion Book, a binding style consisting of a long strip of paper that is folded in a zig-zag fashion. [1.9]
  • orijō: 折帖 Folded Binding – a type of accordion binding in which thicker paper is used and both sides of the paper can be written on. [1.9]
  • Ōsaka: 大阪 One of the biggest cities and the center of commerce in the Kansai area in Japan [3.4]




  • renga: 連歌 One poetry form in Japanese literature that includes linked verse [1.11]


  • Saidaiji: 西大寺 A Buddhist temple located in Nara, Japan [3.3]
  • satsu: 冊 Unit for counting pouch-bound books [1.12]
  • Sennyūji: 泉涌寺 A Buddhist temple in Higashiyama-ku in Kyoto, Japan [3.3]
  • senpūyō 旋風葉 Flutter binding – binding similar to that of an accordion book, but in which a cover is fastened at the front and back, like the wrapped-back binding. [1.9]
  • sensō 線装 Line binding – Chinese name for the binding known as fukurotoji in Japan. [1.12]
  • Setsuyōshū: 節用集 A Japanese dictionary published from the Muromachi period [3.4]
  • shōgun: 将軍 A hereditary military dictator of Japan [3.4]
  • Shōsoin: 正倉院 A treasure house in Todaiji temple in Nara, Japan [3.2]
  • sōtei: 装訂 Binding [[1.8] [1.11] [1.12] [1.13]
  • Shūko jisshu: 集古十種 Woodblock Print catalogue made in the Edo period [1.5] [3.7] [3.16]


  • tan’i: 単位 Units
  • tan’yōsō: 単葉装 Single-Leaf Binding – binding in which unfolded sheets of paper are stacked and bound like a pouch-binding. [1.12] [1.13]
  • tatami-mono: 畳み物 Folded-Up Binding – binding in which a large sheet of paper is folded up regularly both horizontally and vertically and a cover attached to the front and back of the folded sheet. [1.13]
  • tetsuyōsō/retchōsō: 綴葉装・列帖装 Multisection Book – a binding style in which thin booklets are stitched together at the spine, and are then sewn together to form a single book. [1.11]
  • Todaiji temple: 東大寺 Todaiji temple is an enormous Buddhist temple complex in Nara, Japan’s ancient capital, build around early 8th century. [3.2]


  • Ukiyo-e: 浮世絵 A picture [color print] of everyday life in the Edo period (from 17th century). It translates as “picture(s) of floating world”. [3.1] [3.4]



  • wahon: 和本 Japanese book [1.1] [1.3]
  • waka: 和歌 Classical Japanese poetry [1.1] [1.10] [2.8]
  • washi: 和紙 Japanese paper [1.7]



  • yamatotoji: 大和綴 Japanese Binding – another term for tetsuyōsō or retchōsō. [1.11]
  • Yoshiwara saiken: 吉原 細見 A guidebook for the licensed quarters in Yoshiwara, Tokyo in the Edo period [3.7]
  • yotsuhan-bon: 四半本 Quarter-Size Books – rectangular multisection books (tetsuyōsō) made by cutting the sheets of paper in half horizontally. [1.11]


© Keio University
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