Japanese Books: Exploring the Diverse Styles and Letters
Books and historyFig. 1. Hekianshō, Click to take a closer look Books are part of the flow of history. This is a 1481 copy of the waka commentary Hekianshō (Notes on False Views) (Fig.1) in the hand of Asukai Masayasu, a prominent waka poet, scholar, and calligrapher of aristocratic stock. The beauty of the writing matches the quality of the hishi paper. When the book was made, Japan had just come out of the Ōnin wars, which lasted for eleven years from 1467 to 1477. Civil war had turned Kyoto into a wasteland of ruins and ashes, and yet, books like this one, which served no real practical function, continued to be produced. To crave this elegant object even at a time of turmoil was probably one of the provincial warlords who had come out victorious from the struggle. In many ways, this beautifully-made book symbolizes the love and admiration for aristocratic culture of these professionals of warfare. Watch the video that gives a firsthand look at this extraordinary variety (of scripts, visual appearance, etc.). A more detailed explanation will be given over the following steps.
Japanese History OverviewThis is a list of the main period of Japanese history.
|Period||Name of Era|
|mid-3rd c. CE to 7th c. CE||Kofun (Tomb period)|
|592 – 710||Asuka|
|794 – 1185||Heian|
|1185 – 1333||Kamakura|
|1333 – 1392||Nanboku-chō (Southern and Northern Courts period)|
|1392 – 1573||Muromachi|
|1573 – 1603||Azuchi-Momoyama|
|1603 – 1868||Edo|
|1868 – 1912||Meiji|
Books on the table in the videoFor those who are interested in the books on the table shown in the video, please click the book titles to take a closer look.
|1. Tanzaku Tekagami||2. Kunshin zuzō||3. Heike monogatari|
|4. Itsukushima mōde-ki||5. Eiga no taigai||6. Kin’yōwakashū|
|7. Genji monogatari keizu||8. Kise inhon-kyō||9. Genji monogatari hiketsu|
|10. Taketori monogatari||11. Daihannya haramitakyō||12. Shibunritsu|
|13. Hekianshō||14. Kokinwakashū||15. Hokekyō tanji|
|16. Jōkan Seiyō||17. Genji kokagami||18. Kyō ōezu|
|19. Baien kishō (*1)||20. Shūko jisshu-kō||21. Shin Kokinwakashū|
|22. Waka hishō||23. Heike monogatari||24. Chūjōhime|
|25. Meisho buri Kon’nōzakura|
Want to keep
Keio University online course,
Japanese Culture Through Rare Books
Explore more about booksYou can view the images of most books in larger size by clicking the links marked Click to take a closer look. The link takes you to an online library, “Narrative Book Collection” (NBC) where you can enjoy quality images and detailed information but it gives you more than that.
Narrative Book Collection (NBC)In NBC, you have Bookshelf view where you can search and collect and compare books with specific features, and Book view where you can take a closer look at a selected book. All books in NBC correlate with the course contents, and you can explore various types of narratives alongside the course. Here is a tutorial. Give it a try. Click “24. Chūjōhime“ in the table above for example, then you’ll see the NBC’s Book view (Fig.1).
- Fig. 1. Narrative Book Collection – Book view In the Book view, you can see a) a list of digitized images of the book (all selectable), b) an image with Japanese title and imprints, c) detailed description of the book, d) zoom link that allows you to view higher resolution image, and e) clickable link icons that leads you to the unique Bookshelf view. Some terms may be unfamiliar to you at this moment, but no worries. You will learn and understand throughout the course, and NBC is available at any point during the course.
- After you view, read, and enjoy a) to d), let’s explore the book in the Bookshelf view. As shown below (Fig.2), most books have 6 viewpoints—Genre, Typology, Timeline, Color, Size, and Content—that leads you to the Bookshelf view, where you can see a collection of books sorted by viewpoints. Fig. 2. Narrative Book Collection – 6 viewpoints in the Bookshelf view In this example, Let’s click on ‘Genre’ icon and take a look.
- Now you’re looking at the Bookshelf view of NBC. Since Chūjōhime is categorized as ‘Illustrated Tales’, the listed images are all (pre) classified as ‘Illustrated Tales’.
- As a next step, why don’t you go back to Book view once, then click ‘Color’ icon? Then now you’ll see the books with similar color in the Bookshelf view (Fig.3). Fig. 3. Narrative Book Collection – Bookshelf view, choosing Genre (left) / Color (right) In this way, you are able to explore the collection from 6 different viewpoints, and enjoy various aspects of the books.
- Next, let’s try a cross-search In the Bookshelf view, you can add filters to all viewpoints. Let’s slide the timeline slider, then click on 2 viewpoints and look for 1) illustrated books which were 2) published during the Edo period, and 3) bound in Fukurotoji (pouch binding) style. All selected filter settings appear on the top, so you can easily add/remove all settings (Fig.4). Fig. 4. Narrative Book Collection – Bookshelf view, cross-search Through this course, you’ll learn all the binding styles of old Japanese books. For example, Fukurotoji you just selected, is introduced in Step 1.12.
- Take a close look to each book. If you find an interesting book in the Bookshelf view, click Take a Closer Look and look into the details on Book view (Fig.5). Then, to further explore, there is a button link in c) detailed description (Fig.6), that takes you (back) to the correlated FutureLearn course step. Fig. 5. Narrative Book Collection – “Take a Closer Look” leads you to Book view Fig. 6. Narrative Book Collection – Link to FutureLearn Course Step Feel free to ‘customize’ the Bookshelf view by yourself and explore the collection from various viewpoints. We hope you enjoy the wide variety of rare books in both Book view and the Bookshelf view.
Japanese Culture Through Rare Books
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.