Navigation Aids

Collections Development Policies


Main Content

Japanese Studies

Molly Des Jardin, Japanese Studies Bibliographer

(215) 898 3205


Since the establishment of Japanese Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 1952, both the Japanese Studies Division within the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department and the Japanese Collection in the VanPelt Library have grown steadily. Today the Japanese Studies Division at AMES offers a wide range of academic and research programs on the graduate and post-graduate levels, providing academicians and researchers with a multitude of options from which to choose their specializations. The Center for East Asian Studies, an interdisciplinary unit composed of faculty members whose teaching and research focus is on East Asia, initiates, organizes, and coordinates Japanese Studies course offerings and supports the expansion and enrichment of Japanese Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Faculty research on Japanese Studies includes the humanities and the social sciences with particular strength in Buddhism, contemporary sociology of medicine/bioethics, Japanese civilization, Japanese literature, political and diplomatic history, history and philosophy of martial arts, performing arts, pre-modern Japanese architecture and archaeology, political and d plomatic history, medieval studies, Tokugawa studies, and women's studies. In the recent years, the Japanese Studies faculty at Penn has shifted from chronology-based compartmentalization to a thematic approach encompassing several historical periods, resulting in chronological integration. In addition, an interdisciplinary academic environment in which two or more distinct academic subjects are taught in combination has emerged. For example, the teaching of Japanese literature blends with women's studies; Japanese art and architecture dovetails with archaeology; and the study of Buddhism compounds holistically with cultural, philosophical, and sociological issues in terms of Japanese civilization. This interdisciplinary environment is simultaneously comparative, though the range of comparison is limited geographically to Asia: that is, the majority of Japanese Studies courses are taught in comparison with both Korean and Chinese elements. The current Japanese Collection reflects the interdisciplinary and comparative nature of the academic and research direction that is prevalent today.

Japanese Studies permeates other academic programs offered by such departments as History, Economics, History of Art, History and Sociology of Science, Political Science, Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology. Researchers associated with the University Museum focus on Japanese archaeology and early civilization; scholars at the Wharton School concentrate on Japanese economics, finance, and commerce; and students at the Lauder Institute endeavor to earn a joint MBA/MA degree in Management and International Studies with a concentration on Japan.


A. Selection

The first priority of the Japanese Collections is to acquire the current core materials of the highest academic quality in support of Penn's academic programs with special emphasis on reference works including bibliographies and indexes as well as essential academic journals. The Japanese collection includes the following subject areas: anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture, Buddhism, folklore, diplomatic history, economics, modern Japanese history (1868-present), literature, philosophy and religion, political science, popular culture, and women's studies. The Japanese Collection also acquires works in Japanese about selected aspects of China and Korea in a carefully targeted way. For certain subject areas, a concurrent acquisition of fullfledged criticism of specific works and corresponding introductory materials applies.

Recommendations and requests from faculty members and students are given serious consideration. Materials bearing direct relevance to the academic programs and research receive the highest priority in purchasing. Each title must meet the following selection criteria: 1) the title is essential to the curricular mission and needs of the Japanese Studies faculty; and 2) the title contributes to current collection balance in a subject area. At present the Japanese Collection holds more than 65,000 volumes of monographs and subscribes to 179 journals.

In addition to the Japanese Collection at the VanPelt Library, a number of branch libraries within the University Library system maintains materials on Japan in European and Japanese languages--most notable of which are the University Museum Library and the Fisher Fine Arts Library. These materials are mostly gifts, or they are of highly technical nature requested seldom by faculty members.

B. Responsibility for Collection Development

The University's Japanese Studies Studies faculty set the direction of the Japanese Collections. Working on the advice of faculty members, the Japanese Studies Librarian takes charge of both the Japanese Studies collection development. Faculty and student recommendations and requests are a necessary part of the selection process. The Japanese Studies Librarian balances and coordinates the collections as a whole. The decision to acquire or not to acquire materials rests solely with the Library.

C. Location

The Japanese Collection on the 5th floor of the VanPelt-Dietrich Library Center house monographs and bound journals in Japanese. The Derk Bodde East Asian Seminar Room collects core reference works and a small number of unbound core academic journals. The Current Periodicals Section on the first floor of VanPelt maintains unbound Japanese periodicals of a general nature as well as periodicals on Japanese Studies in European languages. The University Museum Library and the Fisher Fine Arts Library hold a number of Japanese monographs in anthropology, archaeology, and art/architecture.


The Japanese Collection selects most materials from publishers catalogs, most representative of which are: Japan Publications Trading Company, Tokyo; Isseido, Tokyo; and Bunsei Shoin, Tokyo. In addition, titles are selected from bibliographies and journal articles; and they are ordered from the vendors listed above.


Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting
Diplomatic history3/3/4
Japanese folklore2/2
Japanese history: Pre-modern3/3/4
Japanese history: 1868-present2/2/4
Japanese literature: Pre-modern4/4
Japanese literature: 20th century4/4
Japanese philosophy: Pre-modern3/3
Japanese philosophy: 1869-present1/1/3
Japanese popular culture1/1/3
Japanese Theater2/2/4
Martial Arts1/1/3
Performing arts: Pre-modern1/1/3
Performing arts: Modern1/1/3
Performing arts: 1945-present1/1/3
Political science2/2/3
Sociology of medicine/Bioethics1/1/4
Traditional medicine2/2
Women's studies3/3/4


The following categories of materials are excluded from the Japanese Collection: ephemeral works, gray literature, textbooks except for some language readers, translations of Western literature into Japanese, and works on science in general.


In order to supplement the holdings at Penn, faculty and students are encouraged to utilize a number of Japanese Studies resources located in the middle Atlantic regions. Columbia University in New York, for example, offers extensive law and pre-modern history collections. Princeton University holds a large number of Chinese and Japanese academic journals that are commercially unavailable both in the Humanities and in the Social Sciences. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., accessible within a day's commuting distance, offers the largest collection on East Asian Studies.