Charles W. Wason Collection on East Asia – Japanese Studies


subject description and guidelines

  • The Library’s Japanese Studies Collection gathers material of importance to students, teachers and scholars in the presentation and study of Japan, particularly as it pertains to those academic disciplines and approaches emphasized at Cornell. Potentially, materials on any subject that relates to the academic study of Japan may be included, although in practice, the primary emphasis is on acquiring materials that will be of immediate use to Cornell-based researchers. The collection emphasizes original works in Japanese that focus on or represent Japanese literature, history, religions, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, economics and government, although scholarly Japanese materials focused on other regions of Asia are also selectively collected. In general, translations and generic/non-area specific studies are avoided, although exceptions are made when these works are foundational for developments in Japan (such as early Japanese translations of western literature or Japanese translations of key philosophical texts) or represent a specifically Japanese point of view of strategic importance (such as a Japanese world history textbook with atypical content).


  • The Japan collection serves multiple constituencies. At center are Japan specialists: Cornell faculty, graduate students, visiting researchers and users from allied libraries, in order of importance. The collection also maintains an excellent teaching collection for graduate and undergraduate education, as well as for local users. Although the collection is designed with an academic focus on the study of Japan, non-academic users with Japanese language capabilities may make use of popular materials such as novels, films and graphic novels. Collecting decisions are not made in reference to this latter group, however, and requests for materials purely for pleasure or personal reasons are not typically granted.


collection strength

  • The Japanese studies collection has grown in relation to the academic strengths of the University, and mirrors them to a great extent. Historically, before the establishment of a separate fund for acquiring Japanese materials in the early 1970s, publications in Japanese were collected primarily in relation to the Chinese and Southeast Asia collections, establishing existing collection strengths in regard to Japanese colonialism and Japanese sinology. Japanese literature, history, religions, anthropology, linguistics and government have been the dominant fields of Japan scholars at Cornell, and strong, dissertation-level research collections have been developed for each of these disciplines, listed here in order of strength. Current collecting focuses include: intellectual history and philosophy; colonial history, theory and literature; feminist theory and women’s literature; Buddhist textual studies; marginalized groups and regions in Japan; popular culture, theater and visual studies; historical linguistics and the early development of the Japanese language; Japanese political ideologies; and Japanese policies towards and relations with other Asian nations. In keeping with recent changes in the University, attention has also been given to the development of a basic level collection on Japanese law.

collection level

  • research 

geographical guidelines

  • The collection is primarily focused on the regions of Japan, as variously defined throughout its political history. Included thus are not only the current Japanese islands, but also the Japanese colonies of the modern period and subsequent Japanese relations with these formerly colonized areas. The histories of areas and peoples now included in the contemporary construct of Japan before their inclusion as such are also emphasized (Hokkaido/Ainu and Okinawa/Ryukuan), as are (when relevant) disputed areas such as the Senkaku/Diaoyu or Kuril Islands. Moreover, studies in Japanese on other areas of Asia or the world are also selectively included, as they support Japanese studies and related library collections or fields of academic study at Cornell.

areas of significant geographic coverage

country (self-governing)

  • Japan 

language guidelines

  • Relevant materials published in Japan, be they in the modern vernacular, the many variants of classical Japanese, literary Chinese, or other world languages, are primarily collected, as are materials published about Japan in any of the world’s languages. By cooperative agreement, however, materials on Japan in Asian languages are typically acquired by other Kroch Asia specialists, and the main focus of the Japan selector in this regard is on western language publications on Japan. Here, English language publications, essential for undergraduate education, are primary, with focus also given to significant and essential works of scholarship in French, German, Russian and other European languages.


  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Russian
  • Spanish

chronological guidelines

  • The collection gathers broadly in all periods of history and literature related to Japan, as well as of Japanese writings on Asia. Enhanced emphasis is given, however, according to the alignment of faculty and graduate student research interests at Cornell, to early modern, modern and contemporary Japan.

material types

  • The collection holds material in all formats, from manuscripts to electronic resources. The vast majority of the collection consists of print monographs and serials, complemented by a sizable number of microforms, CD-R, DVD and other formats. Priority is given, where a choice exists, to digital formats.


housed in

  • Carl A. Kroch Library 
  • Library Annex 
  • Olin Library 

special collections or noteworthy resources in the field

  • Two individuals’ personal collections dominate the rare Japanese materials within the collection: the William Elliot Griffis collection of early, woodblock printed Japanese books (donated in the 1910s, a representative collection strong in works on Christianity), and the Maeda Ai collection (acquired in 1997), which includes early, woodblock printed literary works and early modern popular materials.

related library subject collection


academic department

  • Asian Studies (ASIAN) 
  • Government (GOVT) 
  • Linguistics (LING) 

academic unit

  • East Asia Program 


  • Anthropology (ANTHR) 
  • History (HIST) 


library contact

  • Mckee, Daniel J. -  Adjunct Assistant Professor and Bibliographer
  • Zheng, Liren -  Curator and Adjunct Assistant Professor