Herman J. Albrecht Library of Historical Architecture – Rare Pop-up Teahouses by Nobutatsu Tansai

Modern architects are acquainted with the idea of representing their designs in three-dimensions with the help of computer software. CAD (computer-aided design) programs can turn useful two-dimensional plans into practical 3D models as they would be seen in real life. Before the evolution of such digital technologies, artists in Edo Japan (1603-1868) created highly technical pop-up drawings known as okoshi-ezu (起絵図), which modeled 3D buildings through the construction of folding paper and cut-outs. Nobutatsu Tansai (覃斎信立) was one such designer, and he made dozens of examples of this origami-like art form with a particular focus on the spaces of the tea ceremony (茶の湯, cha no yu)

  • The contemporary wooden box containing the flattened pop-ups

This unique collection of Tansai’s chashitsu (茶室, teahouse, lit. “tea room”) pop-ups is held in the Herman J. Albrecht Library of Historical Architecture, located in OSU’s Thompson Library. Contained in a wooden box, these paper replicas are exceptionally rare, one of only three known collections in the world. The other two are held in Japan’s National Diet Library in Tokyo and in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Dated between 1820 and 1860 and believed to have been made in Kyoto, this set of okoshi-ezu are comprised of 65 pieces and are in remarkable condition for nearly 200-year-old sheets of folding paper.

Japanese-style architecture is eminently unique. Tansai masterfully captured the trappings of chashitsu, drawing (and folding) from the designs of famous historical buildings in and around Kyoto like the Fushin-an and Myoki-an teahouses. Each design is numbered and recorded in an accompanying manuscript. Tansai’s precise work demarcates the shape of the teahouses, but he has also faithfully written the materials and exact real dimensions of each structure. The sizes of rooms in Japan are often measured by the number of straw tatami mats that can fit inside, one of the measurements Tansai recorded. This is especially apt for a traditional tea room, an exemplar of Japanese-style rooms (和室, washitsu). Other elements of Japanese architecture represented include shōji (paper-covered sliding doors) and tokonoma (alcoves where hanging calligraphy scrolls or other artistic objects are displayed). The folded drawings are made on washi (和紙), a kind of durable handmade paper crafted in Japan, and the artist has stamped his personal artist’s stamp (判子, hanko) onto each model.

It is hard to overstate the rarity and significance of this special item. Japan’s paper arts, historic architecture, and ceremonial heritage are all well represented here through Tansai’s work. They are tangible icons enveloping intangible tradition; carefully crafted and lovingly preserved, these drawings express qualities that one could say permeate the macro culture of Japan’s old customs and are befitting of the stature of great historical architecture.

To view this rare collection, please contact Dr. Eric Johnson (johnson.4156@osu.edu), Curator of Thompson Special Collections, or Dr. Ann Marie Davis (davis.5257@osu.edu), Japanese Studies Librarian.

To see additional photographs, you can take a look at the Rare Books & Manuscript Library’s Facebook page. Consider following them to see news about other unique pieces.

These folding models belong to the Herman J. Albrecht Library of Historical Architecture, which can be visited in Thompson Library.

Okoshi-ezu defined by JAANUS:


Read more about Japanese teahouses with books from our collections:

Niwa to chashitsu by Tei Nishimura (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1956)

Shiro to chashitsu : Momoyama no kenchiku, kōgei I by Nobuo Tsuji et al. (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1992)

Kyō no chashitsu by Takao Okada (Kyoto: Gakugei Shuppansha, 1989)

External links to scholarly articles about okoshi-ezu:

Okoshi-ezu: Speculations on Thinness by Andrew Barrie, comparing modern Japanese architectural design to the paper pop-ups of the past

Okoshi-ezu by Siân Bowen, written for the Victoria and Albert Museum of Art & Design, UK, the world’s largest museum of applied arts and decorative design

Level Up Your Japanese With Online TADOKU

Some of our Tadoku (多読) books at Thompson Library, now available online, too!

What is Tadoku?

Do you like to read? Seeing that you have made it to this library website, I’m guessing you do. If so, tadoku (多読 )—literally, “extensive reading”—is one of the best things you can do to improve your Japanese language skills. In fact, you may have done tadoku before without even realizing it!

As a grade-schooler, did you ever have “silent reading?” An “SSR” (Sustained Silent Reading) period? If this rings a bell, then you are already familiar with the practice of tadoku. Now, if you hated being forced to read for long periods of time in school, don’t fret! Tadoku need not be so regimented. In principle, it is the reading of a large quantity of comprehensible material rather than reading short-yet-difficult material (think chapter books over academic reading assignments).

While not a uniquely Japanese concept, tadoku is popular in the Japanese language learning sphere to improve reading speed, comprehension, and vocabulary. Incidentally, you can also use this method for listening practice!  The concept is simple: read a lot from a book that you mostly understand, without the help of a dictionary.

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Announcing the Thomas Gregory Song Research Fellowship, Spring 2023

Thomas Gregory Song ca. 1940 in school uniform in Japan-occupied Dairen
(present-day Dalian, China). Image courtesy of Rare Books & Manuscripts Library

The Ohio State University Libraries is pleased to announce the Thomas Gregory Song Research Fellowship for an independent research project that makes substantial on-site use of the Thomas Gregory Song (TGS) Papers in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library (https://library.osu.edu/collections/ SPEC.RARE.0195/collection-inventory). Written predominantly in Japanese and English (with some documents in Korean), the TGS Papers include Song family genealogical records; personal photographs from Song’s childhood; an Oral History Interview; over 2300 blog posts; and personal correspondence, journals, and essays. The TGS Papers shed significant light on topics of World History, East Asian Studies, Asian American Studies, Asian diaspora, migration, and gender and sexuality studies.  For more detailed information on the Song Family history and related collections held at the University Libraries, please visit the recently launched Thomas Gregory Song Family Exhibit.

Applications are due by on Dec. 15, 2022 at 5:00pm.

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The View that Rocks: The Geology of Mount Fuji

Guest post by Takuma Goto

In my ongoing explorations of the Japanese Maps Collection, Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san to speakers of Japanese, is a prominent feature. Given its significance in the Japanese geological, social, and spiritual landscape, I have decided to focus on this great volcano in the present blog.

Examples of Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji from Wikipedia.org. ‘Fine Wind, Clear Morning’ (Gaifū kaisei 凱風快晴); Thunderstorm Beneath the Summit’ (Sanka hakuu 山下白雨); ‘Tsukuda Island in Musashi Province’ (Buyō Tsukuda-jima 武陽佃島 ); Shore of Tago Bay, Ejiri at Tokaido ( Tōkaidō Ejiri tago-no-uraryakuzu 東海道江尻田子の浦略図) 

Reaching an elevation of 3,776 meters, Mount Fuji is the highest peak in Japan as well as a major cultural symbol. This mountain, which is also a dormant volcano, is so important to Japanese culture that it has been featured in Shinto mythology. The goddess of Mount Fuji, Konohanasakuya-hima (木花咲耶姫), for example, has a dedicated shrine  called Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha (富士山本宮浅間大社) at the base of the mountain in the city of Fujinomiya in Shizuoka Prefecture. Fuji-san is also a popular motif in classical literature, traditional crafts, and gardens. This mountain is also a central subject of Japanese woodblock prints. As the chief character in the famed Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Japanese: Fugaku Sanjūrokkei, 富嶽三十六景, published from 1830-1835) by  Katsushika Hokusai, this beautiful landmark is indeed recognized worldwide.

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9 Resources for MA Students in East Asian Studies

Tomorrow, I will be sharing information about library resources with some of our MA students in OSU’s interdisciplinary program in East Asian Studies. My colleague, Chinese and Korean Studies Librarian, Professor Guoqing Li, will join me in covering some of our key library materials.

I made a handout (page 1, pictured left) focusing mostly on Japanese Studies resources, but also on broad topics like Copyright, Interlibrary services. and Zotero, which are instrumental for grad students, university instructors, and other scholars.

My plan is to distribute this handout to the MA students, but here is a digital version for anyone who’d like a copy. In addition, I’ve typed the contents of the handout below for added accessibility.

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Exploring Japanese Maps – A Summer Project

Guest post by Takuma Goto

Student worker standing next to Japanese map in the Geology Library

Takuma Goto (Class of 2023) working with a Japanese map in the Geology Library

Hi! My name is Takuma Goto, and I am a 4th year OSU student majoring in Statistics and Spanish. As my name suggests, I am ethnically Japanese, and thanks to my parents’ efforts, I understand Japanese as well as English. This has given me the opportunity to work with the East Asian Studies Unit alongside Geology and GIS librarians on a Japanese maps project at the library. My work is part of a larger project to surface culturally diverse materials for teaching and learning and identify materials for potential digitization and cataloging on the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal. With this blog, I’d like to share some of my preliminary findings! 

Pie chart Showing the Distribution of Japanese Maps by Location. Roughly 2/3 of the collection are in the maps room in Thompson Library, and 1/3 are in the Geology Library. The location of others are described in the blog.

Pie chart Showing the Location of Japanese Maps in the University Library System

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Learning from Woodblock Prints at OSU

Within the depths of our libraries’ shelves, cases, and drawers lie hundreds of special materials you may have never have imagined were there! With so much to explore, today we’d like to bring your attention to our collection of woodblock prints and one of the many ways we enjoy sharing these materials with faculty and students.

Students of HISTART 2003 observing original Meiji-era prints
by artists Kyōsai, Kiyochika, and Toshinobu

As our reading rooms opened up again last year, we were thrilled to hold several open houses, featuring our manga collection as well as substantial holdings of  woodblock prints (many of which are considered precursors to contemporary manga). Held across the University Libraries in the Theatre Research Institute, the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, and the Billy Ireland and Cartoon Library,  these historic prints were gathered and displayed together in the reading room of the Billy Ireland for students in Artistic Media and Techniques (HISTART 4005) last October and again for those in Art & Visual Culture of East Asia (HISTART 2003) in December and April.

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The Shining Prints: Visualizing The Tale of Genji – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of this blog series exploring a duo of fascinating Tale of Genji reproduction artworks found in our Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.  In this half of the blog, I will introduce the Genji monogatari gajō and then offer an analytical commentary comparing this material to the iconic Genji monogatari emaki (discussed in Part 1) in their portrayal of Murasaki Shikibu’s original tale. Lastly, I will briefly introduce some of our Japanese comics related to the Genji mongatari and held in our extensive manga collection!

This sample from the Genji monogatari gajō shows Genji’s coming-of-age ceremony in the first chapter, “Kiritsubo” (I, “The Lady of the Paulownia-Courtyard Chambers”). Explanatory text (left) accompanies the prints.

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The Shining Prints: Visualizing The Tale of Genji – Part 1

The Ohio State University Libraries are fortunate to have a wide range of fascinating Japan-related special collections. Several available are related to the famous classical Japanese novel, The Tale of Genji. Whether you are an established Genji scholar or a curious student, I would like to highlight some of our materials  that can provide an extraordinary visual guide to this classic tale. I have spent time with two works in particular for this essay: they are a set of reproduction prints of the iconic Genji monogatari emaki as well as a separate set referred to as the Genji monogatari gajō. This post will serve as part one in a two-part blog series about these iconic artworks!

Wood-block reproductions of the Genji picture scrolls,” ND1059.6 G4 W66 1994

The Tale of Genji (源氏物語, Genji monogatari), written by the female court attendant Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century, is perhaps the most well-known and precious treasure of the Japanese literary tradition. This Heian-era (794-1185) classic is lengthy, character-driven, and full of vivid detail about the look and feel of the imperial Japanese court and aristocratic society. The tale follows the romantic life of Hikaru Genji, the “Shining” Prince, and depicts his many, mostly tragic relationships with women. Genji is the son of the emperor and a lower-ranking court lady known as the Lady Kiritsubo. While he is his father’s favorite child and is considered for imperial succession, he is ultimately removed from the imperial line and made a member of the Genji clan.  This protagonist earns the description “hikaru” (光る, shining or radiant) on account of his beautiful appearance and endearing qualities. However, these same infatuating traits set up the bulk of the conflict in the tale, as the myriad women Genji becomes intimate with invariably experience neglect and jealousy or other courtly drama of the polygynous aristocratic setting. The memorable and complex characters of the Shining Prince’s world have appealed to Japanese audiences for centuries, and it’s no surprise that scores of portrayals, homages, and allusions have popped up since the tale was written over a millenium ago.

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Using PressReader to Find Periodicals from East Asia and Beyond

Last fall, we posted a blog about accessing a Japanese newspaper online with PressReader. This blog will introduce more of PressReader’s features and tools as well as more of their East Asian titles.

Screenshot of PressReader Home page

PressReader is an online archive and database of periodicals from around the world. It has a large selection of newspapers and magazines in over two dozen categories, from cultural publications to demographic-targeted and informational materials. The site includes publications in both English and non-English languages and can be easily filtered for titles from specific countries, in target languages, and specific years spanning the last two decades.

Aside from the slew of content, PressReader also has useful tools increase the archive’s accessibility. For example, a narration feature makes the site more accessible to users with impaired eyesight. Additionally, users can switch between scanned page views or reformatted text views, which makes the screen reader more adaptable to various screen sizes and hand held devices.

Screenshot of PressReader Narration feature

For users in East Asian studies, the PressReader has an abundant selection of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese resources.  For Chinese periodicals, you even have the option to narrow the search to a particular province.

PressReader makes available major publications like the Mainichi Shimbun in Japanese and Japan News in English, for instance; the China Daily and Global Times from China; and the Korea Times and Dong-a Ilbo from Korea.

Screenshot of China province selection

Whether you are looking for a contemporary source for a major political event, first-hand coverage of a natural disaster, or a native-language write-up in a business journal, PressReader can be a powerful resource. 

If you have further questions about PressReader, or if you would like to inquire or request others materials, please contact Dr. Ann Marie Davis, Japanese Studies Librarian, at davis.5257@osu.edu.

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