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.

Online Japanese Newspapers with PressReader!

Current newspapers can offer a great way to see how events are unfolding and discussed in Japan. In this digital age, such resources are thankfully at our fingertips. The present blog shows how advanced readers of Japanese can access Japanese periodicals and newspapers like the Mainichi Shinbun (毎日新聞, literally “Daily News”) in full print view through an online database called PressReader!

Mainichi Shimbun shown on PressReader

The Mainichi Shimbun is one of the top five most widely read daily newspapers in Japan (along with the Asahi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, and Nikkei Shimbun). In addition to carrying the daily news, PressReader also offers over ten years of full print views of the Mainichi Shimbun dating back to April 2011.  (It also offers of other foreign language newspapers, as well as English language newspapers published overseas. For example, readers who prefer reading in English can also access the Japan News, a major English language newspaper published by the Yomiuri Shinbun, on this powerful digital archive.)

Accessing PressReader and the Mainichi Shinbun

To access the Mainichi Shinbun, we recommend starting from the OSU library catalog page for PressReader. From here, you will click on the blue “PressReader” link near the middle of the page. After entering your OSU credentials (name.# and password), you will next be brought to Pressreader’s home page.

If you would like to read the Mainichi Shimbun, you will now have to  conduct a search for titles that are published in Japanese. To do this, scroll down past the “Featured” section to the header called “Publications.” Just right of this header, you will see the “All Languages” dropdown button, which you will click in order to find the “Japanese” language. After checking the appropriate box, make sure you click “Done” at the bottom right corner to see the results of this search. (If you click the “X” in the top right corner, you will cancel your selection.)

These steps should bring to you a page with thumbprint images of some of the Japanese Magazine and Newspaper titles available on PressReader.

As suggested in the screenshot above, you will see a thumbnail image for the Mainichi Shimbun under the “Newspapers” heading, and clicking on this thumbnail brings you to the newspaper’s top page.

Browsing the newspaper from here is relatively user friendly. You can either “Read Now” (by clicking the green button) or scroll down to view the latest issues, which appear further down the page. Alternatively, you can click the calendar icon to search by date for a specific back issue.

Selecting an issue on PressReader

We hope you will enjoy using the PressReader to access news from Japan, Ohio, or anywhere else in the world. If you would like to know more about other Japanese language options on PressReader, stay tuned! In my next blog, I will cover other tools and options for browsing various periodical titles. If you have further questions about research and resources, please contact the OSU Japanese Studies Librarian, Dr. Ann Marie Davis (davis.5257@osu.edu).

Twenty-first Century Hanga from the Modern Master Tsuruya Kokei

Three prints by Tsuruya Kokei. From the “Five Styles of Banzai-Ukiyoe” series.

The Ohio State University Libraries have acquired a new trio of Japanese woodblock prints, or hanga, now in the care of the Rare Books & Manuscripts Library (RBML). Those with an interest in traditional Edo and Meiji era ukiyo-e prints may find these works interesting, as they were created by the postwar artist Tsuruya Kokei (弦屋光溪, born 1946). All very recent works, the above prints are dated 2020, 2019, and 2018 (left to right). Known for his striking portraits of Japanese kabuki actors, Kokei has created a number of prints that echo in modified style the works of the mysterious yet recognizable Edo-period kabuki printmaker Sharaku (東洲斎 写楽, Tōshūsai Sharaku). While Sharaku’s prints spanned a period of just ten months (from 1794 to 1795), they formed a lasting impression as a dynamic and nonidealized collection of famous theater actors.

Like the early twentieth century shin-hanga (新版画) artists who mimicked the workflow of traditional ukiyo-e masters, Kokei produces all of his work himself, from the design phase, to cutting the woodblocks, and then finally creating the prints. For the vast majority of his prints, Kokei uses very thin and fragile Japanese papers such as ganpishi (雁皮紙), which allow his works to possess both a unique visual quality while demonstrating his impressive skills as a craftsman.

Yose-e by Kuniyoshi (1798-1861). Image courtesy of Wikimedia.org.

Kokei is associated with the prestigious Kabuki-za theater in Tokyo, where he sells limited amounts of his original works. Among the selection now housed in RBML is a 2020 homage to the prolific Edo artist Utagawa Kunisada (歌川 国貞, 1786-1865). A successful print designer recognized for his portraits of kabuki actors (yakusha-e) and female beauties (binjinga), Kunisada is famous as well for his more playful or humorous prints (asobi-e) of people and animals. Kokei’s prints are also evocative of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川 国芳, 1798-1861), whose humorous prints often featured men’s faces, comprised of bodies, or an assemblage of cats in an array of satirical positions. A quick study of these playful yose-e (寄席絵), or “gather together pictures,” certainly reveals the inspiration behind Kokei’s ironic twenty-first century pictures featuring cats, kabuki artists, and a strange blue face comprised of human bodies!

If you wish to view these or other impressive works of Japanese art held in RBML, please contact OSU’s Japanese collections manager Dr. Ann Marie Davis (davis.5257@osu.edu).

Additionally, OSU Libraries holds many circulating volumes on related Japanese artists and woodblock prints. I have listed a sampling below. Please check them out if you are interested!

Asobi-e of cats representing the 53 stations of the Tokaido, by Kuniyoshi. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.org.

Asobi-e of cats spelling “catfish” in hiragana, by Kuniyoshi. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.org.


Select Materials on Tsuruya Kōkei:

Tsuruya kōkei mokuhangashū (Matsuyaginzabijutsubu, 1992)

Tsuruya Kokei, kabuki actor prints : the 100th anniversary of the Kabuki-za Theatre (Shōchiku Kabushiki Kaisha, 1988)

Tsuruya Kokei : the complete woodblock prints, 1978-2000 (Hiraki Ukiyoe zaidan, 2000)

Select Materials on the Shin hanga (New Print) Movement:

Shin hanga : the new print movement of Japan by Barry Till (Pomegranate, 2007)

Kawase Hasui and his contemporaries : the Shin Hanga (New Print) movement in landscape art by Irwin J. Pachter (University of Michigan, Museum of Art, 1986)

Fresh impressions : early modern Japanese prints by Carolyn M. Putney (Toledo Museum of Art, 2013)

Select Materials on the Rise of Asobi-e:

Edo no asobie / Fukuda Shigeo kanshū edited by Inagaki Shinʼichi (Tōkyō Shoseki, 1988)

Kuniyoshi Kunisada by Sarah E. Thompson (MFA Publications, 2017)

Kunisada’s Tōkaidō : riddles in Japanese woodblock prints by Andreas Marks (Brill, 2013)

A Short Tour of JKBooks, an eBook platform from JapanKnowledge

A glimpse of titles available on the JKBooks “Book Shelf” (Hondana) search page

You may have caught our earlier posts outlining some of OSU Libraries’ useful Japanese Studies online databases and archives. In the past, we’ve covered the Maruzen e-Book library and the KinoDen digital library, and described some specific collections including The Oriental Economist Archives and Manchuria Daily News Online.

Here I would like to highlight specifically JapanKnowledge Books, or “JKBooks,” a valuable database with access to a range of corpora dating from antiquity to the present. Presently, our libraries offers access to 11 titles (of the total 13 that are available for sale) to users with OSU credentials. This list is expanding all the time, and just this year, in fact, we have acquired three new titles. (To preview these titles, please use the link here to jump down to our list below.)

As the name suggests, JKBooks is connected to the JapanKnowledge database.  However, in contrast to JapanKnowledge, which contains a lengthy list of reference books — specialized dictionaries, encyclopedia, and yearbooks, for example — JKBooks offers specialized corpora of primary sources.

Three of my favorite JKBook titles are Taiyo (The Sun), a 19th-20th century magazine; the Gunsho Ruiju series, a compilation of manuscripts dated from ancient times to the early modern era; and the ORIENTAL ECONOMIST archives, a monthly English language magazine elucidating economic topics in industrialized, Imperial Japan. This is only a small sampling of the interesting and valuable JK Books collections you can access online!

Incidentally, while JapanKnowledge is a Japanese platform, with Japanese-language materials, English users can easily switch the interface language by clicking the “Eng” button found in the top right of every page (see image):

Screenshot of JKBooks basic search page in Japanese

On the top purple ribbon, you will see a menu leading to three different search pages to help you find the content you need in the database: Basic Search (基本検査), Advanced Search ( 詳細(個別)検査), and Book Shelf (本棚).

Basic Search allows searches on particular words or phrases contained in any of the archived materials. Advanced Search lets you narrow your options a bit, letting you drill down within one or more particular collection(s). And finally, Book Shelf features a user-friendly interface that lays out each particular collection by volume, issue, and/or date of publishing. This may be your best choice if you are interested in a specific series in the database or simply want to browse the publications from cover to cover. The image below shows the “Book Shelf” search options available upon clicking the title The Oriental Economist, in JKBooks’ English-language interface.

Screenshot of JKBooks Book Shelf page featuring The Oriental Economist archive

JK Books is an especially powerful resource for those who need primary sources in the vernacular and for those who are forced to work remotely. There is no shortage of unique perspectives and in-context information hiding in this treasure trove of

Current JKBooks at OSU

  1. Taiyo [Nihon Kindai Bungakukan]
  2. Bungei Kurabu: Meiji-hen [Nihon Kindai Bungakukan]
  3. Kindai sakka genkokushu [Nihon Kindai Bugakukan]*
  4. Fuzoku Gaho
  5. Gunsho Ruiju series
  6. Bijutsu Shinpo*
  7. Toyo Keizai Shimpo / Weekly Toyo Keizai Digital Archives
  8. Jinbutsu Sosho
  9. The ORIENTAL ECONOMIST Digital Archives
  10. Kamakura Ibun
  11. Bungeishunju Archives*

Note: Titles with asterisks (*) denote new databases acquired in academic year 2020-21.

If you have any questions regarding this resource, or any other resource offered for Japanese Studies at the OSU Libraries, please contact Dr. Ann Marie Davis, Japanese Studies Librarian at the Ohio State University: davis.5257@osu.edu.

Notes (and PowerPoint Slides) on Key Japanese e-Resources

In the current pandemic, our electronic resources are more important than ever. With this in mind, last month I collaborated with the Institute of Japanese Studies to offer an online workshop called “Remote Research and Teaching: Japanese E-Resources at OSU Libraries.

Now that the event is behind us (and I’ve had a chance to catch my breath!), I’d like to share the slides from the workshop here: https://go.osu.edu/2020DavisIJSWorkshop

Collage of eResources Slides

Preview of the eResources Slides from Fall 2020 IJS Workshop.
Available online at go.osu.edu/2020DavisIJSWorkshop

What do these slides cover? The following are some of the key resources (with relevant links and blogs) that were discussed at the workshop:

  • The KinoDen Digital Library for Japanese e-books (A new platform that we wrote about in a recent blog here);
  • The Maruzen eBook Library (An even newer platform that we wrote about in the blog here);
  • The Japan Knowledge database, a major reference collection including dozens of top-rated dictionaries, encyclopedias, an economic weekly journal, some of the most important classics in Japanese Studies, maps, and more.
  • JKBooks, an electronic book platform that provides full-text access to various collections of historic publications containing specialized content.

Please be aware that most of these e-Resources are available to OSU users with login credentials through our University Libraries catalog.

For questions about any of these materials, please contact me, Ann Marie Davis, Japanese Studies Librarian, at davis.5257@osu.edu.

For our next blog, we hope to tell you more about JKBooks, one of the key e-Resources mentioned above.  Until then, please stay safe and stay tuned!

Credit: Many thanks to Nicholas Castle (Class of 2021), OSU Libraries student worker, for drafting this blog.

Maruzen eBook Library (MeL) Now on Trial at OSU Libraries

Update (posted September 1, 2020): Following the trial period described in this blog, OSU Libraries made the decision to permanently adopt the Maruzen eBook Library (MeL) platform, which can be accessed now at: https://library.ohio-state.edu/record=e1002576~S7. Continue reading for details on how to use this helpful new e-resource!

In an effort to increase the list of e-resources for research and teaching in Japanese Studies, we have set up an Extended Trial Reading Agreement for the Maruzen eBook Library (MeL), which will last until the end of May.  During this trial period, OSU users will be able to access over 56,000 Japanese ebook titles.

Also during this trial period, unlimited concurrent user access is possible, but printing and downloading are not. If you have specific printing and downloading needs – or any questions whatsoever about Japanese language e-resources –  please contact me, Ann Marie Davis, the Japanese Studies Librarian at OSU, at davis.5257@osu.edu

To get started using this online platform, click the link in the OSU catalog here: 


For tips on how to search for books in MeL and use the various platform functions, please refer to the Maruzen eBook Library cheatsheet.

If you see something you’d like to consider purchasing, please feel free to e-mail me. If you need MeL materials for your teaching or research projects, you can also fill out this form for eBook purchases, which goes straight to our OSU Library acquisitions office: 





Introducing KinoDen, a New Online Digital Library of Japanese e-Books

With the new stay-at-home orders of COVID-19, many of us are wondering how we can access the materials we need to continue teaching and studying?  It’s a difficult situation, but the platform KinoDen can help. This new resource offers a brand new library of Japanese e-books that we can now access from the comfort of our homes.

What is KinoDen?

KinoDen is the name of a digital library service that was launched in 2018 by Books Kinokuniya, a Japanese bookstore based in Tokyo. OSU users logging on to KinoDen will find the following user interface (picture below) allowing them to browse, read, and request new titles from a growing selection of thousands of e-books. 

Image of the KinoDen home page now available through OSU Libraries

KinoDen e-books can be read online through a web app called bREADER for smartphones, tablets, and PCs. This app offers useful features such as a bookshelf, highlighter, note-taking function, and more.  OSU Libraries has already purchased a number of KinoDen titles and has plans to purchase many more in the coming weeks.  Once you log on to KinoDen platform, you can browse the titles by clicking “検索.” and then checking out the list as categorized, under various subject headings on the left-hand column.  By clicking the  button “未所蔵を含める” (in the upper left corner of the page), users can view the list of titles that OSU has already purchased and are available now in full-text format.

Returning to the larger list of all available titles (by un-clicking the button “未所蔵を含める”) , OSU users will also have the option to request additional titles for the bREADER. If there is a particular book you would like to access in full-text, please click on the title of the desired book, and then click on the button “購入をリクエスト,” which should be visible on the right-hand side of the page. This will activate a short form for users to fill in order to put in their purchase request to Kinokuniya Books and our Library. (If all else fails, and you’d like to follow up on a book title, please don’t hesitate to contact our Japanese Studies Librarian, Dr. Ann Marie Davis, at davis.5257@osu.edu.)

If you would like more information about how to use this resource, please check out this video, which offers a useful guide to newcomers to KinoDen.  Students and scholars who need Japanese-language books should feel welcome to take advantage of this new platform and suggest titles to add to our growing collection of e-books. 

To view KinoDen on the OSU catalog, please click here.

Still have questions or suggestions? Please contact Japanese Studies Librarian, Dr. Ann Marie Davis at davis.5257@osu.edu.

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