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Subject guide

Japan Studies: General Subject Guide

This Subject Guide is designed to support students of Japan studies at Leiden University in their research process. For every step of the research process, this guide introduces a number of tips and recommended resources. You can find several sub-guides and contacts in the 'quick links' in the tab on the right.

A. Explanation on research process

As a student you will have to do research assignments, write papers and hand in your final thesis before graduation. A good understanding of the research process is essential in order for you to have a clear idea of (1) what it is you have to do, (2) how to do it best, (3) how to get it done on time, and (4) what to do if you are stuck. During the process you will follow a number of steps in which you locate the information you need to write your paper, evaluate it, process it, and cite your sources as you write. This guide helps you to easily locate sources, guides and tutorials that can help you to complete every step.

B. Your Research Topic, question, and planning

You should always take the assignment criteria as a starting point. What is expected from you (literature review, short paper, thesis), what type of information do you need to include (for example, primary sources in Japanese), what are your limitations (word count, number of pages), and when does it need to be finished? After looking at the assignment criteria, you need to think about choosing a good topic, formulating a researchable question, and making a realistic and achievable planning for your research steps in order to meet the requirements of your assignment and your first deadline! Read about the “Philosophy of Research”.

Tips on how to choose a topic

  • Get inspired: Take inspiration from your required readings for a course you like, browse the books in the Asian Library reading room, explore news topics in the media and magazines, or have a look at other theses by former students. You cannot access them, but you get a sense of what they wrote about by reading the abstract. Ask yourself: which question has not yet been answered? What information seems to be missing? What can you add to the discussion?
  • Brainstorm: Write down possible topic that comes to mind. These tutorials can help you with your brainstorm.
  • Pick something you like: If you have little influence over your thesis topic, try and steer your assigned topic in the direction you would like to take it to. This can be a specific discipline (sociology, anthropology, politics, linguistics) era (historical approach) or method (surveys, data sets, newspapers, personal stories etc).
  • Make sure you can make it into an academic treatise: A good number of students choose a thesis topic that aligns with their private interests, such as Kpop, the beauty industry, sports etc. For a student, however, it can be a challenge to turn such popular topics into an academic treatise, simply because you may not have enough (1) relevant (2) academic and (3) accessible sources about the topic you need to base your argument on. If you start searching for sources in an early stage you can quickly determine whether your topic is viable as a thesis topic or not.
  • Mind the size of your topic: it is important to narrow down your topic to a manageable size. Too few sources means you may want to expand your topic a bit. On the other hand, having too many sources on your topic means you need to narrow your topic down further. This is one of the reasons why starting to search for sources early is an important step in pinpointing a research topic that is just the right size for you.
  • Use the Sage Project Planner or other tutorials for defining a topic

Tips on how to formulate a good question

  • Avoid questions that can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’
  • Formulate a ‘problem’ that you need to answer: Think about the big questions, such as ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘who’. This will give you an open-ended question through which you can explore your topic.
  • Have a voice: Ideally you already have a hypothesis, idea or point of view through which you can enter this topic. Often times you will adjust your view on the topic the more you learn about it.
  • Avoid ‘Compare A to B and see what happens’ scenarios: There needs to be a formulation of a ‘problem’ and a point of view.
  • Use these tutorials or the Sage project planner to develop a researchable question.

Tips on how to meet your deadline

  • Start with a general overview of the amount of time you have: When is your deadline? When can (and when should) you get started? How many hours can you realistically spend per week on this project?
  • Write down the steps you need to take from start to end: Go through this research guide to get an idea of how much time you need for your research. Don’t forget about things that might not be included here, such as spell checks, format checks, printing and binding etc.
  • Be realistic: A realistic planning will help you to set goals and avoid stress by impeding deadlines. Underestimating the amount of work needed to write a well-researched, well-written paper is the number one reason students experience a lot of overwhelm from the research process. Therefore, be realistic about the amount of work you can put in in a day.
  • Write down your daily top 3: Write down three achievable things you want to have finished by the time you are done for the day and start with the most important thing.
  • Don’t forget to take a break: It is important to put away what you wrote for a bit so you can revisit it later. Oftentimes you see little inconsistencies you overlooked or you have new insights.
  • Use these tutorials or the Sage project planner to make a planning.
  • Time Management Skills: Planning your research is about much more than just prioritizing and setting goals. It is also about how you deal with distractions, procrastination, and what to do if you fall behind. Time management skills are essential skills not only for now, but also for when you find employment. Read more about Time Management Skills: -setting goals, -how to prepare a schedule and -tips for time management.
  • Recommended Books:
    -Yvonne N. Bui - How to Write a Master’s Thesis
    -Umberto Eco - Hoe schrijf ik een scriptie
    -Umberto Eco - How to write a thesis (e-book)
    -Nel Verhoeven – Doing Research: the hows and whys of applied research.

A. Why should I think about how I search?

Unlike a supermarket trip, you do not always get the results you want within a certain amount of time. Students have negative experience with searching and access because of high expectations of: quality and availability of sources. It is not always possible to find the perfect source and a vast number of Japanese sources are still available on paper only, or not directly available in Leiden, this can take time.

Moreover, students have low expectations of skill required to search and the amount of time needed. You need to give yourself enough time to learn how to search and if you underestimate the amount of time you need, you can easily turn to less trustworthy or relevant sources because they are more familiar (Google), or more easily available (full-text search only).

B. Searching information
Background search & Keywords

The best way to start your search is getting yourself more acquainted with the topic; you know some things about it, but there is a lot that you do not know. Background search can help you to identify important facts (dates, events, people, terminology) and to refine your topic and can give you additional information where to search (dictionaries, encyclopedias, databases). For your background search you can use Google, Wikipedia, your textbooks, bibliographies and encyclopedias.

When doing background research you can start with a couple of keywords. You can use keywords from titles or abstracts. Specific keywords can narrow or broaden the amount of information you will find. Try out different keywords/synonyms to see what kind of information you get and which terms are useful. Learn more in these tutorials about keywords.

Searching in the library catalogue

Try out different search terms when you start searching in the catalogue. The catalogue automatically searches for all of the entered search terms in one document unless you use OR. You can use NOT if you want specific words to be excluded. If you don´t know how to spell a word or it can be written in different ways, you can use the symbol # or ? (wom#n finds woman and women). When you have found a relevant item, you can also use the references or citations as new sources. It is not recommended to limit yourself to things only available in Leiden University by selecting ‘Leiden Collections’ instead of ‘All content’ in the search screen. See our catalogue tutorial.

You can narrow results in the catalogue down by:

  • Availability: here you can select for materials that are peer reviewed, online available items, physical items, or open access items.
  • Resource Type: you can select the kind of source you are looking for, such as (e)books, dissertations, articles, images, websites, audiovisual and more.
  • Creation date: Narrow down your search results to a specific time period. Keep in mind to always check the age of your source.
  • Language: Select ‘Japanese’ for Japanese-language only books.
  • Topic: narrow down your initial search results by proposed topics. Keep in mind that not all sources have been given a marker that makes them locatable by ‘topic’.

Other tips for the catalogue

  • Find Databases: In the menu on the left, you can narrow down the list by going to specific disciplines.
  • Find E-journals: This is a quick way to check if Leiden has access to a specific journal. Be aware that you will not find paper journals through this option!

C. How to search for Japanese sources

At this point you have a topic, question, keywords, and you have completed the general library catalogue tutorial. Now you can practice finding source material in Japanese, or about Japan. This can be the title of a Japanese book, or just a general search based on a few Japanese keywords. One of the first hurdles in searching for Japanese titles in any library catalogue, is how to properly Romanize a Japanese title. Below you can find an overview of the most important systems, tools to help you Romanize Japanese titles, and some information on locating Japanese titles in the Leiden University catalogue.

Japanese Romanization worldwide

  • Traditional Hepburn. A romanization system published in 1886 by American missionary James Curtis Hepburn. It is characterized by the rendering of syllabic n as m before consonants b, m and p. Example: Shimbun (Shinbun)
  • Revised Hepburn or Modified Hepburn. A revised version of traditional Hepburn where the syllabic na as m changes are no longer used. This style was introduced in the third edition of Kenkyūsha's New Japanese-English dictionary (1954), adopted by the Library of Congress as one of the ALA-LC romanizations. Revised Hepburn is the most widely used system of romanization for the Japanese language today. This is the method of romanization used in Leiden University Libraries’ catalog, as well as the standard method used within the Department of Japanese Studies. A simple overview can be found here.
  • JSL. A romanization system by Eleanor Jorden based on Japanese phonology, first published in her book Japanese: the spoken language. The system is designed to teach spoken Japanese to foreign students, but is used very little outside of educational settings.
  • Nihon-shiki (ISO 3602 strict) Invented by Physicist Aikitsu Tanakadate in 1885 as a replacement of Hepburn. Unlike Hepburn, however, Nihon-shiki was meant to be used by the Japanese themselves to write their own language. This style is considered the most regular and strict version of romanization for Japanese.
  • Kunrei-shiki (ISO3602) followed after Nihon-Shiki, and was adopted in 1937 by the Japanese government after a political conflict between supporters of the Hepburn system and supporters of the Nihon-shiki system. It is nearly identical to Nihon-Shiki, save for a number of merged syllable pairs that match better with the way modern Japanese is pronounced. Because of its connection with wartime Japan, the US government as well as several editorials, newspapers and scholars were hesitant to use it. The division is visible today, as the National Diet Library uses the Kunrei-shiki since 1978, but many official and private organizations such as the Ministry of Foreign affairs and the Japan Times, use Hepburn.
  • Officially mandated variations. The Japanese Railways, Ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs use officially mandated variations to accommodate local place names, road signs and various non-Hepburn Romaji uses in passports. For more information on the transcription of personal names in Japanese passports, click here.

Tools, tables and tutorials for Romanization

Tips for searching in the online catalogue using Romanized titles or Kanji/Kana

Leiden University has been actively collecting books on Japan as early as the beginning of the 20th century, but cataloguing and romanization practices have varied over the years. The inconsistencies and local variations on existing international transcription rules make the collection less accessible than we would like. A large part of Japanese books processed before the early 2000’s have no Kanji or Kana entry, only Romanized titles. If you cannot find a book using Kanji or Kana, try searching the Romanized title instead using Revised Hepburn.

As of 2012, all Japanese-language books at Leiden University Libraries are catalogued using both the original title in Kanji/Kana and the ALA-LCC mandated revised Hepburn Romanization method. Many libraries have used traditional or revised Hepburn rules throughout the 20th century, and Leiden University Libraries is no exception. If you are looking for a specific book title but you cannot find it using Kanji, Kana or a Romanized title, try using (1) the ISBN number of the book, (2) the ISSN number of a journal, or (3) the author name and then narrowing down the publication date. If you suspect the library owns a book in Japanese but you cannot find it, please contact the subject librarian.

A. Where to find the Japanese collections

  • The Japan collections are stored at the Library Location at the Witte Singel. See visitor information.
  • The Reference Collection (dictionaries, encyclopaedias, bibliographies etc.) can be found in the Asian Library on the 2nd floor. You are allowed to read and copy them anywhere in the building, but these books are not available for loan. Be aware that you need access rights on your LU card for entry into the Asian Library.
  • Large series of primary source material can be found in the open stacks on the S-UB underground reading room on the -1 floor. These materials are available for loan. The stairs to this area are located near the main desk and the book lockers on the ground floor.
  • The special collections of Japan can be accessed in the Reading Room Special Collections on the 2nd floor. You can request any item you wish to see for reference in the Reading Room Special Collections. Please be aware that you are not allowed to take the materials out of this reading room.
  • All other physical Japanese Materials, such as paper books, DVD’s and paper journals, are housed in the closed stacks. More information about borrowing.
  • E-books, E-journals, online articles and databases on Japan Studies can be found in the online catalogue. You can find an overview of the available databases in ‘Find Databases’ or below.

If you have any questions related to the Japanese Collections, you can contact the subject librarian responsible for the Japanese & Korean Collection.

B. Recommended databases
General databases

Recommended Databases for Japan Studies (link to full overview)

  • JapanKnowledge NK+. JapanKnowledge is a treasure trove of dictionaries, encyclopedia’s, bibliographies, statistics, articles, columns and full-text searchable journals. For a full overview of all content in English, click here (please note that Leiden University Libraries does not have access to all content listed). Some of the most important ones for students:

    • Encyclopedia Nipponica. The Complete Japanese Encyclopedia (Encyclopedia Nipponica) is an enormous collection of information, including approximately 140,000 entries and 500,000 index words, all of which can be accessed on JapanKnowledge.
      Encyclopedia of Japan. An illustrated Encyclopedia famous for its accurate and elegant English, written by first-class Japanologists chiefly from prestigious Harvard University.

    • Encyclopedia of Japanese history. This is a digitized version of all 15 volumes (17 books) of one of the largest encyclopedias of Japanese history.
      It encompasses every aspect of Japan's history and includes entries in related fields such as archaeology, folklore, religion, art, Japanese language, Japanese literature and geography.

    • Shogakukan Unabridged dictionary of the Japanese Language. The dictionary that forms the basis for this database had been edited over a period of four decades, with the cooperation of over 3,000 authorities in fields such as history, Buddhism, Chinese writing, folklore, economics, law, zoology and botany as well as Japanese language, and Japanese literature.

    • Shogakukan Progressive English Japanese/Japanese-English dictionary. The dictionary introduces “Explanation” columns, a new feature that describes in vivid English Japanese culture, traditions, and seasonal scenes, such as “manga,” “rakugo,” “sushi,” and “Bon.” Japanese content is loosely translated into English that can be easily understood even by junior high and high school students

    • The Biographical dictionary of Japan. The Biographical Dictionary of Japan is one of Japan's largest such dictionaries, including more than 75,000 from the mythical age of Kojiki (Japan's oldest extant chronicle) and Nihon Shoki (oldest official histry of Japan) until the present.

    • Bibliography of Japanese Biographies. The Bibliography of Japanese Biographies, which contains comprehensive lists of references on biographies of Japanese persons, is a groundbreaking resource. It consists of over 30,000 historical figures from ancient to contemporary times, and lists more than 120,000 related works (books and magazine articles with names of authors and editors and date of publication) published from 1868, the first year of the Meiji era, until 1966.

  • Zassaku Plus (雑誌記事索引集成データベース). The complete database for Japanese magazines and periodicals from the Meiji era to the present. Information indexed in this resource includes bibliographical information on journals available in the library, such as Bungei Shunju, Chuo Koron and Fujin Koron. Also included is the index data for the Digital Collection provided by the National Diet Library, and the index for the periodical part of the Gordon W. Prange Collection (the 20th Century Media Information Database). Togehter, Zassaku Plus is the only bibliographical search engine covering sources published in the prewar period from Meiji onwards, as well as postwar publications not indexed by the NDL database. See also this Zassaku user guide from the University of Hawaii at Manoa here.
  • Aozora Bunko: A Japanese digital library with thousands of Japanese works in fiction and non-fiction. Many of these books are out-of-copyright or made available by the author. See also the Aozora bunko app. For information on how to use the Japanese books for text and data analysis, see this blogpost by Harvard University.
  • NDL Search. NDL search runs integrated searches for materials from the collections of various institutions across Japan, including public, university, and special libraries, as well as archives, museums, and academic research institutions. A number of the following datbases and search engines are integrated in NDL search, but can also be used individually:

    • CiNii Articles: (“sigh-knee”) is the largest online article index in Japan for humanities and social sciences, enables you to search information on academic articles published in academic society journals, university research bulletins or articles included in the National Diet Library's Japanese Periodicals Index Database. Click here for the quick guide, and check out the menu on the left for more detailed guides.

    • CiNii books: A union catalogue of Japanese books and journals held in academic libraries in Japan. Click here for the quick guide, and check out the menu on the left for more detailed guides.

    • CiNii Dissertations: search engine to find information on dissertations written for doctoral degrees in Japan, as conferred by Japanese Universities and the National Institute for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation. Click here for the quick guide, and check out the menu on the left for more detailed guides.

    • J-stage: Japan’s largest platform for academic E-journals. See the user guide for more info.

    • IRDB: Institutional Repositories Database (former JAIRO). Harvests the metadata of academic resources (journals, theses, bulletin papers etc.) from academic institutional repositories in Japan.

    • National Diet Library Online catalogue. Catalogue with all holdings by main building and Kansai building of the National Diet Library.

    • National Diet Library Digital Collections. New online tool with full-text access to over 340,000 books from the Meiji, Taishō and early Shōwa

    • periods in the collection of the National Diet Library.

  • Japanese Multi-volume titles finding aids collection. The digitized materials in this collection are selections from the finding aids (indexes, tables of contents, etc.) for a wide range of Japanese-language multi-volume sets. The topical coverage of the sets described includes art, business and economics, history, literature, and legal proceedings from the mid-nineteenth-century to the beginning of the twenty-first century.
  • Webcat Plus. Good union catalogue of Japanese University Library holdings. Detailed descriptions for sources within the record.
  • Asashi Kikuzo Visual II: Database containing all editions of the Asahi Shinbun and the Aera news magazine. Also contains an encyclopedia of contemporary vocabulary.
  • Yomidasu Rekishikan: Full texts and image data of Yomiuri Shimbun articles from 1874 to the present. Includes the English edition, The Daily Yomiuri, and biographical information on some 2,000 people. Yomiuri shinbun is Japan’s largest and oldest newspaper and is credited with having the largest newspaper circulation in the world.
  • Nichibunken Databases (International Research Center for Japanese Studies). You can find many different databases here, from photographs, ukiyo-e and maps, to records, poetry, medical history and performing arts.

    Though Leiden University provides access to vast collection of Japanese Resources, many more can be found elsewhere. Whether you have found enough relevant sources within the library catalogue or not, it is recommended to search and see what else you can find on your topic of choice. After all, the most important part of the ‘search’ step is finding out that a source exists. This can often best be done with different search engines, particularly those who employ extensive subject headings for their non-Western sources. You can often click one or more of the markers to find sources on the same topic. Before you leave the catalogue and go browse the web, don’t forget to install the “UBL Get Access” extension bookmark. It will save you a lot of time in case you find something that we might have access to after all!

    For more information on getting access to Japanese sources you found, please go to section 5c.

Recommended Library Catalogues

  • CrossAsia is a central access point for over 90 million bibliographic records of scientific information on Asian studies and offers access to research information for humanities and social sciences from Asian countries and about Asia. Academic fields covered by the service range from philology, history, political science and economics to ethnology and regional studies
  • Hathi Trust Digital Library Founded in 2008, HathiTrust is a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17+ million digitized items.
  • HOLLIS: The catalogue of Harvard University Libraries. The Harvard-Yenching Library holds an extensive Japanese collection. The search engine is very similar to that of Leiden University Libraries.
  • Keio University KOSMOS Library catalogue. Library catalogue of Keio University Libraries. This catalogue uses the same interface as Leiden University Libraries.
  • Library of congress – Japanese collection. The library of congress’s Japanese collection consists of over 1.15 million books and serial volumes, 10,100 reels of microfilm, and 15,000 sheets of microfiche. The Japanese collection covers research materials in virtually all subjects except clinical medicine and technical agriculture.
  • NACSIS-CAT. This is a searchable union catalogue of holdings in University Libraries across Japan.
  • National Library of Australia: The National Library of Australia has an impressive Japanese collection, especially in area such as social sciences, popular culture, traditional and performing arts, and a number of specific research collections. Aside from Inter Library Loan, the National Library of Australia has a Copies Direct Service where students can request copies of articles or book chapters directly by themselves.
  • The University of Tokyo Library OPAC. This search engine helps you search through all journals and books acquired by UTokyo from 1986 onwards. Cataloguing of items preceding this date is in process.
  • Waseda University Library WINE. Search engine for Waseda University Library.
  • Worldcat: is the biggest world-wide search engine for library holdings. You can use it to search information about books, but also to locate the nearest library that holds a copy. If any book or journal you found is unavailable in Leiden, you can either visit the holding library (which is often free for Dutch University Students) or request the item through Inter Library Loan.

Recommended LibGuides and Research Guides

Open Access

  • DOAJ: Directory of Open Access Journals. DOAJ is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals
  • Japan open access
  • DOAB: Directory of Open Access Books. The primary aim of DOAB is to increase discoverability of Open Access books.​​​​​​
  • OAPEN: Like DOAB, OAPEN is a portal for discovering Open Access Books.
  • OATD: Open Access Theses and Dissertations.

    Leiden University Libraries is dedicated to support Open Access publishing and encourages students to use Open Access sources. See the Open Access page of the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS). For PhD students and scholars: if you are interested in publishing your articles and books in Open Access, get in touch with the CDS for information and support.

A. Reading and searching: two sides of the same coin

The most conventional method of discovering relevant authors and publications for your research is discovering them in the footnotes and endnotes of other publications. While you may not yet be adept at locating Japanese language scholarly publications, you can already discover Japanese books, articles and authors of relevance for your topic by reading English language scholarly publications written by authors with a good command of the Japanese language. These scholars are, on the whole, very familiar with both the established and recent publications within Japan on their topic of expertise, and will include and dissect the Japanese publications they deem of value and interest in their own work. We therefore recommend to make enough time to read your sources, and then do follow-up searches. When reading ask yourself: which authors are talking about my topic, what do they say, what books/articles did they write, which sources do they cite and how was the research conducted?

You may think that reading all the sources you find in order to do follow up search will take too long. However, in this part of the research process, you are only reading your sources to (1) confirm that they match your information need, (2) double-check that they are academic (3) not too old for your topic of choice, and (4) find references to other scholars and publication about your topic.

Tips on strategic reading

  • Scan: Quickly go through a text by reading just the titles of chapters, abstracts of papers, paragraph titles, or the first sentence of a new paragraph, and the conclusion. This will help you determine whether or not you want to read the source more in detail, and which parts you can easily skip.
  • Reading and Note making: What are you supposed to learn from this assignment? What is the intended outcome? Use this as a guiding principle when reading making notes. Watch this video about using your time more efficiently when you are reading and making notes or read up on the ‘what to avoid when taking notes’ list.
  • Don’t forget to write down where your information comes from! If you are not sure where the information comes from when you start writing, you are at risk of plagiarism. Tip: The quickest way to make a short note when you are reading is taking the last name of the author + page. For example: Hall, p. 31. If you use multiple sources by the same author, add the publication year. (Hall, 2005, p. 31)
  • For more information see the Critical Reading Techniques.

Rinse and Repeat

In the second round of searching for sources – look up that interesting looking book you found in a footnote, find out what else the author of that book wrote, see if you can get it through Leiden University or other means, and... read! By repeating this cycle of read-search-access-read two or three times, you are very likely to find (1) the majority of relevant publications on your topic of choice, (2) the majority of authors writing about your topic of choice, and (3) a good number of sources of relevance to your topic of choice. Only once you have followed this thorough and deliberate way of locating your sources are you ready to move forward.

B. Refine your topic

This is a good point in your research to revisit your topic and your research question. While reading you may have found that there is much more about your topic than you initially though – or not enough. You may have found that your research question has already been dealt with in length by other scholars, while at the same time, another question that is even more interesting may come to mind. Perhaps you would like to take your research into a whole different direction after doing some reading and follow up research? When you are refining your topic, allow yourself to be flexible. It is common to modify your topic during the research process.

Take some time to visit the checklist for your topic and research question again, and see if you need to make any chances. If you have already handed in your topic and research question to your supervisor, you should always inform them of any major changes you wish to make. Have a look at this overview of tips for refining your research topic.

A. Digital vs. Paper
Tips for accessing Digital sources

  • If you found any digital source in the catalogue that you wish to access from home you need to login using your ULCN credentials.
  • JapanKnowledgeNK, Asahi Shimbun and Yomidasu Rekishikan have a limited number of consecutive users. If you cannot enter the database, you may have to wait for someone else to log out.
  • E-books from the catalogue may require you to install software in order to read them in your browser or download them. Some E-book platforms only allow you to download E-books if you register on their platform. This is free and does not take much time.
  • If you perform a search that says ‘No Records Found’, you have the option to expand your search beyond Leiden University Libraries holdings. Be aware that you likely do not have access to this content directly. Search results that show up using this method are often marked as ‘No Online Access’. That does not mean you cannot get access to this content. Write down the bibliographical information of the source and proceed to step c.
  • If you come across a source in the catalogue that is listed as “Online Access” or “Open Access” but you cannot get access, click the ‘report a problem’ option within the record.

Tips for accessing Paper sources

  • You need a valid LU card for access in most buildings.
  • To see books from the Asian Library, you need special access on your LU card. If the card does not work to open the doors of the Asian Library, update the card through the small silver box near entrance 8, or on the ground floor at the reception.
  • The catalogue displays the location information (where can you find it?), item policy (available for loan or not), and current availability once signed in. If the item is located in the Reading Room, you must access it yourself.
  • Leiden University Libraries consists of several library locations. Depending on your research topic, you may need to access physical books from these different locations.

B. Special Collections

  • The Special Collections consists of old and rare books, maps and manuscripts. There are a number of interesting materials either in Japanese or from Japan as well. Below follow some tips.
  • The Reading Room for Special Collections have different opening hours, document delivery time and use rules. Please consult this page.
  • You can find the materials in the Special Collections through the online catalogue. Change search in ‘All content” to “Special Collections”.
  • You can request material that is not yet in the online catalogue here.
  • You can order Digital Images of items from the special collection here.

C. Not available in Leiden?

By this point in your research you may have compiled a list of sources you found that are not available at Leiden University Libraries. No worries! There are a number of ways in which you can get access to these sources. Look up the book or journal in Worldcat. If you enter your zip code, you can find the library nearest to you that has a copy. Many sources in Western languages are also collected by the Royal Library in the Hague or other University Libraries.

What can you do when you find an item in Worldcat?

  • Go to the library location. The Royal Library in the Hague offers a 50% discount for students for a one-year membership. Leiden University Students can apply for a library card free of charge at all Dutch Universities. Don’t forget to bring your ID and student card!
  • Request the item through Inter Library Loan (ILL): If you wish to have the book send to Leiden, you can click the “Request through ILL” button within Worldcat and fill out the form.
  • Request the item through International ILL or Blauer Leihverkehr: For Japan studies in particular, often you will find that the item you need is not in a library in the Netherlands.
  • Ask Leiden University to acquire the item: You can file a request for the library to purchase a book, access to a journal or database. All requests are considered by the relevant subject librarian, and a decision is made depending on collection policy, available budget and price of the item. Please keep in mind that, in case an item is purchased, it can take several weeks for the item to be shipped and processed.
  • Buy the book yourself. Especially for older books, you can often find a cheap, second hand copy on websites such as Amazon , Boekwinkeltjes, de Slegte or Abebooks. For (Old) Japanese books, look at Amazon Japan, YesAsia, Kosho or Jimbou Book Town.
  • Contact your subject librarian. If the above options did not help, reach out to your subject librarian. It is possible that they know different means and methods within their field of expertise to obtain access to the materials you need.

D. Getting Japanese journal articles

Getting access to Japanese journal articles can be a hassle, since very little is available online. However, there are a number of options:

  • Make sure it really isn’t available in Leiden. Check if you can find the journal title in the catalogue. Keep in mind that most Japanese journals are in print only available, meaning that you will not find an article if you search for the article title in the Library Catalogue.
  • Order a copy yourself through the National Library of Australia Copies Direct Service. If you find a book chapter or article you need, you can check if the National Library of Australia has access to this item. If so, you can request up to 10% of the original or one chapter for personal research and study. You need a credit card for this.
  • Request the subject librarian to purchase a copy through the National Diet Library (Tokyo). Look up the article or book chapter through NDL search or the NDL OPAC catalogue and check the price list for the remote copy services. If you agree with the price, send a request to your subject librarian to purchase a paper copy of the article or book chapter. You will directly reimburse the librarian for the costs once the article arrives.
  • Request the item through International ILL: Many libraries in Europe have a huge collection or Japanese books and journals that you may access through Inter Library Loan. Costs are specified accordingly.

A. Why do I need to evaluate scholarly publications – wasn´t that evaluated already?

It may come as a surprise that you are required to be critical of all your sources, including the ones you find in the library catalogue, academic databases, and those quoted in other scholarly publications. In today’s world, you can find more information than you can ever read with just a single search online. But not all information is created equal. Publishing and sharing information has become accessible to all, without any quality checks or factchecks.

Academic information, at least, has put up a number of hurdles to tackle misinformation and disinformation from spreading, such as peer review. However, aside from the fact that these measures are far from failsafe, journals, books and authors can certainly be biased or prejudiced while working within the academic framework. It is your job as a scholar to be critical of all sources you use – academic or not – and train yourself in recognizing sources that you had better avoid for your paper or thesis.

B. Popular & Scholarly

At the beginning of your student career at Leiden University, you may sometimes miss the difference between scholarly information and popular sources, and why this difference is even important. Things like Youtube videos, blog posts, or magazine articles can be very tempting material to use in a paper, simply because they (1) mainly focus on being entertaining instead of being informative, (2) use clear and easy to understand language instead of academic English and field-specific terminology, and (3) due to algorithms, are likely to confirm your pre-existing worldview and ideas instead of challenging them. It is especially tricky when opinions of the author are presented as ‘facts’ that seem correct due to being based on cherry-picked data. If you are not yet confident in discerning between scholarly and popular sources, we recommend you follow a couple of tutorials.

C. Evaluating information

It is important you ask yourself a number of questions while reading a source, such as: Who wrote the information, why did they publish it, is there an agenda and when/where was it published? All of this comes before you can think about the text itself. This follows a technique used by professional factcheckers, called lateral reading, where you first consider the container of the text, before you look at the text itself.

The above is useful for information found both in print and online. For information found solely online there is an additional method, called the SIFT method. SIFT stands for Stop, Investigate the Source, Find trusted coverage, Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context. In many cases it will take about 30 seconds to quickly check whether for example a news report is true once you have trained yourself in the four moves of SIFT.

Take a look at these tutorials about evaluating information.

A. Organize & Cite
Which citation style should I use?

Depending on your field, the requirements as set out by your department, or your own personal preference, you can adopt one of the existing citation styles. The two most frequently used ones in humanities are: MLA (style is typically used for literature and humanities) and CMS (used in natural and social sciences as well as humanities documents. This is the most commonly used citation style in Japanese Studies). The most important thing about using a citation style is consistency. Do not mix up the different styles and rules! If you are uncertain which style you should use for your paper or thesis, always consult with your supervisor. See these tutorials and books below that can help you get started with making your own citations below.

Recommended Books:

How do I cite Japanese sources?

Reference Managers

Once you starting collecting literature for your paper, it is a good idea to organize your sources clearly from the start. With the help of a reference manager you will be able to find what you have read easily and be able to cite it correctly. Learning how to work with a reference manager is a new skill, but it will save you time since many websites and databases have ‘export citation’ options (always select UTF-8 and check if all information is correctly). The easiest way to organize your sources is by using a reference manager such as EndNote or Mendeley.

  • EndNote is a very powerful reference manager, which is supported by the university ICT department and is available to use on all university work stations. However, if you want to install it on your own computer or want to use it once you leave the university you will have to buy the software yourself.
  • Mendeley: A more affordable option, which the university ICT department also supports is Mendeley. You can learn more about these two programmes on our page about reference managers.
  • RefWorks: Web based reference manager. One of the more popular reference managers in Japan, given the fact that it handles East Asian scripts well and has a strong user support in many non-English languages, including Japanese. Look here for introduction videos and here for the Quick start guide.
  • If you found out halfway through you’d prefer a different manager, read this guide.
  • Specific for East Asian Scripts: when exporting a record from any database or website, make sure you always select UTF-8. If possible, set this as default.

Japanese sources and Reference Managers

While reference managers and automatic citation generators can save you a lot of time and stress, you should ALWAYS check if all information is entered correctly. This is especially true for Japanese sources; if the record you are importing has both Japanese script and romanization, chances are that the wrong fields will be imported while others are not, and your footnotes and endnotes will be incomplete. Often, you will have to manually input a Japanese source to make sure all information is in the right fields.

B. Avoid Plagiarism

One of the reasons the use of reference managers is advisable, is that it helps you format your references correctly in your paper. Citing your sources is an important part of avoiding plagiarism. In its most elementary definition plagiarism is taking someone else’s work, words or ideas, and presenting it as your own. So, if you refer to or paraphrase someone else’s work, you need to cite them in your paper. The primary reasons for citing sources in a research paper are (1) to give credit to the authors whose work you have drawn upon and (2) to allow readers to track down your sources, should they wish to do so.

If you read the above paragraph avoiding plagiarism does not seem that complicated, but in practice it can be a little trickier. The main stumbling blocks, apart from how to cite, seem to be when to cite – or rather whether something might be considered common knowledge – and how to paraphrase properly. Not to worry! There are a number of sources that can help you avoid plagiarism and cite things right!

It is not without reason that much attention is given to citing correctly and avoiding plagiarism. As a student you are also bound by the principles of academic integrity, for example when writing a paper or thesis. There are strict rules concerning plagiarism and fraud stated in your study programme's Education and Examination Regulations. Plagiarism also includes, for example, Self-plagiarism (using something you wrote before for a different assignment without citing yourself properly) and not crediting the original texts when you use your own translation of this text.

C. Synthesize & Write

Once you have found, evaluated, and read all of your literature (for now) it is time to think about what you have read and to synthesize the literature. This means that you need to identify at least the following three points (1) common themes between sources, (2) places where the sources/authors (direct or indirect) disagree and (3) gaps in the literature (what is missing?). But that does not mean that you should just give a number of summaries of articles. Instead, it is important to compare and contrast, broaden the argument and give your own thoughts and conclusions. For a more detailed explanation, use one of the following sources:


After all this, it is time to actually write your paper. Outlining, structuring, and not panicking will all help here, as will knowing that you do not have to write it perfectly in the first draft. If you are stuck or need more support have a look at the Sage project planner, A student’s guide to writing in East Asian Studies (Harvard) and these tips and links.

Still have trouble? Contact the Academic Writing Lab for hands-on help with your writing process. You can find them here.

General questions

For general questions about the library, the website, the catalogue and so on, there are few ways of reaching out: Ask a librarian, whatsapp, email or telephone

Who do I contact about the Japanese Collections?

If you have any questions related to the Japanese Collections, you can contact the subject librarian responsible for the Japanese & Korean Collection, Ms. Nadia Kreeft-Mishkovskyi. You can find her in room 240 in the Reading Room of the Asian Library on the second floor. This is the room directly across from the entrance numbered with a large ‘8’.

There are no office hours, but students are encouraged to walk in if they have a question. If the subject librarian would like some more time to properly answer the question it is possible to schedule an appointment. Questions students often ask the subject librarian include, but are not limited to: finding/accessing/locating specific sources, purchase requests, organizing movie screenings and events in the library.

Library tutorials for Japanese Studies

All students receive a library tutorial once per year, usually in the first semester. Tutorials range from simple case-based tutorials in the BA 1, to searching for Japanese sources in Japanese databases in the BA 3 and MA. The tutorials aim to make students familiar with the collections, teach them to effectively search for sources for their paper on their own, and introduce tools and tips for the thesis research process. All tutorials are organized as part of the curriculum of the Department of Japanese Studies. Your instructor will inform you when and where the tutorials take place.

Help for Thesis students

When you are working on your BA or MA thesis and you feel you are struggling in finding the right sources, enough sources or access to the sources you found, you can make an appointment with the subject librarian for a paper clinic. This is a one-on-one session where the subject librarian will go through your thesis topic, question and preliminary bibliography, and see how she can help you further your research. If you are interested in a paper clinic, contact your subject librarian.

Student support services

If you feel like you cannot complete an assignment or meet a deadline due to physical, psychological or emotional issues, please reach out to your study advisor in time. On the website of Student Support Services you will find a full overview and contact information.

A. Dictionary apps

  • Akebi Japanse dictionary. Good overall dictionary suitable for both studying and looking up words. You can also make flashcard sets to quiz yourself. Available offline. Android only.
  • Imi. Search for vocabulary using kanji, kana or romaji. Includes example sentences and animated kanji stroke feature. Android only.
  • Imiwa?. Offline dictionary with a variety of methods for locating words. Definitions of words are given with examples in multiple languages. Only for iPhone.
  • Japanese (by Renzo Inc.) Clear interface with options to search in handwriting, kanji components, radicals and more. Audio clips for entries are included. Available for Android and Iphone.
  • Kanji Recognizer. Simple but effective app at finding the reading of a Kanji through handwriting. Android only.
  • Waygo. Same idea as Yomiwa, but also available for Chinese and Korean. For Iphone.
  • Yomiwa. Snap a picture of text with your phone camera and the words, characters and their meaning will appear. Available offline. For Android and Iphone.

B. Dictionary websites

C. Browser extension for reading Japanese

  • Yomichan. A browser extension that helps you read Japanese texts. Includes a dictionary and flashcard creation support. Available for Chrome and Firefox.
  • Rikaichamp (Firefox) or Rikai-kun (Chrome). Browser extension that helps you read individual and compound Kanji, gives a translation and alternative readings of characters.

B. Other Apps and browser extensions

  • Anki. Allows you to import kanji and vocabulary set from popular textbooks or JLPT lists and then convert them into flashcards. These can range from just a word or kanji to vocabulary placed in sentences to help you understand the context.
  • Browzine, the app for quick access to your favourite academic e-journals on your tablet or PC with the free app BrowZine: full text, always up-to-date.
  • Furigana Reader. This application can notate Japanese Kanji with Hiragana or Romaji reading aids. Good when you just want to focus on the reading fo characters, and less on the meaning.
  • KuLa Kuzushiji App. Reading books from the Edo period or earlier requires the ability to read “kuzushiji” – characters written in a style not used today. KuLA, the Kuzushiji Learning Application, was developed to help people learn kuzushiji effectively on a smartphone or tablet. Available for Android and iPhone.
  • Language Learning with Netflix. Browser feature that gives you the full script of whatever Japanese content you are watching in Netflix, including furigana for the Kanji, the option to get individual words spoken out loud again, and to scroll ahead to see what words and phrases are coming up. Study as you binge! (Works also for the majority of other languages)
  • Obenkyo. App that quizzes you with multiple-choice tests, writing tests and more. Very good for studying for the JLPT. Unique feature is the handwriting recognizer. It corrects your form, but also your stroke order. If you make mistakes in writing you get a notification quickly. Only available for Android.
  • The Leiden search assistant makes it easy to search the UBL Library Catalogue, Google Scholar, PubMed and WorldCat at the same time from within any web page. Simply type in key words on the search bar or select words in a text on the web and right click. Available for Chrome and Firefox.
  • UBL get access extension for internet explorer, Chrome or Firefox. UBL Get Access is a browser extension that gives simple and quick access to academic articles, journals and databases licensed by the library when searching on the web.
  • Rikaichamp (Firefox) or Rikai-kun (Chrome). Browser extension that helps you read individual and compound Kanji, gives a translation and alternative readings of characters.
  • Yomi. Yomi is a Japanese reading app that provides a place for you to practice Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji reading skills. With Yomi you can also decide what you want to study, set your own pace, and track your progress. Get it on Google playstore.

C. Other useful websites

A. History of the Japanese Collection

In 2017, the collections of the East Asian Library were moved to the main University Library. Together with collections from the KITLV, KIT and the Royal Tropical Institute they now form the Asian Collections of Leiden University Libraries, with a joint reference collection in the newly established Asian Library reading room on the second floor, and a large selection of primary source materials in open stacks on the -1 floor.

The Asian Library was formally opened on the 14th of September 2017 by her Majesty Queen Maxima.

B. Collection Highlights

C. Cataloguing history of the Japanese Collections

D. Donations and Support

You can support the Japanese collections at Leiden University Libraries by donating your books or making a financial contribution.

You can also become a Friend of Leiden University Libraries! This will not only help us carry out many of our activities within the library, but also has many benefits for you as a new member.

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