Explore the important roles that books have played in the cultural history of Japan.
Discover the rich history of Japanese literature
A book is a tool for preserving words and images. Through books, an abundance of information, including the knowledge and experiences of the people of the past, has been handed down to the present. But books are more than records of words and images. Their form, appearance, and even the scripts and styles used tell us about the fashions and technologies of the times that produced them. By studying old books, we can learn a great deal about the geographical areas in which they were made, the historical background, and the individuals and groups involved in their making.
While displaying remarkable similarities with books produced in other areas of the Sinitic cultural sphere, Japanese books also possess some unique features, starting with their sheer diversity of form and appearance. Using a wealth of multimedia content, we will take a journey through the wonderful world of traditional Japanese books.
Keio University’s Book Collection
Keio University’s Institute of Oriental Classics is a unique institution specialized in rare East Asian books. The Institute’s extensive collection comprises 163,000 items and is open to the public as a specialized library. In this course, we will make use of this rich collection and rely on the expertise of specialists and researchers who have been working for the preservation and study of these resources. Using state of the art media resources, you will familiarize yourself with not only the content of traditional East Asian books, but also with their physical appearance, format, binding method, script, and cover style.
Learn about bookbinding styles and their influence on Japanese literature
In the first week of the course, you will be introduced to the main bookbinding methods used in traditional Asia, and to the practice of rebinding books. We will also discuss the influence of Chinese bookbinding methods on early Japanese books in all their various shapes and forms.
Explore old Japanese manuscripts and illustrated books in high-resolution images and videos
In the second week of the course, we will focus primarily on the different types of manuscripts and illustrated books that were used for waka (classical Japanese poetry) and prose tales (monogatari) from the 9th century through the 17th century. High-quality images and video recordings of materials in Keio University’s book collection and beyond will give you a real sense of the look and feel of these precious objects.
Discover the role of book publishing in the development of Japanese literature and scholarship
In the final week of this course, we will look at how the introduction of movable-type and woodblock printing in the 17th and 18th centuries helped books spread widely across social classes, and how this democratization of books affected Edo culture and learning.
What topics will you cover?
- How to handle old Japanese books.
- Evolution of scripts and materials used in traditional Japanese books.
- Binding methods and the practice of reformatting.
- The hierarchy of book formats in traditional Japan.
- Relationship between format and content in traditional Japanese books.
- Genre and binding.
- History of illustrated manuscripts and printed illustrated books.
- History of printing and publishing in Japan.
- Printed books and the development of scholarship in early-modern Japan.
When would you like to start?
Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts.
- Available now
What will you achieve?
By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to:
- Explain how old Japanese characters evolved into their current format.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between different binding styles, contents, and values of books.
- Describe how books affected the democratization of education in Japan.
- Investigate images from old books and identify the cultural and historical background of each image.
Who is the course for?
This is an introductory course and is open to anyone with an interest in the history of Japanese books. Basic knowledge of the history of Japan and Japanese literature will be helpful but is not required.
This course can also be studied alongside two companion courses, Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books and The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books.
The course makes use of a number of visual resources which may, unfortunately, make some of the activities not accessible to learners with visual impairment. Course videos will be in Japanese with English subtitles.
The Educators/Hosts will facilitate this course for about three times a year. Our next facilitation period is 1 June - 21 June 2020. While the Educators themselves aren’t available to facilitate this run, we encourage you to engage with other learners and there are opportunities to do this throughout the course.
Who will you learn with?
I'm a Professor at Keio University's Institute of Oriental Classics. I'm the lead educator of the courses "Japanese Culture Through Rare Books" and "The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books".
I am an associate professor at Keio University's Institute of Oriental Classics (SHIDO-BUNKO). I'm one of the educators on the FutureLearn course, "Japanese Culture Through Rare Books."
Who developed the course?
Keio University is Japan’s first modern institution of higher learning, and since 1858 has established itself as a leader in Japan through its continued commitment to education, research and medicine.
Join this course
Join free and you will get:
Upgrade this course and you will get:
Buy Unlimited and you will get:
About the School
Learn 100% online with world-class universities and industry experts. Develop your career, learn a new skill, or pursue your hobbies with flexible online courses.