All About Japan

Read 141 GB of Ancient Japanese Texts Online

Learning Japanese

Who doesn’t love getting a free book? Especially when that book is over 300 years old!

The National Institute of Japanese Literature, in conjunction with the National Institute of Informatics, has released a free pilot version of a database of digitized versions of ancient Japanese written works. The collection includes invaluable literary classics that largely date from the Edo Period (1603-1868) of Japanese history, including a 17th century copy of The Tale of Genji (pictured at the very top)—written by noble lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century and largely recognized as the world’s first novel—to the 1782 Tofu Hyakuchin recipe book (pictured above and below).

The release comes as part of the National Institute of Japanese Literature’s efforts to digitize its archive of approximately 300,000 rare literary works integral to Japanese literary culture. This first “Version 0.1” pilot database was made available to the public beginning in November of 2015, and currently houses files for approximately 350 total works, all of which contain compressed JPEG photo files and may also include bibliographic, reprint, and tag data in text format. In addition, five of the files come with typed transcripts of the full body text for ease of modern reading.

The National Institute of Informatics has organized the downloadable data on its website into 15 categories based on field of study. The largest individual category is marked as “Japanese literature,” which includes 56 works weighing in at 26 GB. At present, this information is available only in Japanese, so please use the handy index guide above to identify your interest.

Besides its nonexistent price tag, the beauty of the database is that you can download individual works, works in bulk by category, or even the entire collection at once—though you should check to make sure you have enough space to store a staggering 141 GB worth of data beforehand!

Even if they can’t read Japanese, bibliophiles around the world are sure to delight in this archival treasure.

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