Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

Online Course

Future Learn
Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

What is the course about?

Japanese Culture Through Rare Books
The course Japanese Culture Through Rare Books is an online class provided by Keio University through Future Learn. It may be possible to receive a verified certification or use the course to prepare for a degree.
Explore the important roles that books have played in the cultural history of Japan.
Course description
  • 3 weeks
  • 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. Develop your interests in Japan and rare books.
  • 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
  • Explain how old Japanese characters evolved into their current format.
  • Demonstrate 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.
  • This is an introductory course and is open to anyone with an interest in the history of Japanese books. A 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.
  • Keio University
  • 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.

Prerequisites & Facts

Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

Course Topic

History, Literature, Social History

University, College, Institution

Keio University

Course Skill Level

Course Language


Place of class

Online, self-paced (see curriculum for more information)



Degree & Cost

Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

To obtain a verified certificate from Future Learn / Keio University you have to finish this course or the latest version of it, if there is a new edition. The class may be free of charge, but there could be some cost to receive a verified certificate or to access the learning materials. The specifics of the course may have been changed, please consult the provider to get the latest quotes and news.
Keio University
Japanese Culture Through Rare Books
provided by Future Learn


Share your experience

Japanese Culture Through Rare Books
Keio University Future Learn
Rate the course

Do you recommend the course? *
Here you can find information, reviews and user experiences for the course “Japanese Culture Through Rare Books“. The provider of the course – “Keio University” – will be glad to answer any questions you may have about the class, click here to use the offical support channels. It would be great if you could share your experience of participating in the course – Your honest review will surely help others to choose the right class!
School: Keio University
Topic: History, Literature, Social History
Getting Digital