Largest collection of classic Japanese materials in Southeast Asia found in Vietnam

A recent study led by Professor Atsuhiko Wada of the Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences found that the Institute of Social Sciences Information (ISSI), a scientific research organization under the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), has approximately 11,000 volumes of Japanese materials in possession. The collection includes rare materials from the Edo and Meiji periods, and is believed to be the largest of classical Japanese materials in Southeast Asia.

Although a number of libraries in Europe and North America hold large collections of Japanese materials, no thorough assessments have been done in the Southeast Asian region. To investigate, Professor Wada and his team started this study in 2014, in cooperation with the Japan Foundation and research institutes in the local areas, and with financial support from the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research. As a result, they found 4,804 Japanese-style bound and 5,642 Western-style bound books as part of the ISSI collection.

The number of the Japanese-style bound books in the collection is perhaps the largest in Southeast Asia. Most of being published in the Edo and Meiji periods, the materials in the collection range from Japanese history books, for example, “Ruijū Kokushi” and “Dai Nihonshi (Great History of Japan); philosophy and ideology books mainly written by Shinto and Kokugaku (national study) scholars such as Motoori Norinaga and Hirata Atsutane; and materials on the traditional performing arts of noh and kyogen.

The Western-style books are mainly academic books and book series published in the Meiji Period, but the highlight here is a collection of materials from the Japanese Cultural Center in Hanoi, established by Japan in Vietnam during World War II. Because there are barely any related materials left on this institution, the Center’s collection is very valuable in studying cultural activities by the Japanese government at a time of war.

All materials in the ISSI’s collection are now cataloged, laying a foundation for building a system where researchers within and outside Vietnam could access Japanese materials at ISSI in the future. Further, the catalog data will not only be available at ISSI but will also be linked to databases at Japan’s National Institute of Japanese Literature and European research institutions. This will allow researchers to grasp collections of Japanese materials spread throughout the world in a more comprehensive manner.

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