Japanese Language & Literature: Overview

Welcome! | ようこそ (yokoso)

Welcome to the Japanese Language and Literature Guide. Use this guide to help you find resources and information about Japan, including its culture, language, literature and history.

Before starting, here are few tips to help you in your research.

Sometimes searching for Japanese language materials can be tricky. There are three sign systems used in Japan, kanji, hiragana and katakana, as well as Romanized words. One often needs to be familiar with these four scripts in order to search effectively for Japanese materials and information.

Romanization | ローマ字 (romaji)

Romanization is the transliteration of the Japanese scripts into Roman letters.  The standardization for this has changed over time, and there exist multiple ways to write the same words in romaji. For more information on Japanese Romanization:

Word Division | 分かち書き (wakachi gaki)

The current practice of how to divide Japanese words is described in Library of Congress Japanese Romanization Table (pdf file). However, the rules had been revised many times in the past and many historical online records may still adhere to the old rules. For example, you will see many forms:

大辞典 "daijiten" or "dai jiten" or "dai-jiten"

日本史  "nihonshi" or "nihon shi"

会社史  "kaishashi" or "kaisha shi"

大人名辞典  "daijinmei jiten" or "dai jinmei jiten"

It is recommended to try multiple forms when you search.

Classifications | 分類 (bunrui)

Classifications in North America
When you are looking for Japanese novels in the Library, you see a lot of books with call numbers starting with PL8xx. What are these numbers? Libraries in Noth America use the Library of Congress Classification scheme to corelate similar subjects together. As you see the LC Classification Outline, "P" represents language and literature, "PL" represents languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania, and "PL501-889" represent Japanese language and literature. Murakami Haruki's Kafuka on the Shore, for example, has a call number PL856.U673 U48 2005, with U673 representing the author's code; U48 representing the first letters of the title, Umibe; and 2005 as the year of publication.

Classifications in Japan
Similarily, libraries and publishers in Japan use their unique scheme called "Nippon Decimal Classification (NDC 日本十進分類法)." Japanese novels are classified as the number "913" in Japan.

The National Diet Library uses its own classification scheme called "National Diet Library Classification (NDLC 国立国会図書館分類表). The Japanese literary works, for example, are classified as "KH" such as "KH384" for Murakami Haruki's Umibe no Kafuka (村上春樹「海辺のカフカ」)