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ASIA 212 - Writing about Japan

Library research guide for ASIA 212: Writing about Japan taught by Kurtis Hanlon (Winter Session 2023/24)


Welcome! This guide is to support the ASIA 212 students in their work on their research projects. Also see the Asian Studies - Non-Asian Language Resources guide for further English-language resources on Asia.

If you have any questions, please contact your librarians, Tomoko Kitayama Yen at Asian Library or Milan Simić at Koerner Library.

Having an urgent question after hours? Online chat reference service, staffed by B.C. academic librarians, is available at AskAway.

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Effective Keywords for Effective Searching

Without the right keywords, we may miss important resources that are available to us. Try and think about possible terms before running your search, and keep in mind the following:

Place (e.g. Edo, Tokyo) 

Date Range
Think about the date you would like to focus. e.g. late-Edo, Tokugawa, 17th century, 18th century, the 1600s

Think about the identity of travellers. e.g. gender, status (elite, celebrity, townsman, 士農工商 (samurai-peasants-artisans-merchants))

Events / Related Issues
What other events or issues are related to the topic?

Search Techniques


Library of Congress Japanese Romanization Table
Libraries in North America follow these rules

訓令式 Romanization
Used in Japanese institutions.

Although Hepburn romanization is now standard, older materials sometimes have variant romanization. You may miss finding something if you use a different romanization in your search, so try using "OR" searches or the following.

Wildcards and Truncation

Wildcards and truncation may be used in order to catch romanization and spacing issues. 


Allows you to search for terms that could have more than one ending.
Truncation Example: kaguya? = "kaguya hime" OR "kaguyahime"


allows you to substitute 0 or more letters in a word.
Wildcard Example: Ra?po = "Rampo" OR "Ranpo"

Note: the question mark is used for the UBC Library catalogue, but other databases have other truncation/wildcard symbols (e.g. UBC Summon). See this wiki page for a more comprehensive guide.

Combining Concepts

Use Boolean Logic, which uses special terms called 'operators,' to make your keyword searching powerful.

  • Boolean OR: This operator serves to broaden a search by capturing synonyms or variant spellings of a term. If you want to find any of the terms in the search, use the Boolean operator OR.

Example: "kaguya hime" OR kaguyahime

  • Boolean AND: This operator operator narrows a search by capturing two or more ideas or concepts. If you want to find both of the following words in the search, use the Boolean operator AND.

Example: 社会主義 AND 日本

The following diagram describes how the Boolean operators, AND, OR and NOT, work in database searching.