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Japan Studies Primary Sources: History

Diaries, histories, and chronicles

English and other European language sources:

Historia de Japam (Portuguese; printed): a history of Japan written by Jesuit missionary Luis Frois at the end of the 16th century. Frois lived in Japan from 1563 to 1597.

Kaempfer's Japan: Tokugawa culture observed (English; printed and digital): an annotated translation of German physician Engelbert Kaempfer's History of Japan (1727). Kaempfer served as a physician at the he trading settlement of the Dutch East India Company at Nagasaki and based his work on the extensive trips he made around Japan in 1691 and 1692.

Lust, Commerce, and Corruption : An Account of What I Have Seen and Heard, by an Edo Samurai (English; printed and digital):  a translation of the Seji kenburoku, an account and critique of Tokugawa society composed in 1816 by samurai Buyō Inshi.

Musui's story: the autobiography of a Tokugawa samurai (English; printed): autobiography of Katsu Kokichi (1802-1850), a late Edo-period samurai.

The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga (English; printed and digital): a translation of the Shinchōkōki, a chronicle of 16th century warlord Oda Nobunaga's life written by his retainer Ota Gyūichi in 1610.

The Diary of Kido Takayoshi (English; printed): a translation of the Kido Takayoshi Nikki, written by Kido Tadayoshi (1833-1877), a key player in the overthrow of the Tokugawa government in the late 1860s and a prominent official of the Meiji governement.

The Iwakura Embassy (English; printed): a translation of the official report to the Meiji governement of the diplomatic mission to Europe and the United States headed by statesman and plenipotentiary ambassador Iwakura Tomomi between 1871 and 1873. This report was compiled by Kume Kunitake, who joined the Iwakura mission, and it was published for the first time in 1878.

The Japan Expedition, 1852-1854 (English; printed): personal diary of Commodore Matthew C. Perry's travels to Japan. Perry played a pivotal role in opening Japan to the West in the 1850s.

They came to Japan (English; printed): a collection of European reports on Japan composed between 1543 and 1640.

Japanese sources: 

勝田主計文書Shōda Kazue monjo (Japanese; microfilm):

- purchased with partial support from the NCC MVS project grant, this 80-reel microform contains the personal papers of a prominent and influential Japanese economic official active during the early 20th century.

現代語訳吾妻鏡: Gendai goyaku Azumakagami (printed):

- a translation in contemporary Japanese of the Azuma Kagami, a chronicle of events connected to the Kamakura military regime from 1180 to 1266.

現代語訳徳川実紀家康公伝: Gendaigoyaku Tokugawa jikki Ieyasukōden (printed):

- a translation in contemporary Japanese of the Tokugawa Jikki's chapters concerning the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of Tokugawa military regime.

戦国大名の古文書 : Sengoku daimyō no komonjo (printed, Japanese):

- a collection of letters and other documents written by some 150  warlords of the Warring States period (1467-1600). This collection contains photographic reproductions of the hand-written documents, as well as transcriptions and commentaries.

徳川実紀・続徳川実紀: Tokugawa Jikki/Zoku Tokugawa Jikki (printed): 

- chronicles of the events concerning the Tokugawa military government. The Tokugawa Jikki were were compiled between 1809 and 1849 and cover the reigns of the first ten Tokugawa shoguns. The Zoku Tokugawa Jikki chronicle events up to the fall of the shogunate in 1868.

徳川禮典録: Tokugawa Reitenroku  (printed):

- a chronicle of the ceremonies and ritual protocol of the Tokugawa military governement compiled by former Tokugawa retainers in the early Meiji period (1868-1912).

Collections of historical documents in translation

Materials available at UNC

Sources of Japanese Tradition (printed and digital, English): a selection of source readings on history, society, politics, education, philosophy, and religion of Japan from earliest times to 2000.

Voices of early modern Japan: contemporary accounts of daily life during the age of the Shoguns (digital, English): Based on fresh translations of historical documents, this volume offers a revealing look at Japan during the time of the Tokugawa shoguns from 1600-1868, focusing on the day-to-day lives of both the rich and powerful and ordinary citizens. 60 original documents, divided into 42 thematic sections.