Resources: Premodern literature in translation

Recently we posted a guide to several resources for finding Japanese literature in translation, including databases for old and new works and international competitions for translating recent works. As a complement to these sites, today we’re providing a quickie resource for those interested in premodern literature which is especially useful for studying earlier works.

These resources are hosted on the Meiji Gakuin University site and were compiled through the efforts of moderators and editors of the Premodern Japanese Studies (PMJS) mailing listserv, now located on googlegroups.

The first is a bibliography of translations of Japanese works to 1600 (, originally established in 1999 and last updated in 2006. Although the focus is literary prose and poetry, there are also more general (historical, religious, etc.) sources included. The list is organized in a simple, alphabetical format by title with quicklink jumps by letter, but your most efficient option will be to simply use the “find” option in your browser. It’s particularly useful that although each entry is entered in romaji, the Japanese characters are also included, which facilitates your search if the romanization you know a title by is different from the one used on the site.

Under each entry you’ll find a simple bulleted list of translations in publication and their basic info, often with abbreviations for better known collections or journals. A list of the abbreviations used throughout the site can be found on the notes page.


translation entries

Three other genre-specific lists are maintained on the site, including one for noh plays (, kyogen plays (, and otogi zoshi (, a kind of medieval prose narrative.

For the noh play list, a variety of information is included for the entirety of the 253 plays in the noh repertoire of the five schools, along with some plays no longer performed and some others of interest. Although the information may not be complete for every play listed, the categories included are:

(E) English translation
(J) citations of print editions, though more often a link to a full Japanese electronic text
(S) some related secondary literature in English
(A) name of the presumed author


noh play entry

There is also a list major English translations and studies (listed alphabetically by author), a Japanese language database of publications, and a list of important secondary publications.


kyogen play entries

The kyogen section includes an alphabetical list of plays by title, followed by a brief  list of reference works in Japanese and bibliographical references for translations and studies. Titles are also included in Japanese with hiragana readings of kanji.

The otogi zoshi list includes a brief alphabetical (by author) list of studies on the subject, as well as a list of standard series that include reproductions of the original Japanese. Although there are no quicklinks, the otogi zoshi in translation included are listed alphabetically by title.


These lists are pretty straightforward but definitely excellent tools for reading or researching premodern Japanese literary works. Are there any other major lists for premodern Japanese literature or sources you all use? Let us know in the comments or at!

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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