Institutional repositories (IRs) are all the rage these days in university libraries and similar institutions, especially in Japan, but also increasingly in the United States. These are databases of journal articles and other similar scholarly products put out by members of that institution – making most, if not all, of those products free and open to download. This is particularly powerful for accessing material from Japanese institutions, as so much is put out in small or obscure “bulletins” (紀要, kiyô) associated with a particular department or research center; for example, here is an article from the Bulletin of the Faculty of Law and Letters University of the Ryukyus 琉球大学法文学部紀要, something I imagine very few universities in the United States hold in print, and which I also imagine isn’t available digitally outside of the institutional repository – certainly not in JSTOR, Project Muse, or any of the other standard English-language journal databases.
Just to give some further scattered examples, here are some articles from: the Okayama University Scientifical Achievement Repository, the Hôsei University Repository, University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s ScholarSpace, and University of California eScholarship.
There are a ton of these repositories, and the number continues to grow. Those of you who use CiNii (likely the leading database for searching Japanese-language scholarly articles) fairly regularly have likely seen a little orange button for 「機関リポジトリ」 come up on an article – click this, and it links you to an institutional repository website where you can (generally) download the article in full-text PDF openly and freely. Institutional repositories are also linked into Google Scholar and other such databases to a certain extent, providing free and open access to articles that might otherwise be locked behind a paywall.
Search sites such as CiNii and Google Scholar are the chief way I have found my way to articles hosted on institutional repositories, but databases also exist simply listing out active repositories. ROAR, the Registry of Open Access Repositories (http://roar.eprints.org/) is one such database; OpenDOAR, or Directory of Open Access Repositories (http://www.opendoar.org/index.html) is another. Both of these are based in England, but include repositories from around the world. I have yet to explore either, so I cannot vouch for just how extensive they are – whether there might be considerable gaps by geographical location or type of institution – but on the surface, they look quite broad-ranging, with the front page of ROAR including repositories as diverse as the Pacific Rim Digital Library Alliance, the National Taiwan University Repository, the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations Union Catalog, and the University of Michigan’s Humanities Text Initiative, plus quite a few based in Spain and France.