Japanese Studies Research Guide: Searching Japanese Language Resources

Reference and research resources in Japanese

Search Tips

● Romanization         ●    Boolean Operators

● Romanization: Word Division   ● Japanese Script Search: Chinese Character Variants

● Phrase Search                              ● Japanese Script Search: Word Division Spaces and Punctuation Marks


Romanization search is usually recommended to search North American Library Discovery Tools like CLIO.

The revised version of Japanese Romanization Table was released in June 2022.

  • The Library of Congress romanization rules, based on the modified Hepburn system, must be used for accurate and complete search results: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/romanization/japanese.pdf
  • A romanized search generates more accurate and comprehensive results than a search in Japanese characters. The LC romanization rules are based on the actual pronunciation. For example, the romanization of “吾輩は猫である” is “wagahai wa neko de aru”; there is no distinction between “お” and “を”, both are romanized as “o”, e.g. “風土記を読む” “fudoki o yomu”.
  • Pay attention to word divisions.
  • The Romanization Table revision could impact how to search Japanese language resources.Following the previous Romanization Table, 日本史 had been romanized as Nihon shi. With June 2022 revision, you will start seeing 日本史 romanized as Nihonshi. You need to search both "Ninon shi" and Nihonshi to find resources containg your keywork 日本史.
  • Pay attention to long vowels, e.g. “神道” is romanized as “shintō” not “shintou”. 
  • CLIO displays diacritic marks such as macron ( ¯ ) for long vowels and apostrophe ( ' ) between syllables when the first syllable ends with the letter n and the following syllable begins with a vowel (a, i, u, e, o) or y. However, when typing your search keywords, you can ignore them. You can simply type "shinto" to find  “shintō." Likewise, to search for “中島健一 (nakajima ken'ichi)” simply type “nakajima kenichi.”

Updated: 6/27/2023

Romanization: Word Division

Word division rules are used by our library is different from one used in Japan. WorldCat includes bibliographic data from Japan and you will sometimes find them used for On Order items in CLIO.

How do you romanize 日本史? Japanese libraries and publishers usually romanize 日本史 as Nihonshi (one word) and North American libraries romanize as Nihon shi (a space in between) except when used as a part of proper names. eg) 現代日本史研究会 = Gendai Nihonshi Kenkyūkai 

How about other words containing 史? The following are some examples of those words with 史 in CLIO (△ indicates a space): 日本史 = Nihon△shi   仏教史 = Bukkyō△shi   神道史 = Shintō△shi   美術史 = bijutsushi   文化史 = bunkashi   女性史 = joseishi

What about 『シナリオへの道』?The image below is the search results for this book in OCLC WorldCat. Record 1 is created by Japanese libraries and record 2 is by North American libraries.

When in doubt, try different word division variants. Or try searching with Japanese script keywords in WorldCat and follow the holding library to find the item in CLIO.

Update: 9/16/2020

Phrase Search

Check Search Tips and/or Help files before start using a new database. Does it offer phrase searching? Phrase search is very important when searching for Japanese resources. 

Usually double quotation marks are used for phrase search, but some database use other symbols, etc. So check help files or do some testing.  

1. Word Division 

Word division rules sometimes torment you. If you find your search results include too much noise, switching from keyword search to phrase search may help you.

When you perform Romanization keyword search to find books with 日本史 in title field,  your search query Nihon shi could retrieve books like 『日本の詩』, 『日本の死』,『日本の仏教史』, etc. Try "Nihon shi" phrase search with double quotation marks instead.

2. Searching Letter by Letter or Searching for Words?

Many databases and search engines highlight your keyword(s) on search result page. If you find it too colorful or spotty with highlights or includes too much noise, examine it carefully. Especially when you are doing your search with Japanese script keywords, check if your keywords are dissected and search has been done letter by letter.

<Full-text search in HathiTrust>

Searching 出雲國風土記 without double quotation marks                         

 With double quotation marks: "出雲國風土記"


When searching PDF files, however, keep in mind that the OCR quality may have some impacts on your search results (See the last line on the first image above, for example. 雲 was converted into another character during the OCR processing and was not detected as a match. Do a backup search. Also keeping your phrase short might be helpful. 

Divide 出雲國風土記 into two phrases "出雲國" and "風土記"


<Searching Google>

Typing 出雲国風土記 in search box. On search result page, 出雲 and 風土記 are also highlighted in addition to 出雲国風土記 as a phrase.


Update: 9/16/2020

Boolean Operators

Check the information if the Boolean operators area available. Also check what is used as a default Boolean operator. It is common to see AND is set as default, however, sometimes different. For example, Web OYA-bunko's default operator for free word search is OR.

OR operator can save you some time to perform Japanese script searches when no ヨミ "reading" search is available or search engine cannot handle Chinese character variants.

NOT operator can help you reduce noise in your results when using a homonym as your keyword, etc.

<CiNii Articles: No ヨミ Reading Search Available>

子供 in title: 15,527 hits

子ども in title: 12,4459 hits

こども in title: 6,839 hits

コドモ in title: 193hits

子供 OR 子ども OR こども OR コドモ  in title: 145,618 hits (search results includes records containing more than one of the variants)

<HathiTrust Catalog Search: Cannot Handle Chinese Character Variants>

keyword search for Full view only: 2,035 Catalog results

keyword search for Full view only: 159 Catalog results

<Google: Use NOT Operator(- minus sign)>

To find 文楽 Bunraku puppet theatre DVDs excluding 人形浄瑠璃文楽名演集 Ningyo joruri bunraku meienshu series and avoid 落語 Rakugo performance DVDs by 桂文楽 Katsura Bunraku, try 文楽 DVD -人形浄瑠璃文楽名演集 -桂.

Updated: 9/16/2020


Japanese Script Search: Chinese Character Variants

In CLIO, do Romanization search first. Japanese script search doesn't work well in CLIO. If you are using more than one keyword (for example 明治 AND 文学), you are likely to miss many recent resources. If you know the exact title (for example, a journal titled "明治文学研究"), you may be able to do Japanese script search in CLIO. However, you still need to pay attention to Chinese character variants issue, etc.

When searching with Japanese script keywords, check if your database or search engine can handle Chinese character variants. Also check if there is any particular rules to transcribe Chinese character variants.

North American libraries use the East Asian Coded Character set (EACC) to catalog Japanese resources. EACC includes Chinese character variants which cannot be produced with a regular Japanese keyboard. EACC examples: 戶, 錄, 說, 卷, 寬

新字 new character variant and 旧字 traditional character variant may have some impact on your search results. Test with keywords such as 大学 and 大學 or 芸術 and 藝術.

Web OYA-bunko has a quite unique rule how they transcribe Chinese characters for personal names as below. Searching 國岡 in 執筆者/author filed returns no hits while 国岡 returns 20 hits.

<Testing Chinese Character Variants in Different Databases>



Update: 9/16/2020

Japanese Script Search: Space and Punctuation Marks


When typing your keywords with Japanese keyboard, pay attention to the use of space. Usually Japanese keyboard produces 全角 2-byte space and English keyboard produces 半角 1-byte space. Some system interprets and treats the 2-byte space differently from 半角 1-byte space.

Japanese keyboard: 明治 文学

English keyboard:     明治 文学




When you are cutting & pasting title and subtitles from CLIO to do another search in a different database, be careful with the colon used to separate main title and subtitle. WorldCat will return an error message if your query includes colon. (WorldCat.org can handle colon in your query)

Update: 9/16/2020