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  • Top page of Japan Search
  • “My Note” in Japan Search
  • “Gallery” in Japan Search
  • Secondary use conditions

August 2021

Japan Search: A National Platform of Digital Archives

Top page of Japan Search

Japan Search is a platform that promotes the use of Japan’s “digital archives.” It enables users to search, browse, and utilize the books, cultural assets, media arts, and other content held by libraries, museums, art galleries, and other cultural facilities in Japan.

The spread of the internet and the increasing digitization of society around the world has made it possible for everyone to access a wide variety of content on a personal computer or smartphone. In response to such a situation, the Japanese government is devoting efforts to the creation, coordination, and use and application of “digital archives.” A digital archive is “a body of mechanisms that collects, stores, and provides a variety of digital information resources.”*

The creation of digital archives has been under way in Japan since the early 2000s, mainly in public institutions. Libraries and museums have digitized information such as the titles and images of books and cultural assets in their collections to enable them to be searched and viewed by the general public. In the 2010s, the Japanese government positioned the promotion of digital archive use as a key policy because digital archives “collect Japan’s knowledge beyond sectors and regions,” can be “utilized for academic research, education, disaster prevention, and business,” and “promote inbound tourism and stimulate studies on Japan in overseas countries.”** The government has been making efforts such as formulation of guidelines and amendment of the Copyright Act to promote the creation and sharing of digital archives.

As part of these efforts, Japan Search (, an infrastructure for providing multi-sectoral metadata*** for digital content, was released in August 2020. Japan Search is a national initiative managed by a committee whose secretariat is set up in the Cabinet Office. The National Diet Library is in charge of collaborative practice and systems. As of July 2021, it connects 125 databases of 26 coordinator (aggregator) organizations, including the National Archives of Japan, the National Museum of Art, the University of Tokyo, and NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai, Japan Broadcasting Corporation). Through Japan Search, users can search in one place for metadata on a wide range of content recorded in each database, including books, official documents, cultural assets, art, movies, radio and TV programs, animation, and maps.

How to use Japan Search

Japan Search allows users to search using a variety of methods, such as by entering keywords in Japanese or English, by narrowing down the field or usage criteria of content, or by images. For example, a search using the keyword “ukiyo-e” will display information of ukiyo-e works or books about ukiyo-e such as the titles of works, names of authors, location of collections, and thumbnail images of content recorded in the linked databases. This data can also be shared on SNS.

The secondary use conditions for content are also displayed. For example, users can confirm the conditions governing use of images for commercial purposes, or for non-commercial purposes if the author of the original work is credited.

Secondary use conditions

Japan Search has a “Gallery” that introduces Japanese history and culture under various themes. This is a “digital exhibition” in the sense that the National Diet Library picks up a number of themed contents from the searchable content on Japan Search and posts them together with images and explanatory text. The Gallery enables users to view the breadth of digital content offered through Japan Search and its possible applications even without conducting a search.

“Gallery” in Japan Search

An additional feature offered by Japan Search is “My Note,” which allows anyone to create their own gallery. Users can collect their favorite content in their own “My Note” page, add notes to the content they have collected, and download the data in a variety of formats such as Excel and HTML.

“My Note” in Japan Search

Since its release, Japan Search has seen an increase in the number of collaborating institutions and the number of searchable contents. Japan Search is sure to continue to develop as a platform for people in Japan and abroad to encounter the diverse and rich contents of Japan’s digital archives.

Note: This article has been created with the consent of the National Diet Library and on the basis of materials published by the Library.

*** Data related to the description of the details, form, location, etc. of content