Japanese Classics in a Time of Contagion
The National Institute of Japanese Literature (NIJL) houses thousands of volumes of classical Japanese literature, and is currently in the process of building a digitized image database of many thousands more. Many of these books depict vividly, not only in prose and poetry, but also with abundant, beautiful illustrations, how people in times long past fought natural and man-made calamities, and how they attempted through the process of recovery to regenerate their own communities. Some of these details may still be applicable to the present day.
I have made a short here hoping to share with you a few glimpses of that legacy. Although it would certainly be better if you could come visit NIJL in Tokyo and get involved in some of our public art and cultural projects, we are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the meantime, we have uploaded digitized versions of many texts on this website, which you can access free of charge without having to log in. Please don't forget to check out our https://www.nijl.ac.jp/pages/cijproject/en/ page after watching this clip.
Just like the ancestors of current day Japan who put their resources together and survived catastrophes, the time will come when we too can all look back on the current outbreak of the corona virus. Among the deep legacy of Japan's literary, linguistic and artistic history, I hope you too may find one or two seeds of hope to make the days and weeks following feel somehow less isolating.
Director General, National Institute of Japanese Literature
April 22, 2020