By Julie Rousseau and John Carpenter
I. English language sources
II. Reading names
III. Basic biographic information
IV. Pre-modern historical personages
VI. Translating court titles into English
VII. Necrologies (Who was whos)
VIII. Who's whos
IX. Copyright holders, Writers and Artists
X. Authority lists
XI. Biographic bibliographies
The Japan Biographical Encyclopedia and Who's Who. First
The Rengo Press, 1958.
Call no.: Butler REF RO49.9 J27
The Japan Biographical Encyclopedia and Who's Who. Second
The Rengo Press, 1960.
Call no.: Butler REF RO49.9 J27
The Japan Biographical Encyclopedia and Who's Who 1964-1965.
Third Edition. The Rengo Press, 1964.
Call no.: BUTLER REF RO49.9 J27
Each entry in this series has name, dates, and basic biographical information. Some entries are limited to a few sentences, others range to a couple pages. Kanji are given for name only. Includes many historical personages found in no other English-language sources. Very limited cross-referencing of names. All three editions, despite their age, are of great value to the student of Japanese history who needs an accessible English-language source of basic bibliographic information.
Includes biographical identifications of figures in Taishô-Shôwa history and Chinese figures associates with Japan at this time. Useful biographical information in English on lesser-known figures not to be found elsewhere.
42,000 names drawn mainly from companies in the listings of the
stock exchange. Corporate personalities predominate and literary
get short shrift. No list of criteria for inclusion is given. For
officials see Who's Who in Japanese Government, 1987, [EA:
.W48] or see below, Shokuinroku.
Patrick Geoffrey O'Neill. Japanese Names: A Comprehensive Index
Characters and Readings. New York: Weatherhill, 1972. 359p.
Call no.: PL 683.05
M/S: VI-1; IHJ: 0044
For determining readings of difficult and uncommon names. Some 3,660 characters with readings in the first part, 5,000 readings of mainly personal and family names in the second part.
This is the state-of-the-art family name dictionary organized in a two volume set arranged by stroke-number and gojûon. A single character set in a circle next to each name indicates one of 33 categories of name origin. A third volume (kaisetsu-hen) discusses the history of Japanese names, house crests, etc. See the precursor to this volume in the entry below.
A computer-compiled list of 110,000 names with readings. This has been expanded into Kadokawa's Nihon seishi daijiten. See above entry.
Arranged by kanji strokes. Also includes a handy list of pronunciations of place names.
Easy-to-use dictionary of name pronunciations. Not a biographical dictionary but gives job titles and such to identify the person listed.
Nandoku seishi jiten. Ôno Shirô and Fujita
Tokyo: Tôkyôdô, 1977. 217p. Call no.: REF. 281.03 On6
These two titles are small compilations of hard-to-read Japanese family names arranged by gojûon and indexed by number of strokes. The former is somewhat more professional in appearance, but neither represents a systematic compilation. You are often better off turning to a conventional name reading dictionary, such as the Nihon no myôji.
This dictionary is useful for looking people up by their given names, rather than their family names. Since most other jinmei jitens list names according to family names, this dictionary seems to be unique in its kind. It includes primarily historical figures, but also has living authors and artists, as well as literary figures. Entries are arranged by gojuon order and contains the kanji and furigana of the given name, in addition to birth and death dates and occupation.
This volume is an expanded edition of one first published in 1956, with 2300 names added and older entries revised. Names range from ancient times to the present, including names of historical figures, characters or personages in myths, legends, and the Bible, and characters from literature. This dictionary includes figures from Europe, the Americas, the Middle and Near East, and Africa. India was recently added. Lookup is via kana reading or romanized spelling. Entries include romanized name, dates and place of birth, chronology of important dates in person's life, and brief explanation of their "contribution to human culture."
The main uses of this dictionary are to decipher a foreign name
in katakana and to be able to use the correct katakana when writing a
name, in order to be comprehensible to Japanese readers. Each volume
entries organized in alphabetical order by romanized name, with limited
biographical information. There is also an index, in gojûon
of katakana names and their romanizations. The entries under the
names include: standard and alternate kana translations, the person's
and death dates, nationality, occupation, and information about major
The only drawback is the absence of cross-indexing, so if you have
no idea who a person is, you need to look the name up in each volume.
Jinbutsu refarensu jiten. Nichigai Associates, 1983.
RED: I: Kodai, Chûsei; II: Kinsei; III: Gendai (3 parts)
GREEN: IV (2 parts).
Call no.: REF CT203 .J3 J45 1983
When consulting this set start with vol. IV, parts 1 & 2 (GREEN) to get names and dates (use the indexes if reading is unknown). It will send you to vols. I-III (RED): I (Kodai), II (Kinsei), III (Gendai, in three parts). It gives only basic information, but the readings are reliable. Also cross-references you to listings in other sources. Very useful.
Nihon jinmei daijiten: gendai. Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1979. 860p.
Call no.: REF CT 1832 .D3422 1979
M/S: Vi-16; IHJ: 1081
This when it produced was an epoch-aming work, the first truly modern multi-volume dictionary of Japanese biography. Today, it seems very dated, but it has really never been replaced, one of the most surprising lacunae of contemporary Japanese bibliography. It covers persons deceased prior to 1953. In general, it makes more sense to turn first to one of the standard encyclopedias or the Kokushi daijiten for much more recent information. Still, this work is the basis for much that follows, and even now is worth owning. It is indexed by stroke-count, and includes major alternate names (primarily gô).
Note that the 1979 "Gendai" volume is essentially a supplement,
the years 1938-1978.
Rekishi jinmei yomikata jiten. Nichigai Associates, 1989.
no.: DS834 .R44 1989
About 40,000 names are arranged by character; there are onkun and stroke count indexes, and there is a gojûon index of name readings. Entries consist of name (in kanji, kana, and, inexplicably, rômaji), brief identification, birth and death dates, and a reference to one of 27 other specialized dictionaries. The arrangement is convenient, and this single volume is easy to use.
Index of all names to appear in texts prior to the year 781 in gojûon order, without readings. Volume 7 includes indices of first characters in gojûon order as actually read as well as by separate kan-on reading.
The organizing principle of this dictionary is not so much the Heian period as it is the year Choho 2 (1000), and the existence of all people whose lives correspond roughly to that period. Consequently, it should not be taken as comprehensive or even representative reference for the Heian period; it is in fact only of use for those working in this very specific time period. Having said that, this dictionary is very well-organized and easy to use. Entries are organized in gojuon order and are arranged into the following five sections: 1) Members of the Imperial Family 2) Male "commoners" (i.e. non-imperial) 3) Men whose surname are unknown 4) Priests 5) Women. All entries include date of birth and death, when known, as well as any particulars that appear in historical sources. Their sources are cited, making the dictionary useful for those who wish to get a sense of what material they might wish to use for a more detailed biographical search.
Sengoku jinmei jiten. Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1987.
Call no.: REF DS 869 .A1 S46 1987
Simply put, these volumes are the best compilations of biographical material on Kamakura, Muromachi, and Sengoku historical personages. Entries are arranged in gojuon order and includes persons from the field of politics, economy, society, religion, literature, and art.
Mostly Edo, but has a few Meiji-Taishô names. Does not give
but has many artist's names found nowhere else. Barebones biographical
Kûgyô bunin. 5 vols. 1934-38, in Kokushi
Call no.: 210.083 K82, vols. 53-57
This work gives genealogies of gods and emperors as well as rosters for court appointments. The rosters are arranged chronologically by emperor's reigns and thus are useful for identifying officials for whom one knows only the rank. The rank may also be used to trace out the careers of individual officials. In the index, the names of all court officials are arranged in gojûon order by their on-yomi readings.
This single volume dictionary lists genealogies of important pre-Meiji Japanese families in gojuon order. The index follows p.98. Entries give brief family history, family trees, biographical information on individual family members (usually including yomikata), and related families. This source is quite easy to use.
An older version of the above, in three volumes that begins with divine genealogies for the age of the gods, followed by imperial lineages and other leading families. Entries are longer than the above, and include family crests, but are written in classical style Japanese. In general, this is not as convenient as the above, but includes information not found there.
Originally published in 1936, this is a compendium of genealogies of wide variety, including imperial and leading families, Buddhist sects, the arts, music, theater, artisans, etc. Begins with a detailed table of contents for genealogical charts which give no biographical information nor furigana. Useful for checking someone's teachers and or disciples. Since it has no name index, locating a person quickly requires specific knowledge of his lineage.
An extensive set of Edo period genealogy in 26 volumes, 4 of which are indexes. This offical compilation by the shogunate for the daimyô and other vassal families dates from the early 19th century, and was the source material for Kozo Yamamura's book on samurai incomes. It is reliable for the Edo period, but not for earlier periods. It provides furigana for names and brief biographical data when known. Indexes are arranged by family name, jitsuna, sho and rank or title.
This set of geneaologies compiled by Toin Kinsada, a fourteenth century court noble, and later expanded by editors in the fifteenth century, includes imperial lineages, leading families, and scholarly lines officially recognized by the court. This includes high positions at leading temples. The index is in gojuon order, and includes Buddhist names, posthumous names, and titles. Charts in the main text give mother's name, and alternate readings for names. It is difficult to use, but it seems to be a classic, still used in annotations.
Keizu bunken shiryô sôran. Ryokuin shobô,
Revised and enlarged edition.
Call no.: REF Z5305 .J3 .M372 1992
M/S: VI-29; IHJ: 1097
A bibliography of genealogical works found in periodicals, single
and multi-volume texts. For each type of material, listings are made by
family name (gojûon order) and various categories such as
Useful to find genealogies of individual families.
The Tale of Flowering Fortunes (Translation of Eiga
Helen McCullough. Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1980.
Call no.: PL 787 .E5 1980
The appendix of this work gathers together a great deal of
on court ranks, including charts and tables. There is an excellent
of duties and qualifications proper to each rank. Good source to refer
to when in doubt concerning translation of court ranks into English.
Meiji kakochô: bukko jinmei jiten. Ôue Shiro.
Tokyo Bijutsu, 1971. 167+1264p. First edition published in 1935 under
kakochô. Includes index.
Call no.: REF CT 1836 .086 1971
M/S: VI-18; IHJ: 1085
Taishô kakochô: bukko jinmei jiten. Inamura
Imon Hiroshi, and Maruyama Makoto. Tokyo: Tokyo bijutsu, 1973. 355+115p
Call no.: REF CT 1836 .T34 1973
M/S: VI-19; IHJ: 1084
Shôwa bukko jinmeiroku (Shôwa gannen-54 nen).
Nichigai Associates, 1983. 747p.
Call no.: REF CT203 .J3 S53 1983
M/S: VI-20; IHJ: 1083
Gendai bukkosha jiten 1980-1982. Tokyo: Nichigai Associates,
Call no.: REF CT203.J3 G35 1983
M/S: VI-21; IHJ: 1082
Japan Who Was Who: Bukkosha jiten 1983-1987. Nichigai
Call no.: [This book is not in Starr library]
Gendai bukkosha jiten 1988-1990. Nichigai Associates, 1993.
Call no.: REF CT203 J3 G35 1993
Gendai bukkosha jiten 1991-1993. Nichigai Associates, 1994.
Call no.: REF CT1836 .G383 1994
These directories constitute a continuous necrology of modern Japan through 1993. The genre began with the Meiji volume, published in 1935 and edited by Ôue Shiro (1896-), a medical doctor with a passion for tracking down the deceased. As a child he was taken by a copy of the early Meiji list of officials, Shûchin kinroku, and while a medical student in Tokyo spent much of his time collecting newspaper obituaries and recording the tombstones at the major cemeteries. He completed his labors in 1935, and the resulting Kokumin kakochô was published in 1937.
The genre was taken up again in the 1970s, with the reprinting of the Meiji volume (now re-titled Meiji kakochô) and the compilation of the Taisho volume, this time by three professional bibliographers. The Shôwa volume, with those who died through 1979, followed, with the "Gendai" volume essentially providing a supplement for the years 1980-1982. It is unclear if the genre will be continued. The four volumes contain, respectively, 21,306, c. 3200, c. 22,000 and 7,568 for a total of about 54,000 names.
The original conception, as the titles suggest,was that of a kakochô, a temple register of the deceased, in chronological order. The primary listings for the Meiji and Taisho volumes are in order of death, with separate indices of the names in gojuon order; in the Shôwa volume, the emphasis is reversed, with the primary listing in gojuon order, revealing a decreasing interest in the kakochô principle.
The amount of biographical information varies from 4-10 lines for all volumes execpt Shôwa, which gives only minimal data: dates, profession, and place of birth. The Gendai volume returns to the principle of more detailed information,taken directly from newspaper obituaries (the sources of which are provided at the end of the entry).
The value of this series lies in the far more extensive coverage than any standard dictionary of modern biography. The limitation, by definition, is that it covers only those who have died--but this is precisely its strength, since numerous other directories are available for the living. The paucity of biographical data for the Shôwa volume is compensated for by the one crucial piece of data provided by works like this: the exact date of death. This enables one to go directly to newspaper obituaries, or to volumes of the Who's Who (shinshiroku) genre that appeared before the person's death. (It should be noted that the shinshiroku genre also includes necrologies of those previously listed, but only on a year-to-year basis, so they can be very tedious to trace.)
OVERALL EVALUATION: An essential bibliographical tool for prominent
modern Japanese figures, essentially the only "Who Was Who" genre
Shintei gendai Nihon jinmeiroku 1994. Tokyo: Nichigai
1994. 4 Volumes.
Call no.: REF CT 1836 .G316 1994
This volume is the first place to turn for information on living Japanese. This volume includes 105,000 entries, all arranged in gojuon order. Entries include occupation, educational record, birthdate, professional resume, contact address, hobbies, professional associations, and contact address. At the end of each entry, the date the record was last updated is also included.
A long-running title, with brief entries including occupation, birth and place of origin, personal history, hobby, wife's name & highschool, father's name. Names dropped as figures decline or die; necrology of dropped names from previous year listed in front.
Includes living leading figures in politics, government, academia, religion, business and the arts. More comprehensive in coverage of industry than Nihon shinshiroku. Arranged in gojûon order by kanji, readings provided. Brief biographical entry, including such information as contacts or friends and biographies of immediate family members. Listing depends on amount of tax paid, so also serves as a directory of wealth.
List of national and local public officials. Arranged by ministry, organization, and prefecture, and provides names of officials as well as addresses of higher officials, and some dates of birth. Useful to locate figures by geographic or official position, and a detailed reference on information about duties and structures of major offices in the national government.
Dictionary of historical figures since Meiji period. Easy to look up
names, either by gojûon or by stroke count index. Although the
foreign entries are a waste of space from our perspective, all entries
are relatively lengthy, detailed, and substantially analytic, e.g.
Wonder summed up as "the Beatles of the black world of soul music."
Chosakuken daichô: Bunka jinmeiroku. Tokyo: Nihon
kyôgikai. 1951- . Irregular.
Call no.: REF DS 834 .A1 C5 (1955- ); DS 834.A1 C49 (1951-1953, 3 vols. Old editions at 021.2 N57
M/S: IV-13; IHJ: 1078
A register of copyright holders. The first volume, jinmei sakuin, has names in gojûon order and refers reader to section (numbered by general fields) and code number in the second. Entries, contributed by the individual, include name, address, date of birth (and death if the person has died since the entry was submitted), and sometimes affiliation, alma mater, works copyrighted. The back of the 1988 edition lists individuals in earlier registers who have since died.
Shin gendai Nihon shippitsusha daijiten. Kida Jun'ichiro, et
al. Nichigai Associates,1992-1993. 5 Volumes.
Call no.: REF Z 3306 .G452 1992
These volumes contain extensive listings of 120,000 Japanese writers in all areas but the natural sciences. Each entry contains a bibliography of publications between the years 1977-1982 and 198 through 1992, including newspaper and magazine articles, interviews, and books.
This two-volume resource is prepared by the Monbushô and
biographical information on 136,000 living scholars (Japanese and
engaged in a variety of disciplines in Japan, including philosophy,
sociology, education, anthropology, history, art history, literature,
and economics. Entries are arranged by gojuon order for Japanese names
and alphabetical order for European names. Entries include professional
title, highest degree, awards, affiliated institution, current research
topics (limit 3), and publications (limit 3). This volume is quite
when you want to find out what specific scholars are currently
It is also good for browsing if you want to know what scholars are at
institutions. The contact addresses and phone numbers (listed at the
of Volume 2) are particularly useful, as are the important publications
of each scholar.
Kokuritsu kokkai toshokan choshamei tenkyoroku. Meiji
Nihon jinmei. Kokuritsu Kokkai Toshokan. Tokyo: Kinokuniya Shoten,
3 vols. Call no.: REF Z 695.1 .P4 K64 1979
These volumes provide the readings of names for Japanese authors
in the National Diet Library, together with the source (or "authority")
for the reading, whether from information in one of the writer's books,
from biographical dictionaries, from direct contact, and so forth. The
single most reliable way to find out the accepted reading of an
Ôbun nihon jinbutsu bunken mokuroku [A Bibliography of Japanese Biography in Western Languages]. Fujitsu Shigeo. Hirakata: Fujitsu. 1981. 157p. Call no.: REF Z5305.J3 F84 1981
Useful lists of books and articles on Japanese historical figures written in European languages, primarily English.
Denki, hyôden, zenhôjô (Complete List of
1945-1989). Nichigai Associates, 1991. PART 1: Japanese. PART 2:
Call no.: REF Z 5305 .J3 D46 1991
This reference work is a list of all biographies, critical biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, reminiscences, diaries, letters published in Japan of both Japanese and "other Asian people" (whose names are written in kanji). 18,000 people and around 44,000 biographies (excluding children's books) are included. Biographies are listed clearly by the author's most common name and non-kanji names can be found in the companion volume, Seiyô hen. This volume is the place to start for a thorough listing of postwar biographical material. It lists more postwar material than Nihon jinbutsu bunken mokuroku, below.
More that 30,000 Japanese persons. Gives bibliographies of biographies or critical works on the person which were published from 1868 to 1966. Arranged in gojuon order, but does not include furigana. An extremely useful work.
This source can be used to fill in the gaps not covered by the above volume. although its listings are quite limited, containing only 9,000 entries. The periods covered are as follows: Humanities, 1945-1969; Economics and Sociology, 1868-1968; and Law and Politics, 1868-1971.
This volume takes up where the Nihon jinbutsu bunken mokuroku leaves off; includes 14,000 people and 35,000 entries.
Annual index to biographical articles in 13 newspapers, 15 weekly, and 28 monthly magazines. 1983 issues accompanied by "Jinbutsu Sô Sakuin" Issues for 1981-1984 published in 2-5 volumes. Suspended in 1985. May now be available in CD-ROM.