By Nicole Cohen
Although materials not held by Starr may be requested through interlibrary loan, The Library of Congress remains an important resource for students of Japanese history and literature as it holds some sources that may not necessarily be attained elsewhere. The Japanese Section of the Asian Division of the Library of Congress was established in 1930, although the collection goes back to 1875 when the US and Japanese governments agreed to exchange government publications. The Japanese language collection is believed to be the most extensive outside of Japan, consisting of 873,000 books and serials, 8,500 reels of microfilm and 15,000 sheets of microfiche of government serial publications. The collection is especially strong in the humanities, social sciences, government publications and journals in science and technology. 4,200 titles are works published before the Meiji Restoration, including rare material from the mid-eighth century and even a collection of works on traditional mathematics. The section was greatly expanded following WW II to include, along with much else, extensive research reports made by the South Manchuria Railway Company and the East Asia Research Institute as well as Japanese military publications and censored works from the former Japanese Ministry of Home Affairs. The microfilm collection contains thought control police documents, national and local Japanese serials and select materials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the offices of the Japanese Army and Navy.
The Collection is housed in the Asian Reading Room, which is located in the Jefferson Building. Visitors make their requests online or in print and wait until the material is pulled from the shelf and delivered directly to their desk. Japanese language reference librarians are on hand to provide help and the reading room is in general exceptionally user-friendly.