A Visit to the Japanese National Archives

Last week, I took a trip to the
Archives of Japan
, arranged by Visiting U.C. Berkely Professor Fred
Gey.  I didn’t realize this, but the National Archives are a short five
minute walk from where I work in Jinbouchou, right next to the
National Museum of Modern Art

The mission statement of the National Archives is to preserve important cultural
documents from Japan’s history.  The documents in the archive range from
the 1600s up until about the end of World War II.  They have some
extensive, high resolution scans of maps, pictures, documents, scrolls, and so
on available on the web.  I was very surprised that they are using
which I really haven’t seen in use anywhere but generally am in favor of. 
They have some
great maps of Japan from times ranging back in the 1700s to just after World War
.  I am going to try to find where I live on one of these olds maps
one of these days – but I’ll have to do that on my windows machine since I don’t
have JPG2000 support on my Mac. 

There is a really
flash-based GUI with a man walking over a timeline
that lets you click on a
year, and then browse through documents from that year.  Unfortunately, I
can’t get Flash to display Japanese characters to me correctly. 

The National Archive is also somehow related to the
Center for Asian Historical Records
, which has an
online retrospective on the US-Japan War Talks based on documents from the
.  Based on the talk with the engineers there, it sounds like they
have helped spread their technical know-how on archive architecture and document
search to a few other institutions. 

Anyway, there is a wealth of information there to look through.  I don’t
see how anyone can get through any reasonable amount of it in a lifetime. 
The maps are really great though.







4 responses to “A Visit to the Japanese National Archives”

  1. Douglas Avatar

    Another example of how the internet is screwed up.

    You can get a nice little plugin for OSX Here:

    This allows you to view .jp2 and .jpx pictuers natively in Safari. The plugin works quite well… BUT!

    The Japan National Archives doesn’t care if you are capable of viewing a jpeg2000 file. If your computer doesn’t identify itself as a Windows machine with the proper plugin installed it won’t even let you have the file.

    Silly. It’s things like this that make me mad at system admins.

    Note that Firefox also opens .jp2 files nicely using the Quicktime plugin, but the Expressview plugin has a lot more features (like zooming).

  2. Fugu Avatar

    Oh thanks, I didn’t know about that plugin.

    The zooming feature for JPEG2000 is really nice, particularly in these high resolution maps, so I guess I’ll just have to stick with my windows machine. Nice to know that there is a plugin for OSX though.

  3. Bakafish Avatar

    Actually Safari and Firefox (as well as any other Core Image apps/ Preview, Quicktime, etc.) on OS X all have native JPEG2k support. What you are experiencing here is very bad website design that can’t comprehend that there are alternatives to Microsoft products (ActiveX?! Meh.) and are preventing perfectly compatible implementations from receiving the data. The more interesting thing is if you use the alternate JPEG link, they appear to be providing JPEG2k images… Inscrutable fellows.

  4. Fugu Avatar

    Hey Bakafish (never thought I’d find another Japanese fish-based pseudonym on the net) thanks for the comment. I didn’t realize that CoreImage had JPEG2k support. I just assumed that patents would prevent Jpeg2k from being included. That’s nice to know. I’ll have to check out the alternate JPEG link under Safari.

    It is really annoying when people don’t just follow standards and let the browsers give it their best shot.

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