Home  >  History of Meiji Gakuin University Library

History of Meiji Gakuin University Library

“Meiji Gakuin University Library” opened in April 1949 at the university's foundation. The Library consists of two libraries—one on “Shirokane campus” located in Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo, and the other on “Yokohama campus” located in Kamikurata, Totsuka-ku, Yokohama City—offering nearly 1,200,000 books.

The Library now houses books owned by Meiji Gakuin from the time of its establishment and the time when the university was still a vocational school in the old system. The books range from those owned by missionaries who came to Japan during the Bakumatsu (late Edo) period to English-Japanese dictionaries, Japanese-English dictionaries, Christian books, and books on social welfare, which have been accumulated during the 150 years of its long history. In addition, as the Library now offers a wide variety of humanities books such as contemporary French literature and Greek books, it is visited by many researchers from outside the university. In May 2011, the Archives of Modern Japanese Music opened anew as an archive affiliated with Meiji Gakuin University Library. It offers approximately 500,000 materials taken over from the Documentation Center of Modern Japanese Music.

The Library’s motto is “The Truth Shall Make You Free (John 8:32)”, which was displayed in English at the entrance of the Library in the 1950s by the chief librarian of that time, Michio Takaya. The motto is currently displayed at the front of the hall in Greek at the Shirokane library, and in Latin at the Yokohama library.


Phrases displayed at the halls in
Shirokane and Yokohama

A path to Meiji Gakuin University Library

  • November 1877 : The library of Tokyo Icchi Shin-Gakko (Tokyo Union Theological School) opened (within the Tsukiji foreign enclave).
    Many books were donated by foreigners. These books include the names of the donors and a big square stamp stating that the book is “Owned by Tokyo Icchi Shin-Gakko.”

A book marked with the ownership stamp

  • September 1880 : Tsukiji Dai-Gakko’s book reading room opened
  • September 1883 : The book reading room became the library of Tokyo Icchi Eiwa-Gakko (Tokyo Union College).
  • June 1890 : Along with the merger of the schools and establishment of “Meiji Gakuin,” a building, now Meiji Gakuin Memorial Hall, was built in Shirokane. The hall was used as a library and a classroom for the Department of Theology. The ownership stamp was round and encircled by Roman letters.

A book marked with the ownership stamp

Toson Shimazaki, who entered the Department of Regular Studies at Meiji Gakuin as a freshman, describes in his novel, Sakuranomino jukusurutoki (When cherries are ripe), “a newly built, brick building on the campus consists of a classroom for the Department of Theology and the school library. The stairs, still giving off the smell of fresh paint, lead to the second floor where many book racks stand. A librarian sits at an elevated position. A small desk next to a bright window is surrounded by the book racks. Sutekichi borrowed a book he picked out and sits at the desk.” He adds, “the bald American professor who teaches history is the chief librarian.”


Sakuranomino jukusurutoki (When cherries are ripe), First published edition

In his book Waga shogai no fuyu, he introduces the library through his experiences, “I spent every day in the library of my school. The library of Meiji Gakuin at that time was one of the largest among the private school libraries along with that of Doshisha in Kyoto. Most of the books were donated by foreign teachers. In addition to the Shakespeare corpus and a collection of letters of Dickens, there were a variety of literary works such as biographies and novels, considering the times.”


Full view of the memorial hall

The books from this period have attached a piece of paper stating, “This Book must not be kept out more than FOUR WEEKS.” In its early stage, the library primarily consisted of books donated by missions that had agreed to the joint establishment of the school with the Protestants, missionaries, and volunteers. The first president, Hepburn, also donated his books. Therefore, there were many foreign books, and the literary works that Toson Shimazaki read were also the original versions written in English. Back then, Meiji Gakuin possessed one of the largest number of foreign books in Japan.

An article in Fukuin Shimpo, issued in 1897, explains, “Meiji Gakuin possesses over 7,000 books in its library, many on philosophy, theology, and religion. It is probably the largest theology library in Japan.” In particular, there were a large number of theological books donated by missionaries of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland and theological students in Edinburgh. Meiji Gakuin’s Department of Theology merged with Tokyo Shingaku-Sha in 1930 to become “Nihon Shin-Gakko (currently Tokyo Union Theological Seminary). Theological books were transferred at that time.


Cover of the old Book of Hours

Toyohiko Kagawa, a famous social activist, was also a student of the department, and he described how he eagerly read various books on the philosophy of religion while he was a student at Meiji Gakuin in his writing, Shisen wo koete (Beyond the death-line), which became a bestseller during the Taisho period. As the number of books increased, Meiji Gakuin University Library was relocated within campus to New Sandham Hall and Landis Hall and expanded from there.


Hitotsubu no mugi (A grain of Wheat), First published edition

Growth as a university library

  • 1949 : Meiji Gakuin University Library opened. There were approximately 30,000 books in the library. The building, currently the memorial hall, housed the library.
  • November 1954 : A three-story, reinforced concrete building was completed as the university library.
  • 1982 : A part of Toyohiko Kagawa Collection was transferred to Kagawa Archives & Resource Center.
  • April 1985 : Along with the opening of Yokohama campus, the Yokohama campus library, which has two stories above ground and two below, was completed.

The library has a semi-circular spacious entrance and a reading room with a bright hilltop view.
The library is designed to house 350,000 books.


Inside the Yokohama library

  • 1986 : An online book catalog was jointly developed with the Department of Administration and Development (currently the Computing and Information Center), and was used to search the books of the university with on-campus equipment.
  • April 1993 : The library, which has seven stories above ground and two below, was completed within the main building of Shirokane campus. It houses 500,000 books. It is an urban-type, high-rise building and was designed based on the image of a den wherein one can relax.

Inside the Shirokane library

  • April 1995 : Along with the construction of the north wing of the main building of Shirokane campus, underground stacks were added.

Underground stacks of the Shirokane library

  • June 1997 : The library website was launched.
  • March 2001 : Yamanote Line Private University Library Consortium (Aoyama Gakuin University, Gakushuin University, Kokugakuin University, Toyo University, Hosei University, Meiji University, Meiji Gakuin University, and Rikkyo University) was organized, allowing students to browse and borrow materials from the libraries of member universities.
  • March 2006 : Waei Gorin Shusei (A Japanese and English Dictionary, with an English and Japanese Index) digital archives was released. All editions, including handwritten manuscripts, can now be browsed on the web.
  • May 2011 : Archives of Modern Japanese Music affiliated with Meiji Gakuin University Library opened.