Transcription project “Tackling Pandemics in Early Modern Japan” launched in place of the Seventh Summer school in Japanese Early Modern Palaeography is now in its third month and it has received interest in different fora.

Read more in the first instalment of our invited contribution to Teach311 + COVID-19 Collective, which works in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science among other institutions.

Read also the article that has recently appear in the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of the five national newspapers in Japan.

Yomiuri shimbun

2020年7月18日 読売新聞  (Courtesy of Yomiuri Shimbun)

We would like to renew our gratitude to our generous sponsors who are supporting and endorsing the transcription project. Many thanks also to the members of the PMJS mailing list. The recent dialogue around pandemics in premodern Japan has played significant role in inspiring this project.



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Update 30 April 2020

In light of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and the many uncertainties surrounding international travels for the months to come, the Seventh Summer School in Japanese Early Modern Palaeography has been cancelled for this year and postponed to August 2021. It was by no means an easy decision, but our priority is the safety and wellbeing of all the participants.

Over the next months we intend to foster engagement with early modern sources by launching the transcription project titles “Tacking Pandemics in Early Modern Japan”.




Organized in collaboration with Prof Hashimoto Yuta (National Museum of Japanese History) and using the AI platform Minna de honkoku みんなで翻刻, the project aims at transcribing a conspicuous number of early modern books and ephemera dealing with smallpox, cholera, and measles. The transcriptions will be disseminated publicly once the project is concluded and the hope is that they will inspire more research on the study of pandemics in early modern Japan.


The core of the transcription project will be supplemented by a number of activities:
– Videos introducing hentaigana and kusuzhiji to total beginners.
– Video-interviews with scholars working on the topic of pandemic in the Edo period.
– A parallel project led by Prof Yamabe Susumu and focussed on sources written in kanbun kundoku.

At the end of the project we will also ask the participants to reflect on the pedagogical merits of learning hentaigana and kuzushiji with the aid of Artificial Intelligence.

In principle the project is open to those who had been admitted to the Seventh Summer School in Japanese Early Modern Palaeography. Anyone particularly interested in taking part in the project is invited write to Dr Laura Moretti (lm571@cam.ac.uk).



On our regular Summer School:

The Summer School in Japanese Early Modern Palaeography at the University of Cambridge is a unique programme that teaches how to decode Japanese early modern archival materials. Find out more by watching this video.