Call for applications 2022

The Ninth Summer School in Early Modern Japanese Palaeography at the University of Cambridge will be held between Monday 8 August 2022 and Friday 19 August 2022. We are working towards an in-person summer school at Emmanuel College. If the Covid-19 situation worsens and we are forced to revert to remote learning, teaching will be conducted as synchronous interactive seminars on Zoom. For the time being we are hopeful that we will be able to welcome you in Cambridge.

Conceived as a contribution to the field of Japanese studies globally, the summer school trains the new generations in decoding, transcribing, and translating early modern manuscripts and woodblock-printed texts. With us you acquire and hone the complex set of skills required to work with early modern Japanese texts. Recognizing shapes is just a first step! Key in our pedagogical approach is to recognize that working on Edo-period texts and transcribing them is all about getting the meaning. Academic institutions, libraries and museums often require palaeographic knowledge at some level. Our summer school is designed to provide you with the skills necessary to tackle a wide range of early-modern primary sources in their original format by yourself and, therefore, to be competitive in these kind of job opportunities.

This year again we will continue our collaboration with the AI-powered transcription platform Minna de honkoku みんなで翻刻, developed by Prof Hashimoto Yuta (National Museum of History).

Contents and teaching

The theme of this year is “The Business of Books in Early Modern Japan“. We will be reading a wide range of materials that deal with how books were conceived, produced, and marketed in the Edo period. The sources cover a healthy number of printed and handwritten texts. We will work on excerpts from Jinrin kinmōzui 人倫訓蒙図彙 (1690), Kami suki chōhōki 紙漉重宝記 (1824), paratextual materials from a plethora of texts including Azuma kaidō onna katakiuchi 吾嬬街道女敵討 (1798) and other kusazōshi 草双紙, publicity leaflets, passages from book-trade catalogues and publishers’ catalogues, edicts from sources like Ruishu seny’ō 類集撰要 and much more! The focus will be on vernacular Japanese (wabun), with some use of sōrōbun. For sōrōbun, we will not be looking at komonjo as such.

All sessions run as interactive seminars. Dr Laura Moretti will deliver four and a half hours of teaching per day. These main sessions are followed by “boost-up” sessions with teaching assistants. These will be particularly beneficial for beginners.

This year we will not be able to offer kanbun kundoku as we did in the past. If you are in need of tuition in kanbun kundoku for specific early modern texts that you are working on, please do consult with Dr Moretti and we may find a solution in consultation with our partner Dr Yamabe Susumu (Nishōgakusha University).

Please make sure to arrive on Sunday 7 August and leave Saturday 20 August. Classes start on Monday 8 August, 9am BST and end on Friday 19 August, 5pm BST.

Learning outcomes

With us:
– You familiarize yourself with a variety of calligraphic styles.
– You learn effective techniques to master hentaigana and kuzushiji.
– You learn how the act of decoding and transcribing is a matter of understanding the meaning of a text.
– You reflect on how to translate early modern texts.
– You familiarize yourself with a number of resources (digital and analogue) to read early modern texts.
– You create a network with likely-minded scholars from across the globe and make friends for life.

Who can apply and requirements

We welcome graduate students (both at the Master and at the PhD level), faculty, librarians and museum curators who work on Edo-period materials, and final-year undergraduate students interested in pursuing the study of early-modern Japan in grad school. Those who have already taken part in the previous Summer Schools are encouraged to reapply if they wish to do so. The programme changes every year.

We require that you have:
1. Advanced knowledge of modern Japanese (both written and spoken).
2. Solid knowledge of classical Japanese (bungo).

Acceptance to the programme

We can only accept a maximum of 30 participants every year. If we receive applications beyond this number a selection will be made on the basis of the relevance of the Summer School to the applicant’s research and work. Notification about whether an applicant has been accepted or not will be sent at the end of February.

Tuition fees

The tuition fee for the whole programme is £300. The tuition fee covers an average of 60 hours of tuition, guest lectures, preparatory materials and manuals, other extra-curricular activities we may plan year by year, and coffee breaks.

We ask that a non-refundable deposit of £150 is paid by 1 March 2022.
The remaining £150 will need to be paid by the beginning of July 2022 and cannot be returned after that date.
All payments are done online via a secure system administered by the University of Cambridge.

*** The tuition fees for Master’s students are reduced to £150 ****

The tuition fees for Master’s students will need to be paid in full by 1 May 2022 and cannot be returned after that date.

We may have some modest travel grants for a handful of participants but this can be confirmed only quite late in the spring.

Accommodation at Emmanuel College

If you wish to do so, you can book accommodation in Emmanuel College.

Single room, ensuite: £37 per night
Single room, non ensuite: £32 per night
Double room, ensuite: £47 per night

You are, of course, free to explore other options in or near Cambridge. Be mindful that classes start at 9am and conclude at 5pm, Monday to Friday for two weeks.

Read more on how to reach Cambridge.


This is absolutely the best course in the world to study pre-modern Japanese palaeography. (John, 2021)

If you want a highly charged, challenging, and fun experience for learning kuzushiji, look no further. This program is so thoughtfully planned and expertly run, while also just being thoroughly enjoyable – high energy, fun, efficient, not a moment wasted. It’s go-go-go, in the best way (Nancy, 2021).

Participating in the Summer School in Early Modern Japanese Palaeography is really helped me to expand my knowledge of how to read old Japanese texts. Anyone working with Edo period Japanese language sources would benefit from participating in the course! (James, 2021)

One of the best parts of the summer school is that it not only teaching you how to read early modern texts, but also introduces you to a community of scholars, researchers, and hobbyists from all over the world who you will encounter time and again. (Victoria, 2021)

The Summer School not only provides tactics for kuzushiji recognition but also offers information on kobun, sōrōbun, Japanese book history, cultural history, and many other fascinating topics. I met so many kind and knowledgeable people in my field and can’t wait for next year’s course! (Rose, 2021)

It was so much fun that you hardly noticed how much you learned in each session! The focused yet lighthearted atmosphere created the perfect study environment. It is an experience not to be missed! (Sabine, 2021)

Application form

Deadline: 15 January 2022


For any query please write to Dr Laura Moretti: