A Review of Uchimura Kanzō Zenshū: DVD Edition

Scholars of Christianity in Japan will undoubtedly come across the work of Uchimura Kanzō 内村鑑三 (1861-1930) during their research. Uchimura’s collected works (J. Uchimura Kanzō Zenshū 内村鑑三全集) span 40 volumes meaning that those wishing to purchase physical copies, which are becoming increasingly affordable (the full set can be purchased for between 10,000-20,000¥ on Yahoo Auctions), require ample space to store them. In addition to this, the Zenshū’s index leaves much to be desired and cannot be adequately used to locate Uchimura’s often cursory references to numerous people, events, or phenomenon. These problems have, however, been addressed with the publication of the DVD version of the Zenshū back in 2009, based on the earlier (2003) CD-ROM version. But why have I chosen to write about this project over a decade after its completion? Very simply, it does things well.

The DVD version of Zenshū installs a piece of software that allows users to search and view the entirety of Uchimura’s work. Although the interface is a little dated it is functional. One can navigate through Uchimura’s works via the contents of each volume and by turning the pages mimicking the way in which a scholar might use a physical copy of the Zenshū or by performing a search in Japanese or English. The search function allows users to search for keywords or phrases within the corpus. After searching for a word or phrase the interface lists all the pages on which the searched word or phrase appears. By selecting one of the results with a single click the user can see a short, transcribed excerpt showing the word or phrase within its literary context. By double clicking the user can open a digitized version of the page as seen in the Zenshū in a platform called Leaf Through Contents Viewer. The user can open up to 40 tabs based on their searches, so it is a very easy task to compare passages. In order to aid the potential comparative work, the DVD also allows users to access a table of the various names used in Uchimura’s work to refer to the different books of the bible.

The basic interface of the DVD (image from AMeeT).

The DVD offers little beyond these often intertwined “read” and “search” functions. Whilst this may seem like a potential flaw, I have actually found it quite welcome. All of us have come across databases or applications that have been overengineered or failed to consider users’ needs. Conversely, the Zenshū DVD functions well providing two well developed features that target all potential users. Since the DVD also provides the individual PDF files for the entirety of the Zenshū, it seems that there is also potentialities for those wanting to do more with Uchimura’s work such as analysing it with digital tools.

The DVD version of the Zenshū also has some sizeable limitations. It isn’t greatly accessible for the ordinary scholar – not many copies appear to be available for purchase a decade after its release, and with a price tag of 66,000¥ (including tax) it requires a fair amount of capital to acquire. As such, most of us will be confined to using the DVD at libraries which in many cases will require us to visit Japan! In addition to this, the DVD is only available for use with Windows.

I regularly use the Uchimura Kanzō Zenshū DVD in my research. Despite issues with accessibility and age, I find it to be extremely functional and well-designed, and believe that those developing digital corpora today may be able to learn a lot from its simplicity. Since the world is moving away from the use of DVDs, it seems probable that the digitized version of Uchimura’s work will receive further updates in the future, but for now I highly recommend the DVD if you are able to acquire it at an affordable price. For those who want to learn more about the DVD I recommend reading its advertisement broucher or the article by Tōyama Hideo in AMeeT.

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