Our History・Main Activities
March 6, 2017
The Diplomatic Archives is a facility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for preserving, managing documents and records of historical value for the diplomacy of Japan, providing them for inspection by the public, and also compiling historical diplomatic records. There included among specified historical public records and archives preserved are included those from the end of the Tokugawa Period to the end of World War II, particularly “Prewar Records of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, and also diplomatic records from the Post-war Period received by the Diplomatic Archives for their historic value.
The Diplomatic Archives was inaugurated on April 15, 1971, as an archive facility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Since 1868, the first year of the Meiji Period, the Foreign Ministry has collected, classified, and preserved all of the records of the Ministry and has paid great attention and dedicate itself to the works for compilation and publication of such documents.
As the prewar Foreign Minister Kikujiro Ishii once definitely said, “Whether documentation is complete or not determines final success in foreign policy.” Unfortunately, however, a large number of vital records and documents were lost by fire during World War II. After the War, the Ministry has endeavored constantly to gather and restore the scattered documents and to make a request for the return of the records seized by the former Allied Powers, as well as organizing existing documents.
Since 1936 the Ministry has been publishing the Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy (Nihongaikobunsho), a chronological anthology of important documents selected from its holdings, in order to contribute to further spread and promote diplomatic knowledge.
In the post-war era, especially after the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, interest in the historical facts of its foreign policy has risen, and this in turn has spurred rapid advances in research. The records of Japan’s Foreign Ministry raised more and more expectation from Japanese and foreign researchers and experts in the areas of diplomatic history, international politics, and other academic disciplines. The Ministry, however, at that time, was not able to fully facilitate services for them, owing to the lack of the facilities for the reading of its records, and also because the attendance on the public inspection was by the Ministry’s officials besides their office work. In response to requests from foreign policy researchers and experts to establish an archive comparable to those in Western nations, and because of the lack of space to keep pre-war records in its archive, in 1971 the Ministry established a new facility to preserve records from the end of the Tokugawa Period to the end of World War II. Thus the Diplomatic Archives was inaugurated.
In July 1988, the Annex was built to house an exhibition room, a library, and office. The Annex was donated by the late Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru’s Memorial Foundation.
Also, in 2001, following the enforcement of the “Act on Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs” (Act on Access to Information), the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications designated the Diplomatic Archives to be one of the facilities for the appropriate preservation and management of historical documents.
Then in 2011, based on the “Public Archives and Records Management Act” (Japanese only), the Minister for Foreign Affairs designated it to be the facility to manage the specified historical public records and archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a result, the Diplomatic Archives became an archive of public records on foreign policy and diplomacy possessing functions and roles, similar to those of the National Archives of Japan.
1 Public Access for reading of the holdings
The Diplomatic Archives opens to the public its holdings. Those who wish to read the holdings are allowed access its holdings, including the records of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Main Building Reading Room, pursuant to the Rules for the Use of the Diplomatic Archives (Japanese only) and the Detailed Rules for the Use of the Diplomatic Archives (Japanese only).
2 Reference Service
The Diplomatic Archives attends inquiries on its holdings and the diplomatic history of Japan to visitors and researchers in Japan and overseas from visitors and researchers in Japan and overseas.
The Annex has an Exhibition Room open to the public. The permanent exhibition shows its diplomatic holdings, including major treaties, sovereign letters and notes exchanged, from the end of the Tokugawa Period. This Exhibition Room also has on display personal articles of the late Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida and documents related to his administration. Special exhibitions are also held on specified themes.
4 Compilation and Publication of Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy (Nihongaikobunsho)
The Diplomatic Archives publishes a series of Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy, arranged chronologically and also under a specific subject, compiling historical records of diplomacy in a comprehensive way.
First published in 1936, the series contains 73 volumes covering the Meiji Period and 57 volumes on the Taisho Period, consisting of those of chronological annual ones and special feature separate ones, such as on the Paris Peace Conference and the Washington Conference. The compilation of both periods were completed. The compilation of the Showa Period, including the Post-war Period, is presently underway and two or three volumes are published every year. The compilation and publication of diplomatic documents are promoted as national projects in various countries, such as Foreign Relations of the United States, Documents on British Foreign Policy (pre-war), and Documents on British Foreign Policy (post-war).
5 Research and Collection of Historical Materials
In order to supplement the Foreign Ministry records lost in war or for other reasons, efforts are being directed to the collection of foreign policy records. Invaluable records and other materials have also been donated by persons who have been directly or indirectly involved in Japan’s diplomatic history.
6 Lectures and Study Sessions
Lectures and study sessions on the history of Japan’s foreign policy and diplomacy are held at the Main Auditorium (seating capacity: 100) as a part of the program to promote the spread of knowledge on Japan’s foreign policy.
- Diplomatic Archives Lecture Meeting 2014, Event Report (Japanese only)
- Diplomatic Archives Lecture Meeting 2012, Event Report, (Japanese only)
- Diplomatic Archives Lecture Meeting 2011, Event Report, (Japanese only)
- Diplomatic Archives Lecture Meeting 2009, Event Report, (Japanese only)
- Diplomatic Archives Panel Discussion 2006, Event Report, (Japanese only)
- Diplomatic Archives Lecture Meeting 2005, Event Report, (Japanese only)
- Diplomatic Archives Lecture Meeting 2004, Event Report, (Japanese only)
- Diplomatic Archives Lecture Meeting 2003, Event Report, (Japanese only)