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Hita-Hita: Open Access and Institutional Repositories in Japan Ten Years On

Ikuko Tsuchide, Yui Nishizono, Masako Suzuki, Shigeki Sugita, Kazuo Yamamoto and Hideki Uchijima introduce a number of ideas and projects that have enhanced the progress of the Open Access movement and institutional repositories in Japan over the last ten years.

In Japan, Chiba University established the country's first institutional repository, CURATOR [1] in 2003. Since then, over the last 10 years or so, more than 300 universities and research institutions have set up repositories and the number of full-text items on repositories has exceeded one million [2]. All the contents are available on Japanese Institutional Repositories Online (JAIRO) [3] operated by the National Institute of Informatics (NII) [4] in Japan.

One of the chief characteristics of the Open Access (OA) movement in Japan has been the small amount of government involvement or disputes over the promotion of OA on either of the Gold and Green roads, unlike in Europe and North America. Consequently, there have been no politically imposed deposit mandates thus far in Japan. Instead, librarians in institutions have been serving as repository managers and have contributed to the development of repositories and the OA movement with the financial support of the Cyber Science Infrastructure (CSI) programme [5] by NII. Their bottom-up, grass-roots activity basically gives stakeholders a voice and a sense of participation and involvement which leads to a true understanding of the repositories and OA.

This article introduces several ideas and projects that have enhanced the penetration of the OA movement and development of institutional repositories in Japan. Moreover, it also outlines the activities of Digital Repository Federation (DRF)[6], a repository managers’ community made up of 145 universities and research institutions that has supported such ideas. The term ‘hita-hita’ means to be tenacious, persevering and to work step by step without giving up. We adopt the term as the title of this article as we believe ‘hita-hita’ accurately expresses the character of our continued activity in this area.

Repository Managers in Japan

As mentioned above, the numbers of both institutional repositories and the amount of content have been steadily increasing in Japan.

As in most countries, it is mainly academic librarians who assume the role of repository managers and their approach to, and interaction with researchers operate behind the scenes of any IR development. In order to increase open access content, it is important to encourage researchers' understanding of the current situation in scholarly communication and the true significance of Open Access. In particular, we have found that face-to-face communication about the benefits of OA as described in the next section is the most effective approach.

However, it is worth noting that in Japan, academic librarians change roles periodically, the same as other administrative staff. These periodic transfers are designed to ensure that librarians experience a wide variety of services in libraries or institutions. They occur on average once every three years. Librarians may be required to transfer to different departments of their libraries, to libraries of other universities, or even further afield. The number of repository managers per institution is approximately on average 1.0 FTE (full-time equivalent) and, in many cases, they are in charge of other services at the same time. In round figures, on average, 60-70 new repository managers are created with each three-yearly cycle of transfers. As a consequence, it can be fairly difficult to maintain and develop experience, knowledge and relationship with faculties that each manager has cultivated during his or her stewardship of their repository.

It is necessary for repository managers to acquire basic knowledge and technical understanding of their repository and to have opportunities to exchange and share information across their institutions. DRF, a community of repository managers, has been working to support those exchanges. The Activities of the DRF are described below.

Hita-Hita: Librarians’ Grass-roots Activities

Institutional repositories in Japan have been promoted by the grass-roots activities of repository managers. In each institution, they make presentations about their repository at faculty meetings and distribute publicity material (posters, hand-outs, leaflets). Furthermore, we have seen an increase in the number of managers who feel that individual advocacy is the most effective approach in terms of promoting Open Access as well as being quite beneficial as regards overall library activity.

Repository managers in each institution undertake various activities designed to appeal to researchers and promote content development. In the DRF community, early adopters report on their experiences and what to them constitutes good practice, whether at workshops or over mailing lists, for the benefit of later adopters, all of which serves to encourage other repository managers to become more actively involved.

Round-number Interviews

To operate a round-number interview, one interviews the authors of the paper which figures as a ‘milestone deposit’, for example the 100th or 1000th to be deposited in an IR. Hokkaido University started with 10,000th deposit interviews in 2006, following the 1,000th deposit interviews conducted by Cranfield University in the UK. The interview mainly consists of the content of the article or paper concerned, the theme of its research and authors’ opinion of Open Access. Faculties can anticipate something of a positive effect when their researchers get the opportunity to talk to colleagues in the same institution about the merits of self-archiving. Moreover, publishing the interview on the Internet allows their high-quality research to achieve far greater exposure with other researchers and other interested parties.

The opportunity to conduct interviews or visits to laboratories is not limited to the large round-number ‘milestone deposits’. Otaru University of Commerce has conducted an interview for every 100th paper deposited since 2008, and has increased its commemorative interviews for the different total numbers of downloads and the arrival of new faculty members. The total number of interviews that Otaru University of Commerce has conducted so far amounted to 55 as of December 2012. Hokkaido University colleagues employ the ‘Iitomo operation’ (‘Iitomo’ means ‘friend of a friend’) in which they ask the researcher whom they have just interviewed to introduce several other researchers to be visited next, which serves to generate many further opportunities to visit colleagues’ laboratories.

Figure 1: Interview report

Figure 1: Interview report

Figure 2:  Interview report

Figure 2: Interview report

Focused Approach to Encouraging Self-archiving

The effective approach to researchers can be described as ‘Not Just Any Paper, But a Specific Paper’ [7]. It is obvious that high efficiency is obtained not by requesting ‘any of your papers’ but by requesting specific papers of each researcher. Therefore, repository managers first examine both recent publications by every researcher using Web of Science, Scopus or CRIS (Current Research Information System)-like systems, and each publisher's copyright policies on self-archiving. With the publications list, they then visit laboratories or join briefing sessions. Or, in some libraries, librarians put those lists in full view on the library counter so that when researchers come to the library on some errand, they pick up the list and spot their invitation to deposit in the repository.

Figure 3: Publications list inviting researchers to self-archive (originally in Japanese)

Figure 3: Publications list inviting researchers to self-archive (originally in Japanese)

Figure 4: Individual advocacy at the library counter

Figure 4: Individual advocacy at the library counter

Service to Notify Authors of the Number of Downloads

In order to persuade researchers of the advantages of self-archiving, some institutions implement customised functionality such as informing regularly email subscribers of the statistical data regarding their deposited items. These data include access and usage statistics such as download counts, page views and origin of accesses (by country and domain) and are sent automatically. Reaction from researchers is very good and a number of favourable reports such as ‘I am very surprised to know my paper is read by so many people like this.’ and ‘It encourages me!’ are received.

It can be said that evidence is superior to any form of advocacy, in other words, ‘To see is to believe’. Moreover, regular email alerts from the institutional repositories can be seen as an effective reminder of the important role that repositories play. Some institutions even change the form of greetings in their emails with every season and insert important news items in their text.

Figure 5: Monthly usage report by email (an example from Otaru University of Commerce originally in Japanese)

Figure 5: Monthly usage report by email (an example from
Otaru University of Commerce originally in Japanese)

Tools for Public Relations

In addition to forms of advertising such as posters, promotional catalogues, hand-outs and newsletters, many of the institutions create sundry items with the name of their institutional repositories and make use of them for publicity. In addition, more recently some institutions raise the profile of their institutional repositories as a topic in posts on their blog, on Twitter or on their library Facebook page or university Web site. Tokyo Dental College has a blog specially set up for its repository. The main content of the blog is reports about the current status of the deposited items and show messages ‘Thank you for sending the paper’, ‘The paper is now available in the repository’, ‘Since the publisher imposes a one-year embargo, the paper is going to be uploaded after six months’ and so on, which appears to be a very effective form of communication with researchers.

Figure 6: Tokyo Dental College's blog

Figure 6: Tokyo Dental College's blog

Figure 7: Report on library Facebook page

Figure 7: Report on library Facebook page

Figure 8: Promotional sundry items (from the upper left, University of Tsukuba, Otaru University of Commerce, Hokkaido University, Otaru University of Commerce, University of Tsukuba)

Figure 8: Promotional sundry items (from the upper left, University of Tsukuba, Otaru University of Commerce, Hokkaido University, Otaru University of Commerce, University of Tsukuba)

Some Projects Supported by NII

In order to promote the development of content in their institutional repositories, some projects are working with the support of the NII. Some representative examples follow:

Society Copyright Policies in Japan (SCPJ)

There are approximately 2,500 scholarly societies in Japan. Each of them publishes its own journal(s) in Japanese. Japanese researchers write their main major papers in English and this is because but also they write some in Japanese for domestic publication. Furthermore, there are a lot of fields for which Japanese papers are important such as domestic law, area studies and Japanese literature.

Copyright policies of such journals are not registered on the  SHERPA/RoMEO database. Therefore, SCPJ (2006-) has been built by University of Tsukuba and other collaborators [8]. SCPJ is the SHERPA/RoMEO for Japanese journals and approximately 1,500 copyright policies are already entered, based on consultation with the societies.

Most of the Japanese societies are small and only publish one or at most a few titles. Many of them do not have a permanent secretariat. Therefore, there are a great many cases of unclear regulations for self-archiving and more than 50% of papers are categorised as ‘grey’.

Figure 9: Policy rate of association in Japan in the SCPJ

Figure 9: Policy rate of association in Japan in the SCPJ

Repository Outcomes Assessment Tool (ROAT)

The ROAT Project (2006-2013) [9], hosted by Chiba University Library, aims to develop a standardised method of capturing, refining and reporting the ‘real’ accesses to repositories’ content with a view to assessing reliably the social impact of the dissemination of knowledge through repositories.  It has published guidelines for organising the log data of accesses by users, and developed a system that removes superfluous as well as robot accesses on a par with COUNTER Guidelines to report the article-level reality in terms of bibliographic metadata provided by JAIRO.

Figure 10: ROAT concept diagram

Figure 10: ROAT concept diagram [10]


The IRcuresILL Project (2008-2010) [11] is being conducted by Otaru University of Commerce. As described above, in Japan repository managers are also librarians.

The initial idea of the project is that an institutional repository and interlibrary loan/document delivery service (ILL/DD) are equivalent services in terms of literature supply to users who need to access them. Once an item of literature handled over ILL/DD is converted to OA in a repository, demand for that literature on ILL/DD will disappear. An ILL/DD log analysis between all university libraries in Japan has revealed that identical items of literature in ILL/DD occurred up to 118 times a year.

The project’s aims are to see that the universities employing the authors of papers sought over ILL/DD services should as institutions seek to persuade their researchers to deposit their work on their IR. The project created explanatory hand-outs and posters designed for ILL/DD users on that very issue in the OA week in 2009 and sent them to all university libraries in Japan. 

Figure 11: Hand-out stating 'Someone in the world is missing your papers, someone just like you today.' This handout is for researchers and students seeking resources via interlibrary loan since they cannot obtain the required papers via open access.

Figure 11: Hand-out stating 'Someone in the world is missing your papers, someone just like you today.' This handout is for researchers and students seeking resources via interlibrary loan since they cannot obtain the required papers via open access.

Figure 12: Poster encouraging ILL users to ‘Wait a while! Search online before making your request’

Figure 12: Poster encouraging ILL users to ‘Wait a while! Search online before making your request’

Repository Liaison Project (rliaison)

rliaison (2011-) is the successor to the IRcuresILL Project. It is being led by Otaru University of Commerce working with other partners. It has worked on the development of both institutional Open Access advocacy and policy including the above-mentioned pyramid initiative as well as a personal librarian programme. The latter aims to share information and facilitate discussion on scholarly communications, focusing not only on building up repository content but also on strengthening relationships with faculties.


When you want to see the complete research results for a researcher, it is necessary to disambiguate them from those of authors bearing the same name and clarify different name notations. However, it is difficult to identify names based on the character strings of the author notations. As a method of disambiguation, the MaiIdentity Project (2010-2012) has worked to promote author identifiers. Kanazawa University played a key role in this work and continues this effort in co-operation with the NII. Moreover, it is expected that when handled by CRIS-like systems, all research papers in repositories will be easily associated with their author(s) through the use of author identifiers.

Community Support of Development of Institutional Repositories

DRF is a nationwide community established in 2006, in which 145 universities or research institutions already participate. It has been acting as a focus for information sharing and continuing professional development (CPD) which are essential to the continuous and efficient administration of institutional repositories. Planning and operations are carried out by DRF members on a voluntary basis. Membership is free and DRF activity has been financially supported mainly by the NII.

One method of information sharing is an open discussion list on which the total number of posts now exceeds 4,400 since its establishment in November 2006. Topics range widely, from practical matters to local and worldwide issues about Open Access development, such as precise metadata description, OA mandates, reuse of contents and the Finch Report. Sometimes translated versions of overseas articles are posted by volunteer members. Another form is the DRF Web site. The number of visits to the Web site has risen to more than 270,000 since it opened in October 2006. Principal content is announcements of and reports of events, use case examples or technical information as well as the monthly newsletter. Repository managers edit the magazine DRF Monthly [12] in turns every issue. Its look and feel differs with every edition and therefore readers can enjoy pages full of innovations in each number in addition to the content itself. Occasionally, an English version is also published.

Workshops (nationwide / by region / by topic / by IT issues) and training are organised for continuing professional development. Since 2011, training courses have been categorised for early-career and senior repository managers. Issues surrounding the entire scholarly communications and repositories landscape feature in  senior repository managers’ training. Both categories of training attach great importance to group discussion and the development of presentation skills. For example, in 2012 training for early-career repository managers began to include a mock presentation to faculty staff to promote self-archiving. Meanwhile for senior repository managers there are discussion sessions and training in preliminary tasks such as planning an Open Access week or forming strategy for convincing an institution to adopt a complete policy on the conduct of its own IR. The training is popular with participants since it offers content of a practical nature and does much to raise awareness about potential problems. These training sessions even include comedy sketches on the themes of authors’ rights and Open Access as well as quizzes and games to render the advocacy material more engaging. Furthermore, based on a Memorandum of Understanding, agreed with similar initiatives such as the Repositories Support Project (RSP) and the United Kingdom Council of Research Repositories (UKCoRR) in the UK in March 2012, international community co-operation on professional training is going to be developed and the DRF has immediately adopted the idea of communication skills training and an RSP residential school.

What has supported the development of institutional repositories in Japan, where OA mandating of research results is by no means as yet common, is the steady advocacy effort of every repository manager, supported by the repository community in which the DRF plays a leading role.

One of the principal characteristics of development of institutional repositories in Japan is the consortial repository. Earlier instances, for example White Rose Research Online [13] and SHERPA-LEAP [14] in the UK are well known. In Japan, regional consortial repositories, where several institutions gather together on a prefectural* basis have been developed since around 2007. Moreover, a shared repository system, JAIRO Cloud, provided by the NII started operations in April 2012 [15]. Since hardware and repository systems are shared by several institutions, leading to a reduction of the load on each institution, the consortial repository plays a very significant role for small- and medium-size institutions which would otherwise encounter major difficulties in establishing a repository for themselves single-handed. About half of all private and local public universities as well as all junior colleges and national colleges of technology have set up their repositories using the consortial repository system [16]. The total number of institutions of Higher Education in Japan is now more than 1,200 [17], of which 324 institutions already have their own repository [2]. We believe the consortial repository system will contribute to an increasing number of them and, in the process, institutions will benefit as much from the widening community involvement that supports repository development as from the financial advantages of sharing hardware [18].


Initial effort on digitisation of scholarly papers has only served, in our view, as an electronic simulation of the distribution of papers in print form. We believe that proper electronic distribution has only finally been realised with the advent of Open Access.

During this period of transition, it is necessary to get back to the original starting point and review the present situation most carefully.

In its origins, distribution was effected by authors themselves, whereas nowadays it has become technically possible (thanks to the Internet) to allow and/or to gain access to the article freely and unrestrictedly for all scientists; while the distributive process will be systematically guaranteed by the institutional repository.

By dint of the efforts described above, we librarians have noticed that researchers, that is authors, do not always immediately appreciate the current situation in scholarly communications surrounding them. We have also observed that such a problem is by no means confined to Japan alone.

In order to promote an improved awareness among researchers as authors of scholarly literature, and generally increase recognition, advocacy driven by human effort is important. We believe it will become a commonplace matter across all partners involved in repository activity.

On the other hand, Japanese librarians work to a professional regimen peculiar to Japan, that is, the systematic expectation to remain generalists through frequent job rotation, and therefore with far fewer opportunities to extend skills as repository specialists. The ‘hita-hita’ approach is therefore an effective means of mitigating their situation by promoting and supporting their efforts to extend their repository skills and experience, while encouraging them to get back to their first and personal principles of direct communication and co-operation with their faculty colleagues. We have no doubt that ‘hita-hita’ is proving, and will continue to prove, a highly effective strategy.

*Editor’s note: Japan consists of 47 prefectures, each overseen by an elected governor, legislature and administrative bureaucracy. Each prefecture is further divided into cities, towns and villages. (Wikipedia, citing McCargo, Duncan (2000). Contemporary Japan. Macmillan. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0333710002 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan ).


  1. CURATOR http://mitizane.ll.chiba-u.jp/curator/index_e.html
  2. Statistic by NII. http://www.nii.ac.jp/irp/en/archive/statistic/irp_2012_statistic.html
  3. JAIRO http://jairo.nii.ac.jp/en/
  4. National Institute of Informatics http://www.nii.ac.jp/en/
  5. Promoting the Cyber Science Infrastructure http://www.nii.ac.jp/en/service/general/
  6. Digital Repository Federation http://drf.lib.hokudai.ac.jp/en/
  7. Masako Suzuki, Shigeki Sugita. "From Nought to a Thousand: The HUSCAP Project". October 2006, Ariadne Issue 49 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue49/suzuki-sugita
  8. Society Copyright Policies in Japan http://scpj.tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp/?lang=en
  9. Repository Output Assessment Tool http://www.ll.chiba-u.jp/roat/
  10. Yoshinori Sato. "On unsolved points in the methodology for IR usage analysis: some lessons learned from the ROAT project". International Seminar on Standardization of IR Usage Statistics, 11 January 2011. http://www.ll.chiba-u.jp/roat/document/20110111_Yoshinori_Sato.pdf
  11. IRcuresILL http://drf.lib.hokudai.ac.jp/drf/index.php?IRcuresILL%20%28in%20English%29
  12. DRF Monthly. http://drf.lib.hokudai.ac.jp/drf/index.php?DRF_Monthly
  13. White Rose Research Online http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/
  14. SHERPA LEAP http://www.sherpa-leap.ac.uk/
  15. As of 20 January 2013, 14 regional consortial repositories are in operation and more than 40 institutional repositories have been created in the JAIRO Cloud.
  16. The percentage of consortial repositories was calculated by Institutional Repositories DataBase Contents Analysis which is operated by the NII http://irdb.nii.ac.jp/analysis/index_e.php
  17. Result of MEXT School Basic Survey, 2012. http://www.mext.go.jp/english/statistics/
  18. See the following for the development of consortial repositories in Japan; ShaRe Project http://www.lib.hiroshima-u.ac.jp/share/share.html and see also; Takeo Ozono, Daisuke Ueda and Fumiyo Ozaki, "Shared Repositories, Shared Benefits: Regional and Consortial Repositories in Japan". Ariadne (in press).

Author Details

Ikuko Tsuchide
Life Sciences Library
Osaka University

Email: tsuchide@library.osaka-u.ac.jp
Web site: http://www.library.osaka-u.ac.jp/index_eng.php

Ikuko Tsuchide is a librarian, working at Osaka University Library. Her current role is ILL/DD and circulation. She is also a former head of the International Relations Working Group of the Digital Repository Federation (DRF).

Yui Nishizono
Academic Contents Unit
Information Management Division
Academic Information Department
Kagoshima University

Email: nish@lib.kagoshima-u.ac.jp
Web site: http://www.lib.kagoshima-u.ac.jp/

Yui Nishizono is a librarian, working at Kagoshima University Library. Her current main role is as repository manager of Kagoshima University. She is also a member of Planning and Co-ordinating Working Group of the Digital Repository Federation (DRF).

Masako Suzuki
University Library
Asahikawa Medical University

Email: msuz@asahikawa-med.ac.jp
Web site: http://amcor.asahikawa-med.ac.jp/

Masako Suzuki is a Head of Library and Information Affairs Division of Asahikawa Medical University and a member of the Digital Repository Federation (DRF) Executive Board. In 2009, when she was in Otaru University of Commerce, she started the IRcuresILL Project. Before that, she worked in Hokkaido University Library and co-wrote “From Nought to a Thousand: The HUSCAP Project” with Shigeki Sugita in Issue 49 of Ariadne.

Shigeki Sugita
University Library
Otaru University of Commerce

Email: ssugita@office.otaru-uc.ac.jp
Web site: http://barrel.ih.otaru-uc.ac.jp/

Shigeki Sugita is a member of the Digital Repository Federation (DRF) Executive Board and a former Vice Chairperson of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR). He wrote this article while working for Otaru University of Commerce, since when he has moved to Chiba University. Please see his author profile for his current details.

Kazuo Yamamoto
University Library
Hokkaido University

Web site: http://eprints.lib.hokudai.ac.jp/dspace/index.jsp?locale=en&lang=en

Kazuo Yamamoto has undertaken a number of roles including:
1999-2006: EJ Negotiator in the Chiba University Library, the University of Tokyo Library and the Ibaraki University Library.
2002-2003: Secretariat, EJ Consortia of the Japanese National University Libraries.
2010-2012: Secretariat, Digital Repository Federation.
He wrote this article while working as a member of the secretariat of the Digital Repository Federation (DRF) in Hokkaido University, since when he has moved to Yokohama National University. Please see his author profile for his current details.

Hideki Uchijima
University Library
University of Tsukuba

Email: huchijim@tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp
Web site: https://www.tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp/mytulips/home/index/en

Hideki Uchijima is a Head of the Division of Information Processing and Management at the University of Tsukuba Library.