• User Guide
  • Our Services
  • Tokyo Main Library
  • Kansai-kan of the NDL
  • International Library of Children's Literature
  • Access
  • Photoduplication Service
  • User Registration
  • Online Services
  • List of Online Services
  • Legislative Information
  • Online Catalog
  • Digital Library
  • Search Guide
  • Online Gallery

Top > About Us > Purpose of Establishment and History

Purpose of Establishment and History

Purpose of Establishment

The National Diet Library (NDL), founded in 1948, is the sole national library in Japan. It is established by the National Diet Library Law, based on Article 130 of the Diet Law, "The National Diet Library shall be established in the Diet by a separate law, in order to assist Diet Members in their study and research."

The law declares the ideal of the library's establishment in its preamble: The National Diet Library is hereby established as a result of the firm conviction that truth makes us free and with the object of contributing to international peace and the democratization of Japan as promised in our Constitution. It sets the library's objective in Article 2: The National Diet Library shall collect books and other library materials for the purpose of assisting the members of the National Diet in the performance of their duties and also for the purpose of providing certain library services as hereinafter specified for the executive and judicial agencies of the national government and for the people of Japan.


The NDL has two origins: one is the libraries of the House of Peers and the House of Representatives in the former Imperial Diet established in 1890; and the other is the Imperial Library established in 1872 under the Ministry of Education.
Most of these collections were transferred to the present NDL.

Prior to the establishment of the NDL, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the House of Councillors invited a U.S. library mission to Japan in 1947. Based on the advice of the U.S. library experts, a basic NDL plan was drawn up which eventually led to the National Diet Library Law.

In June 1948, the NDL was opened to the public using the Akasaka Detached Palace (now the State Guest House). In August 1961, upon completion of Phase 1 of the library construction at the current Nagata-cho site, the NDL started its full service as Japan's foremost library with a stock of some two million books including collections transferred from the former Ueno Library, Branch of the NDL (former Imperial Library), and others.
In 1968, the 20th anniversary year from the opening, the present NDL Main Building was erected. In response to continuing increase of collections, the adjacent Annex was completed in 1986 to accommodate a combined total of 12 million volumes.

In October 2002, the Kansai-kan was opened in the Kansai Science City (Seika-cho, Soraku-gun, Kyoto Prefecture).
The former Ueno Library, Branch of the NDL, was transformed into the International Library of Children's Literature (the first national children's library), which was partly opened in May 2000 and was fully open in May 2002.


June 1948 NDL opened to the public using the former Akasaka Detached Palace (now the State Guest House) as a temporary facility
August 1961 First phase of the present Nagata-cho facility completed
1968 Main building of the Nagata-cho facility completed
1986 Annex of the Nagata-cho facility completed
May 2000 International Library of Children's Literature (ILCL) partially opened in the renovated former branch Ueno Library
May 2002 ILCL fully opened
October 2002 Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library opened
October 2004 New service systems introduced in the Tokyo Main Library
January 2012 Service systems revamped
September 2015 Service started in the Arch Building of the ILCL

*For details, please refer to the brief history of the NDL on the Japanese-language website.

To the head of this page