France-Japan is a virtual exhibition showcasing documents that illustrate the close relations and mutual influences between the two countries. This project was born of an agreement reached between the BnF and the National Diet Library in 2014, marking 90 years of Franco-Japanese cultural relations. The public can thus admire online the treasures of the BnF’s Japanese collections.
Under the Mannen Bridge at Fukagawa (Fukagawa Mannen-bashi no shita). Drawing by Hokusai Katsushika (1760-1849). BnF, Prints and Photography Department

What is France-Japan?

An anniversary project

Established in 1924, the Maison Franco-Japonaise in Tokyo was the first French cultural institution in Japan. 90 years later, the National Diet Library and the BnF are coming together to create a virtual exhibition paying tribute to the breadth and depth of relations between the two countries, in celebration of a long-standing cultural partnership.

A history across two sites

France-Japan is divided into two main parts each exhibited on its own website. The BnF’s online exhibition includes works on all kinds of media exploring Franco-Japanese relations as well as the appreciation of Japan in France, tracing back its beginnings to the 1920s (founding of the Maison Franco-Japonaise in 1924). The Japanese website reciprocally illustrates how France’s cultural presence has left a lasting impression on the history of Japan.


First Japanese embassy in France. From Le Monde illustré, 26 April 1862, BnF, Philosophy, History and Humanities Department
The site curated by the BnF is entitled “France-Japon, une rencontre, 1850-1914” (France-Japan, an encounter, 1850-1914). Visitors to this online exhibition are able to explore the interconnections between the two countries and their sources of mutual inspiration.

The BnF’s Japanese counterpart, the National Diet Library, presents “La France et le Japon moderne : aspirations, rencontres et échanges” (Modern France and Japan - adoration, encounter and interaction). This exhibition looks at Franco-Japanese relations through the perspective of political, economic, scientific and cultural connections that have united the two countries from 1858 until the 1920s.


These collections speak for themselves; they represent centuries of curiosity, passion, enthusiasm and, at times, misunderstanding (…). This introduction aims to guide visitors towards the roots of this history as represented through the collections of the BnF.”

Bruno Racine, President of the BnF (2007-2016)


“France has thus been hugely influential on Japan’s modernisation, not to mention, of course, the appeal that French culture, from art to lifestyle, has always held for Japan.”

Noritada Otaki, President of the National Diet Library in 2014.

A pioneering project

This Franco-Japanese virtual exhibition is a pioneering project for the Shared Heritage collection, the BnF’s digital collection bearing witness to France’s cultural, scientific, artistic and historic relations with the rest of the world. The exhibition was added to the collection once it had been put online. The Shared Heritage collection has 7 sites including Bibliothèques d’Orient (Libraries of the Middle East), France-Brazil, France-China, France-Poland, France-Vietnam, France in the Americas and France-South Asia (beta version).  

A partnership

France-Japan is a partnership between the BnF and the National Diet Library. Each site was born out of the two institutions’ desire to collaborate. The BnF has received the support of the Institut Français de Tokyo for the implementation of this project and the development of the collection.