KuroNet: Pre-Modern Japanese Kuzushiji Character Recognition with Deep Learning

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Kuzushiji, a cursive writing style, had been used in Japan for over a thousand years starting from the 8th century. Over 3 millions books on a diverse array of topics, such as literature, science, mathematics and even cooking are preserved. However, following a change to the Japanese writing system in 1900, Kuzushiji has not been included in regular school curricula. Therefore, most Japanese natives nowadays cannot read books written or printed just 150 years ago. Museums and libraries have invested a great deal of effort into creating digital copies of these historical documents as a safeguard against fires, earthquakes and tsunamis.