Archives for posts with tag: kansai movable type club

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Last Friday, I visited Osaka for the first time. My destination: Meiko Insatsu Kabushiki Kaisha (明晃印刷株式会社). That’s the official name. We’ll just call it Meiko.

Meiko is an old publishing company that specializes in letterpress printing. For the past five years, Kenji Takasaki has been running the company and doing all the printing himself. It was at his invitation that I made the trip from Kyoto to Osaka.

Meiko is located in a quiet lane. A simple sign hangs above the unassuming entrance. Upon entering is a small open space where friends and designers often gather to hang out and exchange ideas. Another doorway leads you to the one-room shop, housing several kinds of printing presses and racks of Japanese movable type.

Being from the United States, I’m use to the flat type cases that are stored in stacks like drawers. Here, the cases are vertical and on rails so that you can slide them back and forth to reveal the cases in the back (as shown in the video above). Ingenious! No cases to carry! That was my first thought. Though perhaps not so practical for alphabet type.

Letterpress printed sheet music

It was exciting just to see the print shop itself, but meeting Takasaki-san made the trip even more worthwhile. At Meiko, he does print jobs for companies all throughout Japan. However, he also wears a second hat as the head representative of the organization Kansai Movable Type Club (関西活版倶楽部).

Letterpress print shops have declined drastically over the years, but Takasaki-san is really passionate about establishing letterpress as a contemporary process — to make it a living tradition instead of a dying one. He’s the mover and shaker behind many of the letterpress events in Osaka, and he’s always thinking of ways to engage and interest the public community in letterpress printing.

Detail of a letterpress printed announcement for an event at Tokyu Hands Umeda

He sometimes brings a small platen press with him to events so that people can experience typesetting and printing for themselves, often on these postcards (also letterpress printed) designed so that each person can add his or her own message.

He’s also hijacked a toy vending machine (you know — the kind with toys in plastic capsules) and turned it into an omikuji machine. Omikuji are the fortunes written on narrow strips of paper. You can find these at pretty much any shrine and temple in Japan. Usually, you draw a number and trade it for the corresponding omikuji.

Takasaki-san’s special vending machine spits out plastic balls containing squares of paper with numbers (letterpress printed, of course). And you trade it for your omikuji.

It was very novel to see something so ubiquitous letterpress printed. Everyone in Japan has drawn omikuji before (probably numerous times). Even if you don’t believe in fortune-telling, it’s still a special experience. I sometimes keep mine, and I will certainly cherish these letterpress ones!

Besides omikuji, there’s also another vending machine that dispenses charms made from Japanese type. The one here shows the character for small (小), backwards of course, as all type are.

I’ll be meeting Takasaki-san again in Osaka in mid-August for the Insatsu Expo (insatsu means “print” or “printing”). I can’t wait — It sounds like a great event!

Book art and letterpress printing can each be considered an independent medium, but you can hardly think of one without calling to mind the other. Letterress printing has been gaining popularity in recent years, as evident by the many letterpress print shops and businesses sprouting up as well as the number of workshops and classes being offered. It is experiencing a revival, not only here in the United States but also in Japan.

The Kansai Movable Type Club (関西活倶楽部) is currently hosting its second letterpress expo (活版エキスポ), showcasing design and letterpress work being done by the creative people of Kansai. The expo is in Osaka and will run until Sunday, February 27. There are goodies for sell and workshops to inspire!

Here is the mission statement from the Club’s website. Long live letterpress!

Twitterをはじめとしたデジタル上のソーシャルネットワークが拡大する時代が到来し、その反動としてリアルな人間関係やコミュニケーションが希薄になりつつあることが指摘されています。印刷業界もDTPなどのデジタル化が進み、活版印刷という歴史的な技術が消滅の危機にさらされています。しかし、そんな活版印刷に数年前から再びスポットライトを当てたのは、老舗印刷会社の二代目たちでした。大量生産では表現しにくいぬくもりやアナログ感に注目し、活版印刷をはじめデジタル化社会の穴を補おうと活動しています。活版エキスポでは活字のオリジナル商品や、関西のクリエイターたちと活版印刷の技術を用いて制作したアナログ感ある作品などを展示・販売します。