One of the highlights of my visit to Japan was a visit to the Tokyo Printing Museum with Dr. Robinson. It is based on the ground floor and basement levels of the twenty-one story headquarters of the Toppan Printing Company in the Koishikawa area of Tokyo.
Toppan, founded in 1900, is one of Japan’s largest printing companies, with over 169 global subsidiaries and affiliates specialising in the widest range of print work possible, from electronic displays, printed circuit boards and semi-conductor panels, to security printing, plastics, cardboard packaging, commercial and book and magazine publishing. Their plush headquarters is testimony to their major position in the global printing world. But while they maintain a focus on twenty-first century print production, they also spend a great deal of time and money on its history, with a museum that wonderfully acknowledges and examines the richness and place of print in civil society.
The cavernous basement of their building, tastefully laid out and subtly lit, offers the visitor a comprehensive, historical collection of artefacts and material that would delight the most dedicated of print enthusiasts. Original pages from the Gutenberg bible sit alongside other examples of European incunabula, Japanese block prints are sited alongside fine examples of printed poster art, and a variety of presses are scattered around the exhibition space, alongside miniature working models demonstrating different phases of print machinery history and development, right up to current day electronic forms. Taking up a major spot is a printing workshop, a large, glass enclosed space with about a dozen work stations set up to demonstrate the art of typesetting and hand printing. While I was visiting, the room was occupied by a group of new company recruits, all wearing print smocks and undertaking a session of hands on practical training as part of their induction into the company. It was heartening to see a global firm like Toppan committing its new employees to an understanding of the print traditions and history upon which the company had been founded. And it is a lovely space in which to find out more about the cultural connections between Western and East Asian printing.
Note: Photography is not allowed within the museum space.