While I love Japan, the Japanese people and Japanese arts, technology and culture, I abhor Japan's (and Iceland's) whaling policy…

Iceland's 'scientific whaling' programme, like Japan's, is merely commercial whaling in disguise.
Commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1982, but a loophole allows the killing of whales for research purposes. Iceland plans to sell the products of its 'research' to Japan, where whale meat generates four billion yen in sales annually.

Click on the Defend the Whales image above for further details.


One of the special appeals of the Japanese book is that most styles can be produced at home with little or no specialist equipment. While book artists might find special usefulness in any and all Japanese bookbinding styles, the more prosaic modern applications of Japanese bookbinding styles can be classified into three groups:

Group 1
Styles which are currently used in Western books which are based on Japanese bindings;
Group 2

Styles which offer special facility not available in Western bindings;
Group 3
Styles which might be useful for certain applications, but no more useful than existing Western styles.

Styles which fall into group 1 would include the basic forms of orihon, hybrids of sempuyo and detchoso and adaptations of yotsume toji; styles which would fall into group 2 include detchoso and sempuyo; group 3 styles would include the balance of all the styles described previously, for example hantori cho which, while useful as notebooks etc are no more useful than the Western styles already used for such applications.

Group 1
Japanese styles currently in common use

Many of the current applications of Japanese book styles are babies' and children's books. Orihon concertina books can be found on any child's bookshelf, and room friezes are frequently packaged in orihon style; board books, while not conforming precisely to either sempuyo or detchoso styles are clearly a hybrid of both; rag books, with their pouch pages, are clearly based on the yotsume toji family, even though the sewing method is dissimilar.

Since so many of the Japanese styles utilize duplex pages, applications which depend upon double-layer pages are frequently based on the Japanese style, for example pop-up books, 'action' books containing concealed flaps and trapdoors, and slip-in photograph albums. Advertising leaflets are frequently folded orihon style. Although these might not be considered books in the strict sense, their folding is certainly in the orihon manner.

Group 2
Japanese styles which offer special facilities

The usefulness of this group depends upon the ease with which handmade books can be produced, with text originated directly from a home computer, without any of the problems of imposition (see appendix II 'Imposition'). Orihon (especially as nobiru gajo and nori-ire gajo), sempuyo, detchoso, and the yotsume toji family (Kangxi, asa-no-ha toji and kikko toji) can all be used in this way.

The inherent ease with which such books can be produced makes the detchoso in particular extremely useful if a proof of a small book is required – the page layout is the same as for the conventionally-bound final book, yet the proof can be produced in a few minutes. Due to the greater number of pages, the thickness of the proof book will be about double that of the final book, unless thinner paper is used, but this discrepancy can easily be pointed out to the client, printer etc.

Group 3
Japanese styles which offer no special facilities

That I have not discerned any special convenience or application for the rest of the books described may not, of course, mean that there are none – only that I have failed to discover them. Some of the books which have fallen, by default, into this group are so very easy to bind that they would be useful in schools – for example, Yamato, flat-cord ledger and daifuko cho could be made with little supervision even by very young children.

When a small notebook is required, one could do much worse than produce it in one of these styles; one would have an attractive and durable book, but one which offers no special advantage over, say, a Western-style pamphlet-bound notebook. I suppose the retchoso binding falls into the present 'no special advantages' group. It has one special application, although this is so specialised that perhaps it hardly counts: rebinding Japanese books which were originally bound in Western multi-section style so that they are in a traditional Japanese style.

The purpose of this dissertation has been to investigate modern uses for traditional Japanese bookbinding styles. By implication, this supposes that Western materials will be used for their construction, and in all the sample books accompanying this document this is the case. However, the nature of Western and Japanese papers is so different that it would not be right to ignore the completely different character of books constructed of each. Moreover, for some applications, Japanese paper is more or less essential: inner bindings constructed from Western paper are most unsatisfactory; paper Yamato toji cords are impossible to tie neatly (impossible to tie at all, in my opinion!) if Western paper is used (see the Paper Sampler – photograph not yet available).

Given, though, that books constructed of these very dissimilar materials will be radically different in character, some styles may still be bound very satisfactorily using Western materials. Whereas all the pouchbook styles and one or two of the ledgers translate less than perfectly to Western materials, many of the others can be extremely satisfactory. In particular the orihon, sempuyo and detchoso plus some of the ledgers have worked extremely well, and proved absolutely invaluable in my own work.

It is possible to produce most Japanese-style books with hard covers instead of the more usual semi-soft. Although this sometimes entails a laborious and unattractive solution to overcome the lack of flexibility of the hard cover (eg Yamato toji, fukuro toji, yotsume toji) in other cases the transition can be achieved with great elegance and no visual disturbance (eg orihon, sempuyo, detchoso).


Three Envelope Books
a set of nori-ire gajo books made from old envelopes; by the author


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This page last updated: 3 May, 2010 17:03