vol.24 OjikaTelling the charm of Ojikajima Island to the world through letterpress printing

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2019.02.23|Momoko Yokoyama/OJIKAPPAN

Momoko Yokoyama studied graphic design at a university outside the prefecture and returned to Ojikajima Island after working in Tokyo for a while. She then jumped into the world of letterpress printing, which was her family business having been handed over for generations. Recently she made her dream come true by opening her own studio. Yokoyama tells the charm of Ojikajima Island through presenting new ways to enjoy letterpress printing to the world. A 200-year old kominka or Japanese traditionalhouse is both Yokoyama’s home and the printingshop with 100 years of history, Shinkosha. One stepinto the house you will be overwhelmed by the heavyand dull shine of lead covering the walls. A close lookwill show you that pieces of “type,” an indispensablecomponent to letterpress printing, are being displayedby radical of Chinese characters and font size.


Letterpress printing requires manually operated,time-consuming process of selecting individual typeletters. Seeing the final printed product can bring asense of achievement. “Letterpress printing createsrich expression to the printed matter and that is thecharm of this technique. The expression changeswith how the ink and pressure are applied. The finalproduct will never look flat.” Yokoyama got attractedto such charm more and more. Letterpress printingcan be challenging; you can set movable typesunevenly or other way around by mistake. “But thisvery process of assembling the types one by one andworking towards the completion is what never ceasesto amaze me,” she says.

The business card printing is the service Yokoyamaherself started. Printing business card requiresmore time and effort, since every “plate” is uniqueto the customer. Amongst her customers are manyyoung women and people working in design/creativeindustries. Yokoyama takes orders through thewebsite but the visitors of the studio also often placeorders right there.

Letterpress printing is not mere‘printing.’ Recent trend is to promote it as somethingthat creates fashionable and attractive items,” saysYokoyama.Her grandfather, the second-generation owner ofthe shop, often said that letterpress printing wasa cultural business. “There is a kind of glamour toit.” In letterpress printing, inked, raised surfacesare impressed to the paper so when you touch theprinted surface you can feel the embossed effect.Yokoyama thinks the essence of letterpress printinglies in this “tactile effect” and it is one of the reasonswhy this printing method regained its popularity inthis age.One of the Chinese characters for “letterpress” alsomeans “continuous lively activities.”

In the processof letterpress printing a continuous movement isinvolved from selecting types, composing a “plate,”printing, taking apart the types, and putting themback to the shelves. The essence of letterpressprinting, Yokoyama thinks, is none other than this“types moving.”Yokoyama launched her own studio within theshop this year. She introduced the German printerHeidelberg, which was one of her long-term wish.The quality of German steel is excellent.

It is hard andsolid. Its stately silhouette is another beauty of thisprinter which, to Yokoyama, is “the world where steelis lively.”One of her goals is to create a program in whichvisitors can experience letterpress printing combinedwith “kominka stay” to offer a way to enjoy OjikajimaIsland. “The process of letterpress printing and theflow of time in Ojikajima are somewhat similar inthat both being ‘slow’.” Business in the countrysidecannot be realized without the countryside in the firstplace. Yokoyama believes that if she always takesOjikajima Island into account in her business, theisland will naturally survive. “Another goal for me isto grow as a business owner; employ and nurturehuman resources.”