Tokyo Printing Museum

Back in May, I was lucky enough to visit Japan again with work and managed to find an hour in my schedule to finally visit the Tokyo Printing Museum. After finally navigating the ridiculously complicated train system with help from some native colleagues, I arrived at Edogawabashi station and walked to the Headquartes of the Toppan Printing Co, who run the museum.

Read on for more…

I had heard great things about the museum, and was expecting it to be very busy. Imagine my surprise to see that I was the only person in the whole museum. All these artefacts just for me. This also made it quite difficult to take images, presuming I might not be allowed to take photographs – loads of staff staring me down all of the time.

On entering the museum for the equivalent of about £5, and wary of time, I had a (very) swift walk around the exhibition hall. Taking in lithographs, Western & Japanese movable type, a replica Plantin press, and even a Linotype. I would have loved a lot more time to take in the exhibits properly but I was very impressed with the range on display and the English translations with each piece made it much easier to understand!

Now, the main draw for me was to see a real-life example of Gutenberg’s 42-line bible. There was only one original page on display, alongside a full replica bible, but my goodness it was beautiful. I had heard about the blackness of the black and the rubrication, which I only fully appreciated once I had seen it – gorgeous. Also on display was a replice set of the movable type that pretty much changed the world. Well worth the trip itself.

Tearing myself away from the 15th Century, I came across the workshop, which, due to lack of visitors, was closed to the public. I could still stare at all the goodies in the workshop through the wrap-around windows. Every wall was full of type, Japanese and Western wood and metal type. There were Albion and Columbian presses, proofing presses and about 10 Adanas. Probably my dream workshop. Outside the workshop were some free souvenir prints, printed in various gradients on the Albion (see headline image). I grabbed a couple at the insistance of one of the guides, and sadly left to go back to work.

On my way out I was handed a few business cards for the museum, which had really nice wood lettering on the reverse. All in all a great little museum, maybe not worth trekking all the way to Japan to see, but if you are in Tokyo I’d definitely recommend giving yourself a few hours to look around.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Susie Armstrong says:

    I got here from you post on Briar Press, thanks for the description of the Tokyo Print Museum. Who knew?! Hope to make it there on my next business trip to Japan. I’m also enjoying the 3D printer saga of poor Ivor’s broken part, hope you will post pictures when it is all back together.

    • Hi Susie,

      Glad you found it interesting – I’d definitely recommend a visit, such a great little place. Do you get out there much?

      I’m actually going to get Ivor’s new part tomorrow – I’ve been away for a while and haven’t been able to put the press back together since it was completed. Going to take pictures and write a post about how it goes over the weekend.

      Interestingly, I got an email from Ivor’s daughter a few weeks who tracked me down – so lovely to hear from her. Turns out her cousin lives on the same street as me. The world is a small one.

      Do you print? It’s always nice to meet people with the same passion.

      Thanks again for getting in touch – I’ll let you know when the new pics are up.


  • Hello Rich

    Just want to add my recommendation to visit the museum in Tokyo.

    We supplied the Adana machines to them when they opened many years ago. I was lucky enough to finally get out there and see them in operation. They run courses teaching kids how to print – its a great visit.

    Best regards
    Richard Caslon
    Caslon Limited

    If any of your readers need any Adana or letterpress supplies we would be very happy to help them as we purchased the Adana company back in the 1980’s and we are very passionate about keeping it going…. Sorry about the cheap plug!

    • Hi Richard,

      Thanks for your message – I’m out in Japan again at the moment, hoping to head over there again this weekend, actually. It’s an amazing space and so great that you supplied the museum with their Adanas – the workshop there is a great space!

      Have to back up your plug – Caslon has long been a go-to place for parts, ink and equipment for my two Adanas. Everyone, check it out here:

      I shall have to pay you a visit when I’m back in the UK!

      All the best,

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