Continuing to focus on the beauty of unevenness and preserving typographic culture for the future [Tsukiji Type]


Making things
Takumi's landscape

The scene of this issue
[Occupation] Type foundry craftsman
[Artisan name] Tsukiji movable type Hatsuyuki Omatsu
[Location] Minami Ward, Yokohama

Carefully, carefully, and thoughtfully.
A corner that introduces manufacturing sites that make use of handicrafts.
This time, we will introduce letterpress printing, which once supported Japan's printing culture.
Introducing the world of. Even in today's era of increasing digitalization,
"Tsukiji type" has gained support from many customers.

A worn-out wooden shelf called the ``type room.'' More than 250,000 metal characters are lined up there, including kanji, hiragana, and the alphabet. This is Tsukiji Type, which was founded in 1919 (Taisho 18). A type casting machine is making loud mechanical noises at the back of the store. The raw metal (ingot) is melted in a pot at temperatures of 350 to 400 degrees, flows into a concave matrix pre-installed in the casting machine, and is cooled with tap water, where it appears as convex type. . Mr. Omatsu, who has been working as a foundry craftsman here since he was 19 years old, is now 73 years old. Occasionally, I pull down my glasses and look through the magnifying glass to inspect the newly created type. This careful, high-quality work that has continued for over 50 years continues to convey to us the charm of letterpress.

Close to Yoshinomachi Station on the Yokohama Municipal Subway Blue Line. Tsukiji motsuji is located along the Nakamura River, which branches off from the Ooka River. When I opened the door, I heard a loud clanking sound and a distinct machine smell like burnt oil. The source of the sounds and smells is the type casting machines lined up in the back of the room, and the craftsman, Mr. Omatsu, is constantly watching over the machines.

This time, I had the opportunity to speak with Kiichi Hirako, who is the fifth generation of Tsukiji Type Company to take over the movable type casting and letterpress printing business.

``There is something that my late father once said that I will never forget: ``The letters on old newspapers are easier on the eyes than the letters on today's newspapers.''This is due to the unevenness of the letterpress. The subtle differences in the color density of the surface are soothing to the eyes.''I feel these words very strongly myself now.That's why, in today's society where digital printing is progressing, we purposely create prints with ``heavy weight.'' I feel it is my mission to present to the world the unmistakable authenticity of the skills of craftsmen who create letterpress type,'' says Hirako.

Mr. Hirako will guide you through various ``tools'' and ``techniques'' related to letterpress printing that are still alive and well today.

This is the so-called "matrix dance" that houses the "matrix" molds that are essential for making type. When you open the drawer, you'll see rows of brass molds lined up. It is said that the "Tsukiji Type" stores the matrix of over 250,000 types of characters, but now that there are no more craftsmen who can make the matrix, the items stored here are considered extremely valuable "treasures". That's why.

This ``mother mold safe'' also contains valuable brass mother molds.

When the raw material (ingot) melted with heat is poured into this concave part, convex type is created.

Next, I was shown the so-called ``type room,'' which was filled with type made by Mr. Omatsu, a foundry craftsman.

Why are the shelves stored diagonally? ...When I asked Mr. Hirako, he said, ``The reason why the shelves with type are stored diagonally is to prevent earthquakes.The design is very balanced, so even in an earthquake, the type does not fly out. It's a style that has been passed down from generation to generation." Also, the way the type is arranged varies depending on the printing company, and here at Tsukiji Type, the type is arranged in the order in which it is arranged in an encyclopedia.

This is a 4-point type shelf, which is the smallest among the types available at Tsukiji Type. This kind of typesetting work has also disappeared.

Next, we will take a look at the workplace of Mr. Omatsu, a craftsman who operates a type casting machine.

Bullion (ingot) is the raw material for printing type. The material is 83% lead, the rest 15% antimony and 2% tin.

In the type casting machine, the pot is heated to 350 to 400 degrees, and the aforementioned metal (ingot) is melted into liquid form.

What accumulates in the center is liquid metal.

Mr. Omatsu stands next to the casting machine, where sweltering heat is rising, and continues to work while keeping an eye on the kettle for a long time.

A stick is placed in a pot containing melted metal, and the "feel" is checked, such as the specific gravity of the material.

The metal melted in the pot is then poured into a concave mold.

The metal is poured into a concave matrix, cooled with tap water (above photo), and then convex type is created.

The meticulous work of checking the completed small type using a magnifying glass continues. This small print is useless once it falls to the floor. This is because even small scratches can ruin the beauty of typeface.

Because there is a risk of steam explosion due to contact with water, the Fire Service Act requires an exhaust duct to be installed above the casting machine.

From here on, Mr. Hirako will teach us the simple process of letterpress printing. First, select type in the ``type room'' according to the manuscript you have prepared, and put them into the ``text selection box.'' After that, the letters are placed in a metal frame called a ``chase'' while adjusting the spacing between the letters to create a plate, which is quite difficult. Craftsmanship, such as the exquisite use of space between letters and lines, is required not only by hand but also by the craftsmanship of a ``connoisseur.''

Finally, the "chase" is attached to a printing machine with rollers, ink and paper are set, and printing is completed.

``Tsukiji Type'' also sells ``type holders'' that have been developed to allow you to feel more familiar with beautiful letterpress printing type and can be used for a variety of purposes. ``I want people to experience the joy of making and printing their own type with this 'small tool,''' says Hirako.

As a side note, I used to think that the appeal of letterpress printing was the deep unevenness that felt like it was engraved on paper (the back side was bumpy). The challenge is how to express the beautiful unevenness on the surface without letting it bleed through or change the expression of the paper on the back.'' I heard many profound stories.

When I receive a letterpress business card at work, I can't help but pick it up and stare at it. Today, I found out the reason again. It's just a business card, but it's a small square piece of paper that fits in the palm of your hand, and is engraved with the craftsmanship and passion that has been passed down through generations. Why not try incorporating letterpress printing not only for business cards but also for New Year's cards from now on? The person who picks it up will be captivated by the beauty of the letters and want to gently touch it with their fingers...that's the kind of New Year's card.

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