January 24, 2022  |  

Nice to meet you, we are Watanabe Bookbinding

Greetings from Watanabe Bookbinding Co. LTD. We are a bookbinding company that has been operating for 75 years in Tokyo, the heart of Japan’s publishing industry. Our current president, Koichi Watanabe, is the third president.

In this article, we will discuss the history of the company and its founder, Yoshikichi Watanabe.

Our founder moved to Tokyo at the age of 9 to start his career as a bookbinder

Yoshikichi Watanabe, first generation of Watanabe Bookbinding, ca. 1970

Yoshikichi started his career as a bookbinder when he was only 9 years old. After moving to Tokyo from Sendai, he went to live and work at a bookbindery owned by an acquaintance. He trained there, and his dexterity and enthusiasm were eventually rewarded with a position as factory manager. During World War II, his employer’s family was evacuated, but Yoshikichi and his family remained at the bookbindery.

Founded in 1946 as Watanabe Bookbinding.

After the end of World War II, the publishing industry was in a period of turmoil, and as publishing houses eagerly awaited the reopening of the bookbinders, Yoshikichi was tapped to lead the way.

Watanabe Bookbinding (circa 1955)

Initially, Yoshikichi had no intention of starting his own bookbindery, but with the help of a loan from a publisher who admired his skills and workmanship, he founded Watanabe Bookbinding in Taito-ku, Tokyo, in 1946.

Old machines still in use

In the early days of the company, they didn’t have all the necessary machinery for bookbinding, so they had to go to their friends’ bookbinders to have paper cut. With a little help, they were able to set up their machines one by one, and some of those machines are still in use at the factory today.

Left:Heating and pressing machine Right:Joint pressing machine

We have newer machines than these, but the old ones are useful for our special binding jobs, such as books that are too thin or too large, or where the cover is wrapped and affixed around the body of the book with a brush.

In particular, the heating and pressing machine on the left is indispensable for our notebook production.

It is used in notebooks such as the BOOK NOTE, Seven Seas CROSSFIELD, and in coloring the NÚtta.

Treasures passed down from previous generations

The third from the left is the first generation of Watanabe Bookbinding, Yoshikichi, and the rightmost is the second generation, Ryoji.

The treasures inherited from previous generations are not just old machines. The handcrafting techniques and spirit that successive generations of craftsmen have passed on are with us still. We have always valued beautiful tailoring and sturdy bookmaking and believe that we must continue to carefully hand down these skills and passions.