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5 different Japanese bookbinding styles

This article looks at different types of Japanese bookbinding styles and a bit of detail about their structures.
© Keio University

Let’s learn about book manufacturing from Ōiri Co., Ltd., a modern-day kyōji.

First of all, what structures do books have? Let’s identify the different types of books and their binding methods.

The following are the extant forms of Japanese books, given in order with the oldest first.

1. Kansusō

A binding method in which sheets of paper are spliced together with glue. A cover is attached to one end, and a roller to the other, and the paper is rolled up from the roller side for storage.

Kansusō Kansusō

2. Orihon

A binding method in which sheets are spliced together, just as in kansusō, but no roller is used. Instead, the long sheet is folded alternately back and forth at a fixed width, and then a cover is attached on the front and back.

Orihon Orihon

3. Decchōsō

A binding method in which sheets of paper are folded vertically in half, stacked and aligned, and glued together near the fold in the stacked paper. Then a cover is attached.

Decchōsō Decchōsō

4. Tetsuyōsō

When around five sheets of paper are stacked and folded vertically in half, it is called an ori. In this binding method, the necessary number of ori are stacked and stitched together by passing thread through holes punched in the fold. Then a cover is attached.

Tetsuyōsō Tetsuyōsō

5. Fukurotoji

The binding method in which paper is folded vertically with mountain folds, tentatively stitched using koyori (paper string) or something similar on the opposite side of the fold. Then a cover is attached, and stitching is done with thread.

Fukurotoji Fukurotoji

The course Japanese Culture Through Rare Books, in the same rare books series as this course, explains the various bookbinding methods in detail, as well as their significance and history. If you’re interested, please take that course too.

Classification by how papers are bound together

Books integrate multiple sheets of paper for easier handling as a single unit of information. There are two main ways to do this: using adhesives such as glue, binding sheets together with a cord or thread, etc.

When the five binding methods above are classified by how they integrate papers, the results are as follows.

Book types Book types and binding methods

When glue or other adhesives are used, it is essential to dry the book to eliminate moisture and that takes time. As demand for books rose, the rate of production needed to increase.

With the dissemination of printing technology, fukurotoji binding became the mainstream choice for Japanese books and became widespread in the market.

If you’d like to learn more about Japanese rare books, check out the online course from Keio University, below.

© Keio University
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