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    An Italian who came to Japan to design the nation’s first modern banknotes helped found one of the country’s most important printers[UPDATED: 11-21-2019]

    Edoardo Chiossone (1833-1898) an Italian painter, engraver and lithographer arrived in Japan in 1875 at the height of Japan’s period of rapid modernisation, known as the Meiji Era (1868-1912), to help design and create the country’s first modern banknotes. 

    He designed banknotes including: a 5-Yen banknote; the 1878 1-Yen banknote, the first modern Japanese banknote to include an image of an individual the legendary Empress Jingu (170-269); and a banknote with the image of Sugawara no Michizane (845-903) an important Heian Period (794-1185) poet and politician, for example.

    The image Chiossone created for the 1-Yen banknote depicts a somewhat European-looking Empress Jingu, wearing heavy ornate necklaces in an oval on the righthand side of the banknote.

    In total Chiossone created 500 plates that were used to print bonds, stamps, securities, as well as banknotes for use in Japan. Initially, many were printed outside Japan.

    Chiossone, who stayed for 23 years and died in Japan, had a major influence on the world of printing, publishing and even on how the world saw Japan and its Emperor at the time, the Meiji Emperor (1852-1912).

    He is also credited with helping found the printing company Toppan Insatsu by training its two founders, as well as training many individuals who went on to transform Japanese printing and publishing.

    He worked very closely with Enkichi Kimura (1853-1911), for example, and others helping them to subsequently found Toppan, which has now become a global printing company and runs the Printing Museum, Tokyo. Among other things, the museum proudly displays the world’s smallest printed book, printed by Toppan in 2013. 

    Modern printing may have taken off much more slowly in Japan had it not been for Chiossone’s important contribution. He lived in Japan during a period when many new newspapers and magazines were launched and printing, like the Internet today, was a transformational technology. 

    Chiossone is also remembered for his famous 1888 widely circulated portrait of the Meiji Emperor, and his impressive personal collection of Japanese art, which is now housed at the Museum of Japanese Art ‘Edoardo Chiossone’ in Genova.

    An Italian who came to Japan to design the nation’s first modern banknotes helped found one of the country’s most important printers Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Long before Europe, papermaking know-how arrived in Japan[UPDATED: 7-5-2019]

    Papermaking arrived in Japan via Korea from China in 610 when Japan was ruled by Shotoku Taishi (574-622), an important historical figure in Japan and still admired today as one of Japan’s early pioneers and modernisers.

    The so-called Prince of Holy Virtue, a regent and author, is credited with many things including developing Japan’s first set of laws, establishing Japan’s first national library, authoring Japan’s oldest book, the Hokekyo gisho, as well as helping create Japan’s book loving culture

    He did many things, but his encouragement of the development of papermaking, through which he aimed to promulgate Buddhism in Japan, acted as facilitator for much of what he achieved and importantly led to the lasting records of his achievements surviving until today. 

    Paper was required for copying Buddhist texts. Initially, according to Kiyofusa Narita (1884-1979) Director of the Paper Museum in Tokyo and a former executive of Oji Paper Company Limited, the paper made using the newly imported methods was too brittle for this use and new approaches to papermaking were required using the bark of Kozo (paper mulberry) trees.

    The term Kozo is a loose one that can in fact be used to describe at least three different plants whose inner bark are used in traditional Japanese papermaking.

    This innovative enhancement is sometimes credited to the Prince himself who also encouraged the cultivation of Kozo trees in Japan.

    These and new subsequent innovations and enhancements led to the development of Washi, Japanese paper, which is now famous around the world, and is said in some of its forms to last over a thousand years

    It is held in high regard by artist and artisans, Rembrandt (1606-1669) is even said to have created works using Japanese paper.

    Some of the Buddhist charms, that were mass produced and printed under the Prince’s guidance and placed in pagodas and temples in Japan to bring peace to the nation, are regarded by experts to be some of the oldest, if not the oldest, printed matter extant in the world.

    UNESCO, in 2014, included Japanese handmade paper, Washi, to its list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. This recognition would be something hard for Shotoku Taishi to fathom, but if it were explained to him, he would no doubt be delighted by the recognition.

     

    Long before Europe, papermaking know-how arrived in Japan Posted by Richard Nathan