Analogue Strikes Back – 1: Handmade Business Cards

This is the first dispatch in a series of digital products and services with a modern twist on the analogue.  

NAKAMURA KATSUJI — return to handcrafted business card

A small painting in a gold color frame of a man with a long, blonde beard, wearing a fur-trimmed cap jumps from the past to greet visitors to Nakamura Katsuji. The man in the painting is none other than Johannes Gutenberg, the German publisher who introduced printing to Europe, and a hero of Akihisa Nakamura’s, the owner of Nakamura Katsuji. As the 5th generation owner of the shop established more than 100 years ago, the bespectacled and soft-spoken Nakamura and his daughter run a letterpress printing business located in a quiet alley in Tsukiji-Ginza area — the center for printing industry since the Meiji period when Gutenberg’s invention was first introduced to Japan.

One of the remaining few craftsmen specializing in letterpress casting to produce business cards and postcards, Nakamura demonstrates us the technique on an antique manual platen press. He uses a tweezer to arrange the cast metal letterforms made of lead-alloy, spelling out the name of our photographer in katakana alphabet. Then he inks and presses the platen against paper, stamping letters into it. The end result is of sublime beauty– a delicate relief print that feels barely there until you touch it.

Technological developments like offset printing and phototypesetting may have changed the rules of printing business in the last 40 years. Even the way we connect with each other has changed, thanks to the digital revolution. Yet, Japan still maintains its rich card culture. Greeting someone you meet for the first time is a ritual with extensive bowing and an elaborate exchange of business cards; there’s even a Japan Business Card Association. Despite the surge in electronic devices and the digitalization in every business practice these days, products and services that are modern twists on their analogue age versions (like the digital chalk), or are outright anti-digital (think of fountain pens) are on the rise. Likewise, Nakamura thinks artisanal letterpress printing is enjoying a quiet comeback. He says that many who spend increasingly more time in front of computers revolt against the impersonal and long for the personal touch. A handmade business card is just the answer to that need. (Photo: Kitchen Minoru)

In the News: Fountain Pens are Back in Fashion as Millenials in Search of Digital Detox Turn to Handwriting

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