Introducing Japanese Book Binding

As one of my favourites, Japanese book binding has some great advantages including the ability to combine a number of different pages with the many different styles of stitching. Here are a couple of facts about Japanese book binding:

1.    Japanese book binding has been around for over 900 years.

Japanese books have a long history, which begins in the 8th century AD, and in the Heian Period, where the majority of the books were hand copied. The binding technique used during this period was yamatotoji やまと とじ, this and mostly for Japanese literary works. The pages were folded and place one inside another to form a booklet or fascicle. Then four (or sometimes two) holes were made horizontally in the book near the spine. By threading a flat cord (or sometimes a strip of paper) through each pair of slits, and then the cord ends are brought to the front, and each cord is secured tightly with a square knot. 

Yamato honzō; 大和本草  - Kaibara, Ekiken, 1630-1714. Published 1715.

Yamato honzō; 大和本草 - Kaibara, Ekiken, 1630-1714. Published 1715.


2.    It is perfect as an “afterthought” binding

Unlike section sewn (usually used to make hard cover fiction books), the pages of Japanese Books were created to follow a numerical sequence. As the books were not bound until the last moment pages would be able to be easily removed or added. This flexibility provides the maker with endless possibilities especially the use of different weights, colours and types of paper, peace of mind that you can add or remove a page and the ability to add a cover of their choosing. This means that Japanese Binding is a perfect option for illustrators and artists to easily and gorgeously bind their work together.


3.    There are many different styles of stitching.

There are many different styles or stitches of binding. So, whether you are after something simple like kokitoji こき とじ or Noble Binding or perhaps something a more decorative like kikkotoji きっこ とじ or Tortoise Shell Binding. Naturally over time the styles of binding have become more decorative with a focus on the outside of the book.



With endless options, modern Japanese book binding is a great option for illustrators, artists, crafters, and designers. If you are interested in learning Japanese book binding techniques. You’ll be able to find more information about up-coming workshops here.

Kelly Gilchrist