Bold Typography in Vintage Japanese Newspapers

As a designer, it’s easy to get stuck in the style trends of today… so here’s some typographic inspiration from vintage Japan. Coming from a large collection of 3000 ads from the years 1891 – 1945 (put together by the University of Tokyo), these vintage newspaper pages feature a bold style we don’t frequently see today. Huge glyphs boldly displayed in neat blocks. The emphasis here is often on the arrangement of elements, rather than a reliance on imagery… something to which the both vertically and horizontally orientable Japanese characters lend themselves well.

Not everything in the collection is attractive, nor stylish. There are many examples of advertising which points to a quickly westernizing nation, with quite a few featuring men who have donned the popular double breasted suits of the day. Other ads are downright funny, like the anti-gas advert you’ll find below. For more from this interesting collection head to

The Ise-Shimbun, No. 6985, p. 5, 27 May 1902

The Osaka-Asahi-Shimbun, No. 9612, p. 4, 11 December 1908, Osaka, Osaka-Asahi-Shimbun-Sha

The Hochi-Shimbun, No. 17878, p. 8, 1 November 1926, Tokyo, Hochi-Shimbun-Sha

The Tokyo-Asahi-Shimbun, No. 18048, p. 8, 13 July 1936, Tokyo, Tokyo-Asahi-Shimbun-sha

The Tokyo-Asahi-Shimbun, No. 17722, p. 10, 19 August 1935, Tokyo, Asahi-Shimbun-sha

The Tokyo-Asahi-Shimbun, No. 15421, p. 5, 13 April 1929, Tokyo, Tokyo-Asahi-Shimbun-Sha

The Takaoka-Shimbun, No. 13515, p. 4, 24 May 1932, Takaoka, Takaoka-Shimbun-Sha


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