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Hoikusha Colour Books

Text: Joanna Kawecki

2021.10.05

Pictured: A collection of Hoikusha Color Books at Los Papelotes bookstore in Yoyogi-Uehara, Tokyo, Japan.

Before google even existed, one Japanese publisher was printing mini books that were an encyclopaedic deep dive into just one topic. From the late 1960’s until early 2000, Osaka-based Hoikusha Publishing Co. Ltd. published hundreds of pocket-sized 10 by 15cm single-subject books that ranged from Kyoto Gardens to All Of The Worlds Perfumes, or the Plankton of Japanese Coastal Waters and the Spring Flora of Sikkim Himalayas. I always wondered what were these amazing little books were that went beyond trend themes and rather focused on the foundations of life. Inside, their vivid and diverse imagery really was like a condensed google search from the 1980’s! Known as Color Books, they were a powerhouse of encyclopaedic knowledge to almost everything and anything. Each book had a dedicated author that was a specialist in that field, such as the traditional Japanese doll Kokeshi book by specialist and doll craftsman Noboru Yamanaka. It’s possible to still find these little books in some secondhand or vintage bookstores in Japan. Palm-sized, each holds only 304 pages with only one sixth of the book in color due the early years of color printing!

Joanna Kawecki
Tokyo-based Editor and Journalist specialising in design and architecture. She co-founded Ala Champ Magazine in 2009, and also leads Champ Creative, an international consultancy, editorial production and special projects studio in fashion, art and design.

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