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Home » November 2007 » Publishers and Printers of Vintage Japanese Postcards

Publishers and Printers of Vintage Japanese Postcards

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 Posted: 12:03 PM JST

An evolving list of known printers and distributors that printed Japan related cards:

Most vintage postcards, especially in Japan, carry no information at all about the company that printed or published them, let alone the photographer. This makes attributing cards extremely difficult. However, there are a few companies that were so kind to to print their logos on their cards, the most famous one undoubtedly being Tomboya, which used a dragonfly as trademark.

The Detroit Publishing Co. (1880's-1936)
Detroit, MI, USA

Detroit Publishing

In 1902 the company produced some cards with scenes of Japan, they are numbered between 6000 and 6999.

Kamigataya Ginza (1920's)
Tokyo, Japan


Founded by Yoshimura Kiyobei during the Taisho Era, Kamigataya especially produced lithographic reproductions of ukiyo-e, such as portraits of actors.


However there are also real photograph cards bearing the Kamigataya imprint.

Kobundo Nakamura
Tokyo, Japan

Kobundo Nakamura

Produced colored cards of touristic scenes in Tokyo.

The Rotograph Co. (1904-1911)
684 Broadway, New York, NY, USA


I Series - View-cards showing well-known scenes of Japan. This series may consist of 20 cards in total.


J Series - This series totals 75 cards and consists mainly of hand tinted domestic scenes, although there are also a few landscapes.

Rotograph was the American sales arm of a German printer/publisher.

Many thanks to Paul Steier of New York for info about this publisher and the I and J series.

Motomachi, Kobe, Japan


This Kobe based company had a shop in Motomachi (featured in postcard above) and published many cards showing Kobe and surroundings. Its logo consisted of a lion.

Seihan Printing Co., Ltd. (1923-)
Osaka, Japan

Seihan Printing

Reproduced traditional Japanese woodblock prints. The very small dots of their patented printing process creates a look that resembles woodblock printing.

Taisho Hato
Wakayama, Japan

Taisho Hato

Taisho HatoThis Wakayama prefecture based company appears to have been especially active during the 1920's and 30's. Its specialty was black and white photographs of modern cityscapes. The company's logo was a dove ("hato" in Japanese) spreading its wings.

Isezakicho, Yokohama, Japan


Tomboya was established by Tokutaro Maeda, then president of Kamigataya. He head-hunted Japanese photographer Takaji Hotta from Farsari for this new venture. The company produced high quality hand tinted and black and white cards of city and country scenes in Japan.

The cards are often numbered using digits preceded by the first letter of the town depicted. The company's cards can be easily recognized by its distinctive dragonfly ('tombo' in Japanese) trademark.

Raphael Tuck & Sons (1866-1960's)
London, England and 122 Fifth Ave, New York, NY

Raphael Tuck & Sons

Tuck published a large number of cards showing Japanese scenes. Founded in 1866 by Raphael Tuck as a company selling furniture, pictures, and frames, the company started to print Christmas cards in 1871. By 1899, Tuck was the first publisher to print postcards in what is now considered "standard size". In 1900, the company opened offices in Paris and New York. A 1940 German bombing raid destroyed the company's factory and offices in London. After the war they returned to the publishing business, but in the 1960's they were bought up by Purnell & Sons.

Valentine's Co. Ltd.(1825-1963)
Dundee, Scotland and London, England

Valentine’s Co. Ltd.

Founded by John Valentine in 1825 in Dundee, Scotland, the Valentine Company was a major Publisher of views. The company published a large series for the Japan-British Exhibition (1910).

Paris, France


Produced a series of cards designed by Georges Ferdinand Bigot on the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Born in Paris in 1860, Bigot moved to Japan in 1882. He lived there for 17 years and worked as a journalist, a teacher and an artist. He died in 1927.

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