Finding Japan In Germany! Part 4: A Japanese bookbinding workshop at “RSVP” in Berlin.

A report on Japanese culture found in Germany. In this article TJ writer, Wasabi, who is currently in Berlin, is interviewing people she found who are associated with Japan and its culture. This time she interviewed a master of Japanese paper binding, Aleksandar Todorovic, at his workshop.

Hiro Kirk   Culture,

Inside the shop, before workshop

RSVP, the paper shop

Japanese bookbinding, a technique that is overlooked in Japan

In 2014 “Washi” Japanese paper was designated as intangible cultural asset. The traditional Japanese bookbinding technique hardly ever becomes a topic of conversation because it does not gain a lot of attention by the people because of its unpopularity. Not many Japanese people even know that it’s actually a Japanese technique and I didn’t even know until coming to this workshop. I’ve seen this binding technique for old Japanese and Chinese history books, but never thought about where it comes from.

making books

explaining the procedures

According to the speaker, the technique of Japanese bookbinding is quite old. Around the same time that Japan opened up itself to the rest of the world, the technique was gradually replaced from Western ones, and it has been forgotten in Japan. The one we made at the workshop is called “Yotsume-toji,” and this type was mostly produced during the Edo period (1603-1868).


procedure 2


Joyfully making a notebook using favorite papers that you’ve chosen!

People who are interested in DIY and crafts participated in the workshop, and at first, everyone looked so curious about the tools. The workshop started by choosing a favorite paper that people would use for the cover. I chose blue Washi paper with brilliant geometric patterns. I will use this paper for my final notebook after practicing on a rough draft. I realized that I became very focused when listening to the procedures for binding the paper with a needle and making holes using a hammer. We had previously held a workshop for making Multifaceted Edo Glass and from that, I think it’s very nice to have time to do only one thing without any interference during the workshop, because nowadays it’s very hard for people to find this kind of quiet, productive time in a hectic daily life. In addition to that, the workshop will give your life something pleasant.

Aleks, the teacher

The instructor, Aleks, was enchanted by the Japanese bookbinding’s visual beauty and its traditional technique.

Aleksandar Todorovic was the instructor for Japanese bookbinding workshop and lives in Wien, Austria. He discovered Japanese bookbinding after studying design in Holland and was enchanted by its visual beauty. He says, “There is nothing like this technique in Europe.” He was passionate enough to go to Boston University, and started learning the technique on his own by researching it at the library. Currently he teaches the bookbinding technique 3 days out of every two weeks in Wien. “I like it, because it’s easy to make and is visually beautiful.” “I will sometimes show the books to my friends and they are always very pleased with them.”

People's works
One of the works done by a participant.

Everyone's works.

If you change the combination of paper, binding string, and colors, you can create hundreds of unique notebooks. I had no idea that the Japanese bookbinding technique has so much potential!
What’s more interesting is that, Alexs is not Japanese, but a Serbian living far from Japan!

In this globalized world where goods are transferring freely, the idea makes things new and interesting might still be cultural differences.

Please go find Aleksandar’s work, information about his career as a designer, and the details for the next workshop at his website!

Aleksandar Todorovic

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Writer / Translator

I’m a freelance translator from Tokyo who likes to travel right in the middle of the unpredictables in life. Through the translation of articles I hope to create points of contact between Japan and the rest of the world. As a writer, I want to add information that isn’t in the guide book, from a “wasabi” perspective!



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