National Printing Bureau intaglio print artwork commemorating Tokyo Station’s 100th anniversary

Artwork made with Bank of Japan banknote printing methods

A highly successful 100th anniversary ceremony for Tokyo Station was held by the East Japan Railway Company at Tokyo Station Hotel on December 19, 2014. At the event, intaglio print artwork produced by the National Printing Bureau using the traditional intaglio printing method also used for creating banknote portraits was adopted as a commemorative product. The works were presented to representatives of Amsterdam Central Station in the Netherlands and New York’s Grand Central Terminal in the United States. Tokyo Station has sister relationships with both stations.

intaglio print artwork

The intaglio artwork, which consists of two symmetric intaglio prints, was specially designed by professionals at the National Printing Bureau. The right side of the work depicts Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi Building as it was 100 years ago when the station opened, while the left side shows the same building today after preservation and full-scale restoration work.

Japanese artisan technique for intaglio print production

engraving approach

Intaglio printing is a copperplate engraving approach in which sharp fine lines are manually engraved on a copper plate using a special tool called a burin. Ink is then applied to the engraved plate for transfer to paper. Printed lines created with this technique show thick layers of ink when observed through a magnifying glass, and provide a tangible texture on the paper. These characteristics, which are specific to intaglio printing, enable intricate depiction and offer high resistance to banknote counterfeiting.



Commentary: Tokyo Station as it was 100 years ago

The prints are composed of fine dots and lines for beautiful black-and-white contrast and a sense of depth. (Mouse over to enlarge)


The print on the right (Tokyo Station 1914) depicts the station’s Marunouchi Building in the winter of 1914 from the south side (used only for boarding at the time). In sharp contrast to today’s urban landscape, there are no tall buildings blocking the view around the station and the roads are not yet paved. Rickshaws and early cars were means of transport for joyful station visitors in traditional Japanese costumes (kimono).
The creation of plates for intaglio printing requires meticulous consideration of line composition so that clear impressions can be made and the rich appeal of the scenery is captured. Images of soft clouds in the sky are created with an assemblage of minute dots. Careful attention to kimono patterns and facial expressions is a particular feature.


Commentary: Tokyo Station today


The print on the left (Tokyo Station 2014) depicts the station’s Marunouchi Building after complete restoration. A century after its opening, the station is surrounded by skyscrapers serving as commercial and office premises. The view shown here is from the north, in contrast to the southern aspect of the image from 100 years ago on the right. This composition was adopted in consideration of perspective and the inclusion of the domes at both ends of the building.

The rich design of the brick station building and the minute depictions of taxis and pedestrians are noteworthy. The design process involved painstaking efforts to reproduce the scenery with engraving based on continuous review to achieve the most effective line compositions.

At the National Printing Bureau, printing and papermaking engineers, designers and engraving professionals work closely together to create various products with high elegance and functionality. The Bureau’s intaglio prints are produced with techniques developed in the process of Bank of Japan note manufacture, and are recognized domestically and internationally for the graceful impression they create.

National Printing Bureau Japan
Public Relations Office

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