Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. History

One Kanda Izumi-cho, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo, 101-0024

Telephone: (81) 3 3835-5111
Fax: (81) 3 3835-0674

Public Company
Incorporated: 1900
Employees: 31,610
Sales: $9.77 billion (2002)
Stock Exchanges: Tokyo
NAIC: 323119 Other Commercial Printing; 323115 Digital Printing; 516110 Internet Publishing and Broadcasting; 334410 Other Electronic Component Manufacturing

Company Perspectives:

Empowered by the words change and challenge, we are working hard to build a corporation in which our customers can place their trust with complete confidence. We will strive to create services and businesses that are not held back by the limits of conventional thinking. Moreover, we will provide our customers with even more useful services through planning and marketing programs that work to our mutual benefit, and through enhanced technical development to meet the needs of a changing world.

Key Dates:

Toppan is established by technicians from Japan's Ministry of Finance.
Toppan Containers is founded as a manufacturer of specialty cardboard and other packaging materials.
Toppan acquires Froebel-Kan, a company specializing in children's products; Toppan establishes Toppan Shoji, a general trading company, by taking over Tokai Paper Industries, a manufacturer and marketer of stock and bond certificates.
Toppan becomes the first Japanese printer to open a Hong Kong plant.
Toppan becomes the first Japanese printer to build a U.S. production facility, a separation plant in Mountainside, New Jersey.
The company establishes Toppan Printronics U.S.A., a joint venture with Texas Instruments.
Toppan unveils high definition television (HDTV) printing technology.
Toppan enters the Internet content distribution market through the establishment of Bitway with four other information technology corporations.

Company History:

Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. is the second largest Japanese printing company, behind Dai Nippon Printing, and one of the world's largest. Its business includes commercial printing, publications, packaging, interior decor and industrial materials, clothing, precision electronic components, securities and business forms, compact discs, and computer processing. Through a series of strategic alliances in the 1990s, Toppan positioned itself to be a major player in the rapidly advancing world of information technology, and by the early years of the 21st century the company was involved in the development of a number of innovative new products designed to bridge the gap between traditional and non-print publishing.

Company Origins: 1900-50

Toppan was established in 1900 by technicians from Japan's Ministry of Finance, who used a type of relief printing that was one of the leading printing technologies in Japan at the time. It initially focused on printing securities, books for publishers, and business forms.

The company was founded as Japan's modernization drive was in full stride, and the need for modern typeset printing was increasing. The Sino-Japanese War of 1894 had created a great increase in printing needs and paper demand as more newspapers were read and more documents needed. A slump in printing and papermaking followed Toppan's first year of business at the end of the war in 1901. In 1904, however, the onset of the Russo-Japanese War created an even greater demand for newspapers and magazines than had the Sino-Japanese war. Japan defeated both China and Russia, and began a period of military and economic expansion, aided by the establishment of a modern currency system during the 1880s.

Printing also boomed during World War I. After the war, printing and publishing increased. In 1927 almost 20,000 new book titles and 40 million magazines were published. During the 1930s, as Japan came to be ruled by military dictatorship, publishers and writers were suppressed or imprisoned and books were banned. Publishing and printing suffered in such an environment. Further, during World War II paper shortages and the decline of the Japanese economy hurt the printing industry. The printing industry recovered after the war, however, and grew rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s. Encyclopedias and sets of the complete works of authors were the chief areas of growth, as was periodical printing.

Postwar Expansion

Toppan quickly expanded after the war, founding Toppan Containers in 1952 as a manufacturer of specialty cardboard and other packaging materials. Several of Japan's large publishing houses launched successful weeklies in 1959, bringing more business to printers. In 1961 Toppan acquired Froebel-Kan, a company specializing in children's products. It had since developed a full line of children's books and teaching materials used at nurseries and kindergartens throughout Japan. It had produced and translated picture books, exporting books that were translated in 50 languages and also translating foreign stories into Japanese. Also in 1961, Toppan established Toppan Shoji, a general trading company, by taking over Tokai Paper Industries, a manufacturer and marketer of stock and bond certificates, established in 1947. Toppan Shoji soon handled trade in construction materials, electrical appliances, home furnishings, and office products. It also produced precision electronics, and character-brand products. By the 1980s it manufactured wastewater processing systems that used microorganisms to break down fats and oils in industrial and restaurant waste.

In 1962 Toppan became the first Japanese printer to open a Hong Kong plant, staffing it with cheaper labor, and equipping the plant with European presses. It initially worked exclusively in offset printing, especially color work. It established an apprenticeship program in Hong Kong to send Chinese technicians to Japan for training. This plant, together with that of rival Dai Nippon, opened in 1963, enabled the Hong Kong printing industry to grow. By the 1980s it was competing with Japan's printing business.

During the 1960s Toppan gradually added planning and design to its commercial printing business, and moved into the production of electronic circuits through advanced printing processes. At the same time, U.S. publishers were beginning to buy from Japanese printers because they charged less than U.S. printers, even with shipping costs. By the mid-1960s, Toppan's business was growing at about 6 percent a year. The following year Toppan established Toppan Moore, a joint venture with the Moore Corporation Limited, of Canada, the world's largest business-forms manufacturer. By the 1980s Toppan Moore had become the largest Japanese business-forms manufacturer.

Rotary offset printing, particularly in color, advanced in the 1970s. Soon afterward, U.S. publishers provided more four-color work for Japanese printers, including Toppan, an industry leader in color printing. In 1979 Toppan became the first Japanese printer to build a U.S. production plant, a separation plant in Mountainside, New Jersey. Toppan continued growing, steadily expanding into nonprinting areas such as packaging. In 1978 Toppan unveiled an easy-to-uncap heat seal for packaging, and in 1980, a paper container that kept food fresh for six months. That same year the company developed a jet printer, beginning a push into computer technology. In 1983 Toppan developed Scan Note, a computerized process for setting up pages of music for publishing. The next year the company unveiled an electrochromatic display screen, utilizing reflected light. It was hoped that the screens would replace liquid crystal displays. It also jointly developed an electronic imaging color filter. In the same year, Toppan Moore developed a smart card with two integrated circuits. Smart cards are integrated circuits, embedded in plastic, that store information electronically.

Diversification in the 1980s

In 1985 Toppan jointly formed Videotex Network Japan, a videotext firm. It also developed a paper-thin 1.5 volt manganese-zinc battery. In 1986 the company developed a portable smart-card system, and aseptic packaging equipment for filling pre-sterilized bags. In 1986 profits were $113 million on sales of $4.67 billion.

In 1987 Toppan moved into the quickly growing compact-disc market, forming Denshi Media Services, a compact and optical disc services company, with the Netherlands-based Philips. It also increased production of liquid-crystal-display filters to over 100,000 a month to keep up with demand. In 1988 Toppan bought the printed-circuit division of the U.S.-based Herco Technology. It also put on the market a non-contact smart card using a central processor, and a desktop publishing system that allowed a composer to write and edit music. Recognizing that electronic publishing was an area of growing importance, Toppan jointly developed a compact disc that held an entire encyclopedia. In 1988 profits were $120 million, on sales of $4.49 billion.

In 1980, a Japanese-language word processor finally came into use, its development slowed by the large number of characters in the language. This was the first major development in creating electronic publishing in Japan. As the 1980s progressed, computers and word-processing programs proliferated, and toward the end of the decade even small businesses could afford a laser printer. It was a logical step for Toppan--and such competitors as Dai Nippon--to move into information processing. This view was shared by the Paper and Printing Committee of the Industrial Structural Council, an advisory organ of Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry. In 1988 the Paper and Printing Committee released a report predicting a dwindling need for conventional printing, and urging a change in the industry's direction. It recommended that the printing industry use its knowledge of information processing to contribute to an information-oriented society. The shipment value of printed matter in Japan had reached ¥6.2 trillion in 1986, and the committee predicted it would continue to grow at an annual rate of 6.5 percent, reaching ¥15 trillion by 2000. The committee said printing firms should push to expand high-tech printing techniques and information processing.

Toppan responded to the trend toward an information-oriented society in a variety of ways in the late 1980s. Toppan Moore moved into general information services, developing software and hardware to operate and manage clerical work. It launched Toppan Moore Learning with U.S.-based Applied Learning International to develop and market educational software. Subsidiary Toppan Moore Systems developed computer software and peripheral hardware and offered marketing and training services. Data Card Japan, a joint venture with U.S.-based Data Card Corporation, offered a wide range of card-related products and services.

In 1985 Toppan bought Kyodo Kako, a manufacturer of furniture materials, interior decorating products, and electrical appliances. The company used printing technology to create decorative surfaces on wood materials.

Printing companies in Japan generally had waited for customer orders before printing. During the 1980s competition increased and Toppan moved into other services. It promoted its after-printing distribution service and information-related services such as direct-mail lists.

In the late 1980s, partial deregulation of the Japanese financial industry led to a greater variety of financial products, all of which needed to be printed. The deregulation also allowed financial institutions to advertise, creating still more business for Toppan. Deregulation increased credit-card competition in Japan, a boon for Toppan since revenue from printing credit cards was the most profitable part of the company's securities division. Several private Japanese railways began accepting paid cards with a magnetic band on the back that recorded how much they were worth. Toppan printed the millions of cards used every year through a joint venture with TDK Corporation. In the 1980s, lottery-ticket sales soared in Japan, and Toppan did most of the printing. In the late 1980s Toppan became the first private company to print Japanese postage stamps.

Toppan and its main rival, Dai Nippon, became leading producers of smart cards. In 1988 the company developed advances in integrated-circuit cards that offered better signal reliability than competing cards. The cards were often used as part of access-control systems, and, because of their durability, could be used at factories and construction sites, where other cards could often not be used. In 1989 Toppan developed a method for printing color photographs directly on plastic identification cards. Formerly, color photographs had to be pasted on or laminated into the cards. The company hoped to print credit cards, driver's licenses, and other identification cards with this new technology.

Toppan's research with glass films resulted in a new type of packaging, brought out in 1988. The glass, deposited in a vacuum onto a sheet of special film, acted as an ultrathin, flexible, transparent barrier, and was designed for microwaveable food. In 1988 Toppan established Toppan West in San Diego, California, which in turn bought Industrial Circuits, a U.S. manufacturer of printed circuit boards, later that year.

In early 1989 Toppan's electronic precision components division established a design subsidiary, the Toppan Technical Design Center. It expanded its shadow-mask manufacturing plant in Shiga to make masks for high-definition television and video displays. The high-definition market was expected to be a high-growth area in the 1990s. Later that year Toppan broke ground for a new industrial materials plant in Satte, Japan. The plant was to concentrate on thermal-ink ribbons and other products related to the rapidly growing field of office automation.

In 1989 Toppan established an industrial materials division to develop and manufacture new materials by combining coating, vapor deposition, laminating, shaping, and processing technologies with traditional printing. It has worked with thermal transfer ribbons, high-performance film, adhesive paper, and hot stamping foil.

In 1989 Toppan and Japan Pulp and Paper jointly established Toval Japon in Spain to manufacture decorative furniture boards for Europe. Toppan saw the new company, along with Toppan's offices in Düsseldorf and London, as the foundation of Toppan's presence in the European Community after the 1992 unification. In 1989 Toppan created a U.S. subsidiary, Toppan Interamerica, and formed Marionet Corporation, a marketing consulting corporation, with three other companies. Marionet processed point-of-sale information and sent the results to customers through online computer networks.

Toppan's planning division produced events such as expositions, anticipating the demand for related products: posters, entrance tickets, image technology, and pamphlets. The company launched the Toppan Media School in 1989 to train employees in design, production, and marketing for conventions and promotional events, and to devise new technologies. Perhaps the clearest examples of how Toppan and printing were changing occurred during the Toppan-produced Osaka Expo '90. Toppan connected high-definition television monitors showing live images of the event together with a new digital transmission technology, converted the television images into print using Toppan-developed software, and used the images to create a full-color bulletin distributed to expo visitors the same day.

In 1990 the company established Toppan Printronics U.S.A., a joint venture with Texas Instruments, of which Toppan owned 85 percent, investing $5.7 million. The subsidiary was to make semiconductor photomasks for the United States and Europe. Toppan also expanded its Osaka securities printing plant, which it claimed was the largest in the world, to keep up with the steadily increasing demand.

By 1990 the company had nine printing plants in Tokyo, five in Osaka, and seven elsewhere in Japan. It had 53 sales offices in Japan and 21 overseas offices. To keep ideas flowing between offices, Toppan's commercial printing division launched the Toppan Idea Center to concentrate on planning and marketing. During the 1980s the commercial division had developed a computerized typesetting system and an image database, from which information could be transmitted between Toppan offices over telephone lines. The system helped Toppan lower costs and shorten delivery times. Toppan assigned work stations tied into this database to some of its customers, who could then use the database for design layouts, transmitting them directly to a Toppan plant for platemaking.

Toppan co-developed with Sony an optical reader that directly translated text into a computer, speeding the creation of an information database. Because of the labor shortage in Japan, Toppan's expanding commercial division had trouble hiring enough employees in the late 1980s, but focused on streamlining and automation as ways to compensate.

To promote its printing, Toppan had been involved with art exhibits, for which it often printed exhibition catalogues, and international book fairs, where it promoted its high-quality art books and magazine printing. Japanese magazine printing was complicated, however, because many magazines used several kinds of paper and printing techniques in a single issue.

The publications division suffered during the late 1980s as the boom in new magazines that started in the early 1980s came to an end. Readership diversified, causing a greater variety of publications in smaller lots and decreasing profits. To compensate, Toppan began offering editorial services, sending employees to clients to do electronic editing of copy returned to customers, thus decreasing turnaround time. On the positive side, Toppan, which had gotten into compact disc printing relatively early, got more orders as the discs increased in popularity.

Paperless Printing in the 1990s

Entering the 1990s, Toppan Printing was confronting a rapidly changing marketplace for its printing products. With more and more large Japanese corporations relying on non-print media for the promotion of their products and services, Toppan found itself uniquely poised to gain a dominant foothold in the emerging paperless printing arena. To meet the changing needs of its customers, in 1990, the company established Toppan Forest, a high-tech showroom with a computer system supplying information on interior decor materials. The new device was capable of storing up to 40,000 color images and displaying them in three-dimensional space on a computer terminal. Even more significant from the standpoint of potential growth was Toppan's development of high definition television (HDTV) printing technology. First launched by Toppan Media Center division at the International Garden and Greenery Exposition in Osaka in 1990, the system's high quality printouts proved enormously popular among participants in the Expo. The initial cost of this project was ¥500 million.

In their early stages these technological advances had little impact on company profits and only accounted for approximately ¥7 billion in annual sales, or less than 1 percent of the company's total earnings. Still, with continued sluggishness in the traditional print markets, and Toppan posting a 23 percent drop in profits for fiscal 1992, the company remained unflinchingly dedicated to advancing new technologies, devoting roughly 25 percent of its annual research and development budget to these interests.

In addition to its independent research and development, Toppan forged a number of strategic alliances in the mid-1990s aimed at strengthening its position in the non-print publishing sector. In October 1993 Toppan joined forces with Photronics Inc., a Texas-based manufacturer of photomasks, in which Toppan turned over the assets of Toppan Printronics to its new ally in exchange for over one million shares of Photronics' stock and the placement of Chairman Suzuki on the Photronics board of directors. Under the terms of the agreement, the companies would also maintain a technology-sharing agreement. Another key alliance was forged in 1996 when Toppan teamed up with trading giant Nissho Iwai and virtual reality innovator Worlds Inc., designed to enable the companies to take advantage of each other's marketing, manufacturing, and licensing capabilities for the development and sale of Worlds Inc.'s multi-user 3D technology. As a complement to these business agreements, in January 1997 Toppan announced plans for the coming fiscal year to invest ¥100 billion exclusively for the development of its electronic publishing business. A cornerstone of this investment was the construction of a high-tech printing operation in Sakado, which the company hoped would offset the rising costs of printing in Japan. Further, over the coming three years, Toppan would invest ¥80 billion per year in this technology. During this period Toppan also increased its share of Toppan Moore, its joint venture with Moore Corporation Ltd. to 90 percent with an initial investment of ¥34.4 billion. By January 1997, Toppan bought out the remaining shares of Toppan Moore, renaming its now wholly owned subsidiary Toppan Forms Co.

By 1997 Toppan's investment in its electronics division had begun to pay off. The company reported a 1.1 percent profit increase for that year, due in large part to the growing success of its electronic publishing segment. Bolstered by the apparent growth potential of this segment, Toppan headed into the new century with an eye toward increased expansion of its electronics business. In July 1999 it entered the Internet content distribution market through the establishment of Bitway, a collaborative project with four other information technology giants, designed to give the company a competitive foothold in the fee-based information distribution business. In May 2001 the company entered into an agreement with E Ink, a leading developer of hand-held computer display technology, to expand and develop the potential of its color filter sector. This alliance was strengthened in February 2002 when Toppan invested an additional $25 million in the project. Further, in July 2002, both companies joined with Royal Philips Electronics to develop a prototype of a high definition color display utilizing E Ink's innovative electronic ink technology, with the aim of launching the new product into the marketplace by 2004. Toward this end Toppan also increased its production of color filters at its Taiwan plant from 100,000 to 400,000 units per month. Although the sluggish economy continued to hamper Toppan's progress and the company's profits fell 20.2 percent in 2002, Toppan still hoped that its investments in future publishing technologies would reap large dividends in the long term.

Principal Subsidiaries: Toyo Ink Mfg. Co., Ltd.; Tokyo Shoseki Co., Ltd.; Toppan Forms Co., Ltd.; Froebel-Kan Co., Ltd.; Tamapori Co., Ltd.; Toppan Cosmo, Inc.; Hino Offset Printing Co., Ltd.; Toppan Co., Ltd.; Total Media Development Institute Co., Ltd.; Tokyo Magnetic Printing Co., Ltd.; Toppan Direct Mail Center Co., Ltd.; Toppan Labels Co., Ltd.; Toppan Travel Service Corp.; Sobi Calendars Co., Ltd.; Toppan Logistics Co., Ltd.; T.M.G. Prepress Toppan Co., Ltd.; Toppan Techno Co., Ltd.; Toppan Multisoft Co., Ltd.; Toppan M & I Co., Ltd.; CyberMap Japan Corp; Toppan Containers Co., Ltd.; Kansai Bottling Co., Ltd.; Atsugi Engineering Co., Ltd.; Toppan Gemplus Services Co., Ltd.; Toppan Hall Co.,Ltd.; NEC Toppan Circuit Solutions Inc.; Toppan Shikoku Engineering Co., Ltd.

Principal Competitors: Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd.; Kodansha Ltd.; Quebecor World Inc.

Further Reading:

  • "E Ink, Toppan and Philips Demonstrate World's First High Resolution, Active-Matrix Color Display with Electronic Ink," Business Wire, July 1, 2002.
  • Frank, Jerome P., "Asia Printers Gearing Up for Move into U.S.," Publishers Weekly, June 29, 1984.
  • "HDTV Prints Give Toppan High-Tech Edge; Printing Firm Prepares for Paperless Publishing," Nikkei Weekly (Japan), December 28, 1991, p. 21.
  • "Nissho Iwai, Toppan Printing, and Worlds Inc. Announce Sweeping Alliance; Move to Rapidly Accelerate the Spread of Online Multiuser 3-D in Japan," PR Newswire, March 11, 1996.
  • Nomato, Fukashi, "Publishing-Related Machinery Should Keep Fast Pace in the 21th Century," Business JAPAN, March 1990.
  • "Photronics and Toppan Announce Completion of Major Strategic Alliance," Business Wire, October 4, 1993.
  • "Toppan Printing Invests Additional $25 Million in E Ink; E Ink and Toppan Expand Strategic Partnership; Combine Strengths to Commercialize Electronic Paper," Business Wire, February 4, 2002.
  • "Toppan Printing Launches New Internet Content Distribution Business, Targeting 10 Million Paying Users in First Year; Move to Develop Global Business with Focus on Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Through a Partnership with Four Industry Leaders," PR Newswire, July 8, 1999.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 58. St. James Press, 2004.