Shobi Printing—Bringing tradition into the digital age

Shobi Printing—Bringing tradition into the digital age


Mr. Yonehara Masanobu
President of Shobi Printing Co., Ltd

JAPAN and the WORLD magazine interviewed the president of Shobi Printing, Mr. Yonehara Masanobu to find out more about today and the future of printing.

—Shobi Printing was established in 1949. What keeps print alive in the digital era?

Since our foundation as a printing company over 50 years ago, Shobi Printing has operated profitably under a business model in which we, simply put, receive layout plans and texts, print and then deliver the completed order to the customer.

With the increasing digitalization of printing technology following the burst of Japan’s so-called “bubble” economy, however, companies like us have seen the number of orders for printed material decline, gradually in some areas and rapidly in others. Over the past 15 years, we have adjusted to this changing environment by focusing on the following areas:

  1. Technology Center:
    We established the Technology Center to respond to digitalization, and expanded business centering on IT solutions through the Media Department.
  2. Creative Business Division:
    We established the Creative Business Division as a direction unit to provide customer-oriented design services and expanded its operations in cooperation with the Sales Department.
  3. International Division:
    Our intention is to further expand business in response to globalization by centering on the International Division, which provides foreign language services for Inter Media Japan and other companies. Our translation service was initiated 13 years ago by co-operating with Japanese scholars who wanted to communicate with foreign media.

Shobi Printing has survived difficult times for the printing industry by focusing on the above as core business areas.

Mitsubishi printing machine.
Mitsubishi printing machine.

—Nowadays, there are a big concerns about the environment. Is it possible to have a high quality print with recycled paper? Do you advise your clients to choose recycled paper?

Yes, high quality is indeed possible with recycled paper. We have published a wide range of material on recycled paper, and we certainly recommend this for clients when it fits their needs.

Additionally, in order to obtain the Green Printing Certificate given by Japan Federation of Printing Industries, we have implemented the utilization of materials, such as recycled paper and vegetable ink, which have low impacts on the environment. So, we are on our way to fulfill the requirements to obtain the certificate later on this year.

—You have recently opened an International Division in Tokyo. Are you also planning to expand your business internationally in the near future?

My vision for Shobi is to expand as an international business. However, this will take a little more time to accomplish as we enhance our human and financial resources to create a solid foundation for growth. I am thinking of expanding to Myanmar, which will most likely happen in the next 5 years. We are expecting exchange students from Myanmar, who will study technology and Japanese printing “know-how”, to work with us in the future in Myanmar.

They are very diligent, honest, intelligent people, so I look forward to working with them.

—What is the future of print?

Although order shipments once brought in as much as 11 trillion yen, we have seen a drop over the past 15 years to less than 6 trillion yen. I expect this trend to continue into the future. However, the range of this reduction has slowed in recent years and, I feel, may have hit bottom. What I mean is that the material we would naturally expect to shift to digitalization has already gone through the transition from hardcopy to digital. Despite this, we should always be prepared for the possibility of another drop in printing orders in the future.

Shobi Printing must work toward stable business expansion in our three core areas as well as discovering new opportunities and approaches to a variety of business areas.

For more information about Shobi Printing Co., Ltd, please visit the official website:

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