Tsukushi Antique Gothic

Typeface Review

Tsukushi Antique Gothic

Reviewed by Toshi Omagari on July 5, 2017

Tsukushi is a family of Japanese typefaces that began with Mincho (the Japanese equivalent of Roman) in the early 2000s and now contains a variety of subfamilies, some of which you can find as macOS system fonts. In 2016, the designer Shigenobu Fujita added Tsukushi Antique Gothic S and L (small and large bodies, respectively). Both versions occupy the same monospace grid, which makes L appear slightly denser.

One of its main features is the exaggerated Kanji proportion; it’s squeezed at the top, spread at the bottom, and its center of gravity is quite high. It is a common sight in calligraphy but is unheard of in a sans. Tsukushi Antique Gothic throws a modern design approach out the window in pursuit of more classical shapes.

Paired with Kanji are, of course, Hiragana and Katakana. Fujita-san is more playful and experimental here. His obsession with their destruction and reconstruction is a marvel; one sees on Twitter that he posts many different variant shapes and constantly throws them away. In his approach to Kanji, he tries to recapture the vibe of the past but does not want to trace it. The letters definitely feel familiar, but we know they didn’t previously exist.

It wouldn’t be fair not to mention this typeface’s glaring weakness: the Latin. It is classical in lowercase proportion only and does not capture the same spirit of Japanese, not to mention that it does not work well together. I understand the intention and I am willing to overlook this — after all, I am a die-hard fan of the family. Practically speaking, though, typographers will be forced to use another Latin typeface.

Recent Japanese sans releases are quite like one another. They typically have nice big counters with a regular texture, aiming to be more legible and readable than their competition. Tsukushi does not play this game; instead, Tsukushi Antique Gothic pushes boundaries and ushers in a breath of fresh air.

Toshi Omagari studied typeface design at Musashino Art University in Tokyo and the University of Reading. He specializes in various scripts including Greek, Cyrillic, Tibetan, Mongolian and Python, and works at Monotype in London.

One Comment

  1. Those Kanji proportions are so utterly unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a sans. Talk about a breath of fresh air. I wonder if those who are not as familiar with Chinese characters can also appreciate just how off the walls these proportions are.

    I’ve been fantasizing about designing a display cut of a Korean text face that imitates calligraphic proportions—small counters and long strokes—as sort of a reaction against the trend of aiming for maximum readability at small sizes. I would never have time to follow through with it, though.

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