Meeting at the Federal University of Goiás and becoming friends due to their shared typographic fascination, Satsuki Arakaki and Caio Kondo began to investigate the Japanese-Brazilian identity they both share. “We saw similarities in our families traditions,” Satsuki tells us, “this brought us closer, as it’s different from most of Brazilian culture.” Their research naturally brought them to Japanese typography and calligraphy, “followed by our interest to learn more about our families’ immigration history.”
Still motivated by the nostalgia felt in researching his past, Caio identifies as yonsei after discovering his great-grandparents “came on the first ships in the great immigration in 1932 to Brazil,” adding that his “relationship with Japanese culture increased when my father lived in Japan for three years” when Caio was a child. Satsuki, similarly, is the “granddaughter of Japanese immigrants who came to Brazil in 1958,” however her home life was very similar to that found in Japanese culture. “We used to watch Japanese TV shows and movies recorded on VHS sent by my grandparents,” Satsuki tells us.
“These contexts bring a lot of richness and inspiration to our typographic design, with cultural influences close to our heritage,” Caio continues, explaining how immeasurably inspiring their identity and culture is to their study and development of typefaces. In turn, their development “opened the door for greater contact with Asian culture,” within their geographic context. “The union of all this,” Satsuki adds, is where “Inari Type began.”
Inari Type is on a perpetual quest for understanding, discovering more about the art of typography as it designs typefaces, as well as being challenged in its research “to understand more about our roots.” It is a “continuous process” where “each project requires a deeper immersion,” Caio tells us. Within this element of Inari Type’s design process and cultural research that considers immersion and conceptualisation, it is not “ limited to just typography,” but instead examines all sorts of other resources. “Apart from literature, poetry and visuals, we always resort to a small collection which includes books and old photographs of our families,” Satsuki recalls, finding inspiration and grounding in their heritage and history.
Currently, Inari Type has two typefaces due to be released alongside its website this week: Inari and Mori Gothic. “Inari is a display typeface based on modular systems from non-digital mediums, such as tricot and embroidery,” Caio explains, showing respect for tradition and attention to tactility through an attentive consideration “to the ink flow they would have if written traditionally.” The modular typeface is written in kana, a Japanese hiragana and katakana phonetic alphabet and has a direct correlation to Japanese typography in its inspiration and form, cementing their “studies into practice,” and almost becoming a manifesto to return to in the development of their practice.
With greater influence from contemporary Japanese design, Mori Gothic is a sophisticated and versatile typeface, with a large family from extra light to bold, alongside multiple open type features and stylistic sets, that they believe is “best suited for editorial, graphic design and branding.” Included within these stylistic sets are “circled and squared numbers, subscript and superscript numbers, symbols and punctuations (some of them Japanese) and graphic and mathematical symbols.” Satsuki tells us that “with these two projects, we feel that this cultural approach in typography is possible,” and she’s positive that they carry “meanings and concepts that are important to us, as a reflection of the Japanese-Brazilian diaspora.”
In discussing what they find most rewarding, Caio explains that it is the continuous discovery of new information and “meeting people who identify with us” that is most valuable. This drive has led to an upcoming collaboration with Nikolas Type and an new project "inspired by the history of the Japanese-American diaspora,” Satsuki concluding that “it is really cool to see type foundries working out and to see people identifying with what we’re doing.”
About the Author
Hailing from the West Midlands, and having originally joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020, Harry is a freelance writer and designer – running his own independent practice, as well as being one-half of the Studio Ground Floor.