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The oldest Japanese book is the Hokegisho (615 AD), which is said to have been directly written by Shoutoku Taishi. This is thought to have been the beginning of the Japanese book. During the Nara period the making of handwritten copies of sutras became popular along with the rise of Buddhism. When woodblock printing began during the Heian period the making of books by copying also became popular. Such works as The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book were also handwritten. Still surviving today are many books in which the industrial art of bookbinding was lavishly employed for the textblocks that were decorated with gold and silver and a variety of colors over which the characters were written and then given as offerings to Shinto shrines.

The Japanese printing culture that started with the Hyakumantodarani (764-770 AD) used woodblock printing. Printing technology prospered during the Late Heian Period (1100-1192) and new types of bookbinding in addition to the scroll, such as folded-page books and Retsujyoso were introduced. Literature, which had been the sole realm of the aristocratic class, spread to Buddhist monks, and translations were made of a variety of books covering such topics as Confucianism, Chinese classics, and medicine. It is said that it was during this time that double-leaved printed books with 4-hole binding began to appear. Later, the Onin War (1467-1477) during the Muromachi period caused the aristocrats and Buddhist monks to spread to the outlying regions and they took the book culture with them. Illustrated stories called the "Otogi zoshi" (a book of ghost stories) were the precursor of the popular culture and spread widely among the masses. Children’s books, called akahon, featuring such stories as The Inch-High Samurai, The Peach Boy, and Kachi Kachi Yama, arose and became today’s popular fairytales.

Then biwa-playing minstrels gave way to temple side or roadside storytellers and lecturers and the Taiheiki (Record of the Great Peace) was read and listened to by the common people, which is said to have widely spread the use of books. The letterpress (bronze letterpress) printing method brought back from Korea after the Battles of Bunroku (1592-1598) replaced woodblock printing and led to the Edo literature and for-profit book businesses. Western bookbinding was first brought to Japan by Portuguese missionaries in 1590, but this was abolished when the Tokugawa shogunate banned Christianity and thus it had little influence on native bookbinding. Later, most of the letterpresses gifted by the Dutch government at the end of the Edo period (1849) went unused. It was not until the beginning of the Meiji period in 1869 that Motoki Shouzou et al., succeeded at Japanese letterpress bookmaking that Western printing and Western bookbinding spread rapidly in Japan.

*There are divergent opinions regarding the history. Please think of this as just one possible explanation.