, literally "clear morning," is a Japanese type
style roughly analogous to serif
typefaces in Latin
writing. The distinguishing feature of Mincho fonts is that the characters have varying weight
s, giving them the appearance of being drawn by a brush, in contrast to the uniform pen-like lines that characterize Gothic
The earliest Mincho-style movable type appeared in Japan during the late 1500's, and was based on Chinese type stolen during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea, as well as Latin type imported by Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries. Tokugawa Ieyasu had a Japanese type cast out of copper, called the Suruga type, in the early 1600's, but woodblock printing remained the norm in Japan until the late 1800's, as it could handle the complex Japanese writing system more easily.
In 1869, a Japanese rangaku scholar named Motoki Shozo invited a Presbyterian printer in Shanghai, William Gamble, to come to Nagasaki and help design a modern Japanese typeface. The initial versions of Mincho were based on existing Chinese type, augmented by new type for hiragana and katakana. Until 1900 or so, the kana characters were noticably smaller than the kanji, and also varied in calligraphic style within each typeface: some would be square and distinct, while others would be highly simplified. By 1905, however, kanji and kana were the same size, the kana had standardized designs, and the Mincho typefaces looked more or less as they look today.
The most well-known Mincho font today is MS Mincho, a TrueType font designed by Microsoft as the Japanese counterpart to Times New Roman. Kochi Mincho and Wadalab Mincho are widely available fonts for Linux. Of course, scores of commercial Mincho fonts are also available, but to the naked eye they all look very similar.