Unpinning History: Japanese Posters in the Age of Commercialism, Imperialism, and ModernismMain MenuIntroductionJapan in the Age of Commercialism, Imperialism, and ModernismThe Rise of Tourism and the Era of Ocean LinersThe Rise of Tourism and the Development of Railway NetworksProvocation of Citizenship: Posters for the Ministry of CommunicationsExhibition CultureBijin: Posters with a Beautiful WomanArrival of Modern Commercial DesignBibliographyCollection NoteReuse and Remix this Exhibition
 Kida Takuya, in reference to Japan Travel Bureau’s Nihon kōtsū
12020-05-01T14:48:02-07:00Anne-Marie Maxwell326ac6eff123bb3f77fb517c66299be8b435b479371403plain2020-05-07T15:03:21-07:00Rika Hiroa7d304a4e042125c916f0732fd77fbe42f9203aa Kida Takuya, in reference to Japan Travel Bureau’s Nihon kōtsū kōsha nanajūnen shi (Seventy years history of the Japan Travel Bureau), 1982, 49. (“Yōkoso Nihon e: Nihon no ‘jigazō’ to shiteno kankō posutā/Visit Japan: Travel Posters as ‘Self-Portrait’ of Japan,” Yōkoso Nihon e: 1920-30 nendai no tsūrizumu to dezain/Visit Japan: Tourism Promotion in the 1920s and 1930s [Tokyo: National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 2016], 6 and 189). Regarding pictorial programs related to tourism in Japan, see also Edo-Tokyo Museum ed. Utsukushii Nihon, Taishō Shōwa no tabi ten (Japan the Beautiful: Exhibition on Travel in the Taishō and Shōwa Periods), Tokyo: Edo-Tokyo hakubutsukan, 2005.
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1media/Book Splash Toyo_Kisen_Kaisha__Oriental_SteamShip_Company_Woman_with_a_fan.jpg2020-04-10T14:38:23-07:00The Rise of Tourism and the Era of Ocean Liners82image_header2020-11-17T15:03:07-08:00The majority of posters in USC’s collection of Taishō (1912–1926) and early Shōwa (1926–1989) Japan are travel posters, specifically those intended to promote steamship and railway companies. After the establishment of sea routes and railway networks in the nineteenth century, tourism expanded worldwide, particularly after the First World War. Mechanization and modern technology facilitated safe, speedy, luxurious, and comfortable transportation. In Japan, the boom economy due to the war encouraged the rapidly growing nouveau riche and the new middle class to engage in this latest leisure activity to obtain pleasures in exotic lands, through other cultures, and by Orientalizing other Asians.
Japan’s Meiji government had actively supported shipping and shipbuilding businesses since the first Sino-Japanese War (1894–95). In addition, the Japan Tourist Bureau began operating in 1912 within the government’s Tetsudōin (Railway Agency, est. 1908) to promote the tourism industry. This semi-private organization did so by actively producing advertisements and publications with images of cultured or even sacred Japan, as seen in Sugiura Hisui's 1916 poster for the bureau, which included stylized images of five-storied Buddhist pagoda framed by deer and pine trees. The bureau was restructured as the International Tourist Bureau in 1930 to further market Japan as the country moved toward militarism. Indeed, tourism became the second largest industry after the textile trade (cotton, silk, and synthetic, in order of acquired capital) and a major means by which Japan gained foreign currency.
Unpinning History covers this subject from the mid-1910s to early 1920s. The foremost examples are of steamship companies; these reflect the surge of popularity in luxurious cruise liners with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Included here are posters of Japan’s major steamship companies, such as the Ōsaka Shōsen Kaisha (OSK)/Osaka Mercantile Steamship Co. (est. 1884) and the Nippon Yūsen Kaisha (NYK)/Japan Mail Steamship Co. (est. 1885). Their ocean liners connected Japan to the rest of the world, but especially throughout East Asia. The companies commissioned posters that used vibrant colors, hybrid painterly styles, and various languages to compete against lavish Western liners. Some posters even incorporated calendars, as well as maps and sea routes, and were intended for year-round display. This practice reflected polychrome ukiyo-e prints with calendars, which arose from competitions among wealthy commissioning merchants for better and more attractive multicolor images. In this respect, the Japan Mail Steamship Co.’s poster with ukiyo-e style beauties not only speaks to this historical connection, but also early posters’ thematic penchant for featuring beautiful women. Other examples also show elements of symbolic and nostalgic Japan along with steamships, which represent quintessential modernity. Together, the posters embody a beautiful, hopeful, and powerful state and help to reimagine Japan’s position among the Western imperial powers. (Rika Hiro)