Unpinning History : Japanese Posters in the Age of Commercialism, Imperialism, and Modernism

Heiwa Kinen Tōkyo Hakurankai/The Tokyo Peace Exhibition, Ueno Park Tokyo, March 10-July 31 1922

The poster was produced to advertise the Tokyo Peace (Memorial) Exhibition, which was held in 1922 at Ueno Park, Tokyo. The standing woman, who “unveils” the exhibition, echoes a difference between Eastern and Westertn principles of design. She evokes a sense of unity and harmony; emphasizing peace. Her clothing, hairstyle, and the buildings in the background contribute to this theme. Her fashion reflects newfound female liberties: she dons a goddess-like Western dress with her shoulders and arms exposed.

The Japanese government used the Tokyo Peace exhibition as a propaganda tool to increase national pride and public confidence in celebrating the end of The First World War (Japan was part of the Allied Powers), and support to implement its legislative changes. For example, the exhibition had pavilions of Japan’s colonies, such as Karafuto (South Sakhalin), Korea, and Taiwan. Despite government intentions, the majority of the audience just found the event entertaining. This poster, designed by Tada Hokuu, who opened his own design studio in the same year of the exhibition, and reveals how Japan was receptive to foreign cultures, including artistic styles and theories of design, and the surge of imperialism. (Alvin Huang and Qira Kong)

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