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

Nippon Shuzō Kabushiki Kaisha [Japan Sake Brewing Co., Ltd.]

Unique in style, the portrayal of bijin—a beautiful woman—persuades the viewers to take a closer look. The poster is indicative of artistic experimentation and self-expression, which were defining characteristics of Taishō period artists. Traditional elements of Japanese art are showcased through the woman, as images of niwatori (rooster); hō’ō (pheonix), and kimigayo (Japan’s national anthem) decorate her clothing. Traces of Western influences are also evident, such as the Japanese and English written on the sake bottle. “Kimi banzai”, a paean to the Emperor, speaks to both domestic and foreign audiences living in the Kobe-Nishinomiya area where the Nippon Shuzō Kabushiki Kaisha was based. The poster in fact celebrates Gotaiten, the Commemoration of the Enthronement of Emperor Yoshihito, but also highlights Japan’s presence in commercial culture and her promotion of nationalism through Japanese products. The sake bottle and the woman, both parallel in composition, seduce viewers with beauty and modesty. (Christina Yoo)

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