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

Nippon Yusen Kaisha = Japan Mail Steamship Co. [Fushimi-maru]

Composed of various visual elements, each layered on top of one another, this poster conveys a strong sense of graphic flatness, which denotes Japan’s pictorial conventions (as seen in a maple tree and chrysanthemums) as well as modern design (through the rendering of sun, ship, and the map/company flag). Placed at the center is a bright orange-red sun, rising from the shimmering sea, along with a well-equipped steamship. Together they serve as a metaphor for Japan itself, which was undergoing rapid industrialization and emerging as an imperialist power in the international political scene during the early 20th century. Founded in 1885, Japan Mail Steamship Co. was one of Japan’s biggest steamship companies then and even today. Sugiyama Sueo’s complex design attests to the corporation’s strong interest in posters to attract both Japanese and foreign viewers. (Shalexxus Aaron and Peilin Chen)

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