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

Puraton man’nenhitsu, Puraton ink [Plato fountain pen, Plato ink], Nakayama Taiyōdō

The Puraton man’nenhitshu, Puraton ink poster for the Nakayama Taiyōdō company, based out of Osaka, is an early 1920s advertisement for an ink and fountain pen. It depicts a Western woman holding up an enlarged “Platon Ink” bottle, with a text reading “Superior Platon Ink. Fine Red. Nakayama Taiyōdō.” The product names, written vertically in a traditional yet stylized manner, sandwich the woman. The bust of Plato, which appears twice on the ink bottle and above the left-side copy, symbolizes the integrity of the product and western intelligence. Additionally, the employment of the western woman in a flamboyant dress suggests that the product is enjoyable, even seductive, and more importantly modern. All in all, the poster presents the perfect branding image and smart design.

Nakayama Taiyōdō, the parent company that produced Platon ink and fountain pens, was part of the Club Cosmetics company until 1954. Around the time when the poster was produced, Japan underwent a period of prosperity and modernization, which often meant a break from tradition. The poster illustrates the push for modernization through westernization in such elements as the western woman in Art Nouveau style, the Greek bust, and the English writing on the ink bottle. In short, this poster exemplifies how influential and popular western culture was in 1920s Japan. (Caroline Cotten)

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