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

Santō Tetsudō/Shantung Railway Administration [Herons]

Commissioned by the Shantung (Shandong) Railways Administration, Sugiura Hisui designed this poster using herons as the main subject. Using a bird's eye perspective, Hisui captures the crowded German-style buildings and the laidback beach of the Shantung peninsula. By contrasting the two different lifestyles in Shantung, Hisui presents an idealistic vision of travel and beach life. In addition to promoting tourism in China, this poster also symbolizes the national pride of Japan in the 1920s. Alongside the bustling beach city presented in the left-hand corner, Hisui includes Japan’s national flags. By doing so, Hisui adds an additional layer of nationalism to this seemingly peaceful image of nature. Known for combining eastern and western styles in his design, Hisui not only demonstrated stamping techniques of Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558-1637) and Tawaraya Sōtatsu’s (1570-1640) cranes in silhouetted herons in the background but also incorporated popular color schemes from Art Nouveau. With Hisui’s hybrid design along with the company’s name printed in Japanese and English, the poster conveys a strong cosmopolitan feel. (Sally Guo)

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