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

The Rise of Tourism and the Development of Railway Networks

Developing fast trains and far-reaching railroad networks was paramount for Japan as Asia’s most modern nation. After Japan’s first modern railroad opened in 1872, the country's railway infrastructure expanded rapidly. The government enacted the Railway Nationalization Act in 1906 and founded the Tetsudōin (Railway Agency) two years later. This was followed in 1912 by the opening of the Japan Tourist Bureau under the Tetsudōin, which marked the start of organized promotion of tourism to Japan and the country’s new colonies. In short, the rise of tourism began with the start of the Taishō period (1912–1926). 

See Posters Related to this Topic

The posters shown here are prime examples of how tourism came along with Japan’s expansionism in Asia. For example, Sugiura Hisui’s design for the Shantung (Shandong) Railway Administration, which was transferred from Germany to Japan, advertises herons over an idyllic beach town on the Shantung Peninsula. It also conveys nationalistic pride through tiny Japanese national flags over German-style buildings. The integration of a utopian vision of colonies as the Promised Land, commercial design, and propaganda is even more visible in posters for the Minami Manshū Tetsudō (Mantetsu)/South Manchurian Railways Company (est. 1906).[1] The company made transcontinental travel possible by linking Japan and London, through Osaka Mercantile Steamship (OSK) and the Trans-Siberian Railway. However, Mantetsu was more than a railroad company: it also operated a coal mine and hotels, designed ads targeting Japanese, Chinese, and Westerners, organized exhibitions, and eventually became a hub for propaganda campaigns.[2] 

As the company’s first in-house artist-turned-designer, Mayama Kōji worked for the company nearly for a decade starting in 1921. During his appointment, Mayama often attended renowned visitors from Japan as their tour guide. Such individuals include novelists Tayama Katai and Shiga Naoya, painter Nakazawa Hiromitsu, and poets Yosano Tekkan and Akiko, who left her astute travelogues on the couple's trips in Northeastern China.[3] (Rika Hiro)

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