Japanese Advertising History

Japanese Advertising History Showa Period

Showa Period From the early days of Showa to the end of the war1926〜1945From the early days of Showa to the end of the war

Continuing from the Taisho period, the early Showa period was referred to as “Showa Modern.” Advertising expression became more international and polished. However, this drastically changed with the approach of war. Japanese advertising entered its “time of winter” as advertisements for regular products were swiftly re- placed by promotions designed to boost national morale.

From Taisho modernism
to Showa modernism

As European and American cultural influ- ences pervaded Japan, Japanese advertising became more refined, shifting toward tones of internationalism and modernism.

From Japanese to Western dress
Shiseido (cosmetics) / About 1928 (Showa 3) / Poster

The spread of fun-filled
urban culture

Around this time, urban residents began enjoying the new customs and lifestyles that were introduced as people absorbed Western culture. Advertising communicated this change to a more enjoyable urban culture.

Nippon Gakki / 1930s (Showa 5–14) / Poster

Tourism in Japan during the early
Showa period

Internationalization progressed during the early years of Showa, resulting in the development of Japan’s sea routes and railway network. At this time, designers such as Satomi Munetsugu played a role in enticing foreign tourists to visit Japan.

Winner of the Gold Cup at the Paris Expo in 1937
Ministry of Railways / 1937 (Showa 12) / Poster

Japanese advertising enters a “ time of winter ” during the war

The role of advertising substantially changed as Japan entered the war. Product advertisements were swiftly replaced by ads designed to boost national dignity.

“Plant Pumpkins!” ( a Tokyo municipal poster to address food shortages) / Tokyo Metropolitan Government / 1944 (Showa 19) / Poster
National propaganda slogans were posted everywhere
Train station
boxed lunch wrapping
during that time
Newspaper advertisement during that time


1926(Showa 1) Hamada Masuji and colleagues establish the Shogyo Bijutsu Kyokai (association of commercial art) / En-pon (one-yen books) gain immense popularity
1927(Showa 2) First-issue release of Affiches, a magazine for studying posters, by Sugiura Hisui and others
1933(Showa 8) Kishimoto Suifu launches Glico’s mamebun advertisement series of short, sharp slogans
1934(Showa 9) First-issue release of government magazine NIPPON by Natori Yonosuke and others
1937(Showa 12) First-issue release by Shiseido of its Hanatsubaki PR magazine
1939(Showa 14) Japanese department stores cancel seasonal bargain sales / Ad balloons are prohibited
1940(Showa 15) “Luxury is the enemy” promotion calls for donations / Media Technology Research Group is formed
1943(Showa 18) Appearance of motto advertisements such as “Shoot until you win”