Japanese Advertising History

Japanese Advertising History Taisho Period

Taisho Period1912〜1926

Strong economic growth in Japan en- couraged rapid urbanization and the emergence of a mass-consumption society. With the spread of Taisho modernism came several timeless advertisements that we recognize today. Expressive techniques took advantage of new technologies as star ad creators gained prominence. Although it was a short length of time, advertising gained significant momentum during the Taisho period.

Taisho modernism gives rise to star advertising creators

The introduction of new Western photographic and printing technologies helped promote more sophisticated advertising. In turn, compa- nies set up specialist advertising departments to create more competitive advertising ideas and concepts. This aggressive competition produced several star ad creators.

Mitsukoshi Kimono Store / 1914 (Taisho 3) / Poster

This poster by Sugiura Hisui exudes art nouveau flavor and a modern atmosphere. The lady in the poster is holding a copy of the Mitsukoshi Times PR magazine.

Kotobukiya / 1922 (Taisho 11) / Poster

Japan’s first poster with a photo featuring nudity, by Kataoka Toshiro. Notice the rich, deep red color of the wine which appears to float off the poster.

The birth of
familiar brands

Strong economic growth in Japan in the late Meiji through Taisho periods encouraged rapid urbanization and the emergence of a mass-consumption society. It was a time in which new lifestyles emerged and Taisho modernism flourished.

Calpis(soft drink) / About1926 (Taisho15) / Poster

Prosperity triggers a wave
of new magazines!

Numerous magazines targeting women and children emerge during this time. As a result, magazine advertising became an important advertising medium in Japan.

Kodansha (publishing company) / About 1926 (Taisho 15) / Poster

The Pioneers of the Advertising World

The designer who pioneered commercial art in Japan

Sugiura Hisui


Working as a contract employee for the Mitsukoshi department store, Hisui’s groundbreaking design for posters and the front cover of the Mitsukoshi public relations magazine took Japan by storm. His sweeping ornamental designs incorpo- rated a touch of art nouveau and epitomized the modern atmosphere of theTaisho period.

Mitsukoshi Kimono Store / 1915 (Taisho 4) / Poster

A man of ideas with an unfettered imagination

Kataoka Toshiro


Though he referred to himself as an ad writer, Kataoka was the creative director of advertising for sweets maker Morinaga and liquor producer Kotobukiya (now Suntory). He was also responsible for the first poster featuring nudity in Japan, which advertised Koto- bukiya’s Akadama Port Wine. In addition, he compiled compre- hensive product development, retail and advertising proposals as he continued to amaze with extraordinary ideas.

Copywriter and creator of renowned advertising campaigns

Kishimoto Suifu


Kishimoto was a respected writer of senryu poetry and a famed copywriter for Fukuske Tabi (a manufacturer of tradi- tional Japanese socks) and the Glico confectionary company. His innovative advertising projects include his Glico mamebun newspaper adver-tisementseries,hismanga advertising for Fukuske and his exhibitions for touring department stores.

(Portrait photo of Kishimoto Suifu, courtesy of Bangasa-Senryu Honsha)


1913(Taisho 2 ) Establishment of Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association / Nakayama Taiyodo launches first airplane-based advertising
1914(Taisho 3 ) Taisho Exposition is held / Morinaga Seika, a manufacturer of sweets, launches sales of a pocket-sized box of milk caramels
1915(Taisho 4 ) Appearance of the slogan, “Today it’s Teigeki. Tomorrow it’s Mitsukoshi”
1916(Taisho 5 ) Successive first issue releases of women’s magazines such as Chuokoron-sha’s Fujin Koron magazine
1918(Taisho 7 ) First neon sign appears in Ginza
1921(Taisho 10 ) First appearance of the slogan, “Calpis, the taste of first love”
1922(Taisho 11 ) Kotobukiya’s Akadama Port Wine poster by Kataoka Toshiro
1925(Taisho 14 ) NHK Radio begins broadcasting in Tokyo and Osaka