Art and Culture of Japan During the Allied Occupation, 1945-1952
Don't Sell Salt Illegally: Posters in Occupied Japan
by JAMES HOWARD FRASER
In the eerie, quiet weeks following
war's end in August 1945, Japan's poster designers and printers showed surprising
resilience. Emergency and survival notices had to be printed and distributed,
as did food and health announcements, all in the face of shortages so severe
that even locating sheets of paper large enough for posters required scouting.
Theaters recovered quickly, and movie production hardly
paused--ten feature films were released between October and December 1945--so
entertainment posters were also needed. Many editions were small, however,
and the paper was of such poor quality that often only ink used in the lithographic
process held it together. Conversely, some posters were printed on paper
thicker than usual, and so are today well preserved.
By the beginning of 1946 the domestic press, rebuilt with
the aid of Occupation authorities, was supplying newsstands with a wide
variety of pulp magazines, sewing monthlies, children's and young people's
periodicals, photo news magazines, and even design and art journals. It
seems the country needed color in that bleak time of disease, hunger, and
black marketeering. Making the most of the color and economies of the poster
as a means of mass communication was a predictable development.
By the end of the Occupation period the infusion of capital
from the United States in the form of procurement contracts for troops now
engaged in the Korean War was having a profound effect on Japan's economic
recovery. As consumer goods and services became increasingly available,
advertising boomed and poster design, in particular, flourished. Entertainment,
tourism, and politics also increased opportunities for older designers who
had survived the war as well as young designers who were graduating from
design schools just in time to experience this flush of postwar expansion.
Go to the Poster Gallery
courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution