Graphic artists, designers, and anyone interested in the evolution of Japanese graphic design through the ages will find a lot to see at this compact advertising museum. The museum was renovated and reopened in December 2017, and we were pleasantly surprised to find the exhibition area completely redone, with more historical materials on display, more viewing facilities for watching old television commericals, and more comprehensive English-language explanations of the exhibits.
The journey starts with woodblock prints, wooden signage and other artifacts from the Edo Period (1603-1867), including a parasol and several fashion-related prints - the equivalent of today's fashion magazines - displaying the distinctive logo mark of Mitsukoshi Department Store. Senjoko face powder was another product promoted in a multi-media marketing campaign, appearing in numerous illustrated kusazoshi books and nishiki-e prints.
Advances in woodblock-printing technology led to the proliferation of hikifuda single-page printed handbills, and shops and other commercial outlets began producing original prints to distribute freely to potential customers, and these are also well represented here.
The range of advertised products greatly expanded during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) to include luxury items like bicycles and fountain pens as well as rolled cigarettes and medicinal products. Poster art really flourished during the first few decades of the twentieth century, and the museum has a good collection of posters from this era displayed on sliding panels.
A giant timeline-style display wall covers advertising during the second half of the century, with famous advertisements and iconic products displayed along with newspaper and magazine images and reels of television commercials. Old commercials can also be viewed in four attractive kiosk/booth setups and at "digital tables" where you can scroll through thumbnail images and select commercials and print advertisements for closer examination. These are complemented by "analog tables" where you can flip through collections of flyers and see example of storyboards used when making commercials.
At the far end of the museum is a room devoted to temporary exhibitions, and during our recent visit the theme was "Where do ideas come from?". The museum also houses a library of Japanese-language reference materials, and there's a small lounge area in the front reception area. Admission to the museum is free.
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