The Advertising Museum of Tokyo (ADMT) has a very cool entrance in shiny black metal and glass on the B1 floor of the Dentsu building in Shiodome. Walk in, pass the museum shop (which has a couple of cute postcards), and then take a left down the stairs to the B2 floor where the main museum lies. Anticipation mounts as you descend the wide staircase, with its flickering ad screens high in the walls, and enter the door at the lower right.
Inside, there are a few signboards on the walls dating from the early 1800s, and some woodblock prints and illustrated chapbooks from the 1830s with illustrated adverts. A very large blow-up of a woodblock print showing a Kabuki play reveals that product placement goes back to the Edo era!
Move along into the next room to some big advertising posters from the early 20th century. A nice display of Singer sewing machine posters contrasts the US version with the Japanese version. Other standouts are the expressionist posters for Smokers' Toothpaste, and an exquisite large woodblock print of another elegant beauty in kimono for a Ginza department store. Along the other wall there's a collection of bric-a-brac from each decade of the 20th century - with barely a few square meters of seemingly arbitrarily collected junk for each ten years. Amongst the prosaic, there are some things of interest: a few items by Yumeji Takehisa remind you that the artist famous for his doleful kimono beauties had to make a living illustrating book jackets and ads.
In the final room, an array of four TV screens covers radio and TV advertising from the 1950s to the 1990s. The 60s TV commercials are a gas - a blaze of vibrant color, movement and music, with more dizzy zooms than an Antonioni movie.
Past a bizarre collection of miscellaneous products and you find yourself at the exit. If you are in the area, the Ad Museum is a fun way to kill a half hour - and best of all, entrance is free.
by Richard Jeffery
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