Take a Journey Through the History of Japanese Advertising

  • ART
  • CULTURE
  • History
  • RECOMMENDED
  • Tokyo
  • There is no shortage of museums in the Tokyo area. There is practically a museum for every interest. Being someone who studied journalism and strategic communications, I am really interested in advertising and its history. So, the Ad Museum Tokyo was exactly the museum I have been wanting to see.

    While it is not the biggest museum, it still has a lot to offer. It has a permanent exhibit of nearly the whole history of advertising in Japan. The exhibit starts in the Edo period, which dates as far back as the 1670s. It has original flyers on display that were used as some of the first advertising techniques in Japan.

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    It is incredible to see the detail and cultural artistry depicted in these early advertising works throughout Japan. Even though it was a very early time period, there was still a ton of colors used in the images on flyers.

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    The next era it goes through is advertising in the Taisho and early Showa era, which starts in the early 1910s. This era is where more modern advertising techniques were picked up and started being used. Looking through this exhibit I could really see the transition of using fewer words and more imagery in Japanese advertising.

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    After that, the exhibit went into the postwar reconstruction and early Heisei era. This was my favorite part of the exhibit because it was the most modern and visual. Here, a lot of creative TV ads were played on a loop in a display box to watch.

    There were other iconic print ads on display, including the 1964 Olympics, Marilyn Monroe, and Cup Noodle ads.

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    But, there is more to this museum than just standing around. They have multiple ways to get you interacting with the exhibits.

    There are a handful of collection tables that give a more up-close and personal look at some of the exhibit pieces. A few are even digital and display what seems to be hundreds of digital and print ads from the early Heisei area. Just use your finger to scroll and click and you can watch countless funny and well put together TV ads.

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    There is also a part of the exhibit called ‘Four Feelings’, which are the audio and visual booths. These booths are large artistic structures located in the center of the exhibit, they are hard to miss. You step inside and watch one of for digital ads.

    The digital ads in these booths were specially picked out because the ones that especially touch the heart and make lasting impressions.

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    Finally, my favorite part about the museum is that at the beginning, you can pick up a free, blank postcard, and as you walk through the exhibit there are stamp stations. Each stamp is a layer that completes a whole image, so to see the final image you need to layer all four stamps. In the end, it turns out to be one of the ads on display, so if you have a good eye you can find the matching image somewhere in the exhibit.

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    I have been to a handful of museums since being in Tokyo, but this has been one of the most memorable. It is a friendly and refreshing space to be in and does not take up an entire day or afternoon as it is smaller than most museums, so it is easy to plan into a busy schedule. It is also a free museum for the public which is even more of a reason to go!

    It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00-18:00 in the Shiodome and is only a short walk from the Shimbashi station. All the information about the museum can be found on their website HERE.