What is is about vintage tourism posters? With their beautifully drawn images, simple layout and stylish typography they manage to capture the excitement and promise of overseas travel to exotic locations in a way that photography could never do. The National Museum of Modern Art - situated right opposite The Imperial Palace grounds in Tokyo`s Chiyoda-ku - is currently showing examples of the genre in a small but well curated exhibition http://www.momat.go.jp/english/am/exhibition/visit_japan/
Japan was closed off to the outside world for 200 years but in the early years of the 20th century - fuelled by the advent of new transportation links such as the South Manchuria Railway (enabling access overland via the trans-Siberian route) - it began not only to accept but to encourage inward leisure tourism. Hence these promotional posters which convey with typical artistic economy the `idea` of Japan, its gardens, seasons, mountains and castles.
Britain has its own distinctive collection of travel posters many of which were created by the railway companies - GWR, LNER, and latterly British Rail - when great swathes of Britain suddenly opened up to the average working man. Impossible to look at these without experiencing nostalgia for the time when a trip to the seaside was a major event...
Over the last year or so I have been doing a series of `travel posters` featuring images of favourite places in Japan. I have tried to avoid the obvious cliches such as Fuji-san, cherry blossom and Tokyo Tower but its not that easy to find or photograph or create suitable compositions. Some examples are shown below and if you are interested the full set will be on exhibition at the Tokyo American Club from November 18th this year.
Japan by its very nature may never be as gaijin-accessible/friendly as some holiday destinations, but what a wonderful place to live, and heartening to see that inbound tourism numbers are finally on a steep rise. Lets hope the government tourism agencies continue to encourage this trend in the lead-up to the Olympics in 2020. So more travel posters, please. After all, Shirakawa-go is SO bracing!
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