Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Japanese Ephemera from the 1950s-60s

In post-war Japan, along with the rebuilding of the country's economy and infrastructure, there was a steady growth in domestic consumption (which now makes up nearly 60% of GDP). Kids' culture rode this wave, with toys, magazines, and all sorts of other things being produced.

During the beginning of this growth phase, in the 1950-60s, discretionary spending was still modest in most households. Staples of kids' culture were weekly magazines (and their marvelous furoku), cheap toys from candy shops, menkos (small round or rectangular cards), and so on. This was before the boom in vinyl toys, and one of the main materials used for kids' goods was good old-fashioned paper.

These days, one sometimes comes across beautiful old ephemera with striking colors and subject matter. Some of it has survived half a century in marvelous condition. Here are some pieces I've come across.

Baseball Autograph Books/Scoring Cards

These little books have ballplayers on the cover. On the top, the Japanese says "sign books," so I guess they're for collecting autographs. On the inside, there are some blank pages (maybe for players' signatures), pages with baseball action images, and charts for keeping score. I like them for the cool illustrations and colors.
The backs have score cards and a place where you can write your name.
 More after the jump:

Here's a closeup showing Osita-san. I'm not up on my Japanese baseball history, so I'm afraid I don't know anything about these players.

 Some inside pics:

Image transfer sheets

I like this for its shape, delicate construction, and the little sheets inside that have somehow made it intact all this way through time.
Note the idealized illustration on the back. It looks like the road to Mayfield. This type of picture-perfect imagery was common in kids' magazines and other items back then. And this goes back long before the war, when magazines like Shonen, Margaret, and Shonen Book painted a rosy, paint-by-numbers conception of childhood. (In the mid-late 1960s, however, as children's programming became more sophisticated and complex, the imagery changed along with it.)

Inside are little flower-covered pieces of paper. I believe these are transfer sheets, where the image would be transferred to a sheet of paper.

Book Covers

Finally I believe what we have here are some gorgeous book covers (at least I think that's what they are, though some say "toy bag" in Japanese, so who knows), possibly for small novels or comics that could easily be carried around. The practice of wrapping a sheet of paper around books continues to this day. Many stores will do it for you, though their sheets are covered with branded advertising and aren't nearly as nice as these.

From the back you can see how thin the paper is.
Interestingly, images of Western children were (and still are) often used on products and advertising.

Very bizarre combination of circus and space imagery. I like it.

Funky octopus balloon! Imagine the lyrics Paul and John could have written for this one...

Thanks for joining our ephemeral party!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...