Unique Collections

Collection of Posters from China’s Cultural Revolution


During the Cold War era that ran from the 1950s to the 1970s, the U.S., the Soviet Union and China used a vast amount of art (music, fine arts, dance, film, and so on) to develop political propaganda that would be easily understood by “the people.” Posters were thought to be the most effective of these media. The amount of propaganda created in Asia is said to have been particularly extensive due to the fierce competition between the political systems in China and Taiwan and in North and South Korea. In China especially, many political posters opposing American imperialism and praising the Communist Party and Mao Zedong were produced and actually used in the places where people lived and worked amid the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976.

2. Poster Collections in Japan and Around the World

Poster collections have attracted a great deal of attention as a means of facilitating systematic research of these propaganda posters. Collections include 1) the Chinese Propaganda Posters Collection at Leiden University, University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, comprising approximately 2,800 posters owned by Professor Stefan R. Landsberger, and 2) the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center in China, which has approximately 6,000 posters.

Posters have recently drawn attention, particularly in the fields of contemporary and pop art, but there are not yet any systematic, organized collections found in Japan. The only known example is the Takashi Akiyama Poster Museum in Nagaoka, which includes some of the collection assembled by Takashi Akiyama of Tama Art University

3. Potential for Poster Research at Kanagawa University

The Research Center for Nonwritten Cultural Materials received a donation of Cultural Revolution posters. Although the collection is not large, numbering only some 200 items, which is not world-class, it will definitely spur the collection and study of Chinese iconographic materials by the Research Center for Nonwritten Cultural Materials, which pursues research on iconographic materials. Furthermore, the Kanagawa University Library has a diverse collection of magazines, such as Jinmin Gaho and Jinmin Chugoku (People’s China), that have played an important role in promoting the People’s Republic of China abroad since the nation’s founding. The Research Center for Nonwritten Cultural Materials has the potential to develop unique research topics by using these materials in combination with the Cultural Revolution posters.

Tsunehiro Kondo Collection

Motive for Collection

Tsunehiro Kondo was born in Tianjin in 1929, and spent his kindergarten and elementary school days there. He was in a fourth year student at the Japanese Middle School in Tianjin when the Second World War came to an end. He returned to Japan the following year in 1946, and organized a class reunion every year afterwards. In 2002, a plan was made to hold the reunion in Tianjin, and Kondo took on the role of organizer. At that time, he decided to create a guidebook and began collecting materials related to Tianjin. That was the start of the collection, which grew over the next 12 years to include over 1,000 items just counting postcards alone.

Background of the Collection

The collection focuses on materials related to Kondo’s memories. It includes materials in both Japanese and Chinese, such as maps, photograph collections, postcards, photographs taken by private individuals, guidebooks, train tickets, and related books. Kondo felt it was meaningful to circulate these materials and distribute copies at the class reunions held each year. At first, he did not classify the postcards systematically, but divided them according to region as they increased in number. Later, he devised his own method for sorting them, classifying them by manufacturer based on subtle differences in the scenery depending on the seller, or by differences in the printing on the address side. In the process, various things gradually became clear. For example, if the same photograph was used in both a photograph collection and as a postcard, the date of the postcard can be determined by referring to the publication date of the photograph collection. The condition of buildings, etc. can be distinguished on maps from various years, and postcards can be dated by the condition of the roads or architectural structures seen on them.

The Tsunehiro Kondo Collection assembled by Tsunehiro Kondo, who was born and raised in Tianjin, is a comprehensive group of materials that is of great value to the Research Center for Nonwritten Cultural Materials. It is currently being studied from various angles by a team of researchers at the Center, and this research is expected to produce significant results in the future.

* The above text is a revised and modified version of that presented by Tsunehiro Kondo at the 3rd Open Research Meeting that was held in the 2013 academic year.

Collection of Kamishibai to Enhance Fighting Spirit

Kamishibai (picture-story shows) are considered to be the basis for traditional Japanese audio-visual culture in which the audience listens to a story while looking at something. Examples include picture scrolls, nozoki karakuri (shows using a device with a lens mounted on a stand or in a box to view enlarged pictures), projected pictures, and live narration of silent films. These traditions gradually disappeared from the streets with the spread of television in households from the mid-1950s onward, but during their peak in the years before and after the Second World War, the performances were said to attract a million viewers (children) per day in Tokyo alone. However, kamishibai, a mass medium that had a high cultural value on a level with that of newspapers, radio and films, without exception played a part in war propaganda under the regulation of free speech during the Imperial Rule Assistance era when Japan rushed into the Fifteen Year War. The series of picture-story shows produced during this time were called “kokusaku kamishibai” (national policy picture-story shows), but many were burned or scattered and lost in the period between the Japanese defeat and the occupation. The “Collection of Kamishibai to Enhance Fighting Spirit” assembled by the Research Center for Nonwritten Cultural Materials comprises 241 pieces, mainly items published between 1938 and 1941 by Nippon Kyoiku Gageki (Japan Educational Theatre) (the kamishibai publishing body of the Nippon Kyoiku Kamishibai Kyokai (Japan Educational Kamishibai Association) formed in 1938). The former owner of the collection is Tomio Sakuramoto, author of Senso to Kamishibai (Kamishibai and the War) among other works, who has consistently uncovered materials related to trends among various media and groups during wartime and the responsibility of cultural figures for the war.