A place of contrasts that reflects a whole culture.
Some days ago I had the opportunity to visit Tokyo City. To any occidental person related somehow to advertising, the idea of visiting Tokyo for the first time implies a world of discoveries, amusements and visual stimuli. At least that is what we receive through our screens. At least that was what I had in mind while going there.
These same thoughts came back to me when the opportunity of visiting the Ad Museum in Tokyo (ADMT) came up. While I was on the escalators of Shiodome Metro Station arriving at the Dentsu Building, I was thinking about all the ads loaded with bright colours and all the loud and strident spots I was about to see. “Domo Kun and Pikachu everywhere!” I thought.
The truth is that when I entered the museum I experienced something similar to the moment when I started to know the city. Everything I imagined would be there – except for Pikachu and Domo Kun being everywhere - was true. The colours, the stridency, the attempt to get your attention no matter what. But still there was much more than that. There’s a great story of evolution and overcoming in every aspect of Japanese life and that is something we can also see reflected in the advertising field.
I also saw it in the streets of Tokyo after visiting the most crowded intersection in the entire world (Shibuya Crossing). If you walk 200 meters away from there you will find a quiet city, with a very calm pace. In the museum, we can see this huge contrast when the exhibition takes us through the beginnings of advertising in Japan.
One of the first rooms is dedicated to the decorative ads from the Edo period, where we realize that handing out flyers and promoting the shops was something already happening during the 18th Century. We can also see how brands were already present during that period's entertainment, with performers promoting the shops next to the venue or some particular sake.
The museum shows us how this discipline grew and adapted to the times it lived in this corner of the world. Empires, wars, modernization…
Through a brief tour that doesn’t take longer than two hours, you can know in detail the history and the present of advertising in Japan. Personally, it also helped me understand how in a city with almost 40 million people everything seems to work quite well. I’m sure that Communication has a little something to do with all this.
I’d like to thank Andrew Thomas for helping me contacting the ADMT, and Dentsu Agency and the ADMT itself for sharing the images with us.