As you may be aware, we are fascinated by Japan here at Counter-Print. We’re currently working on a third book of collected Japanese graphic design, which will hopefully hit the shelves before Christmas but, in the mean time, I thought I’d provide a little Japanese fix, with this post on Japanese manner posters.
I recently came across these wonderful works down one internet rabbit hole or another which I found myself in one evening. The Japanese, famously, have an extensive collection of manners and customs that are interesting to learn and they say much about Japan's world view and its culture.
The Tokyo Metro manner posters are an ongoing humorous ad campaign, running since 1974, to teach strangers a few Japanese manners. Tokyo Metro is Japan’s largest subway system and you’ll find it hard to miss the catchy posters asking commuters to mind their manners. Each month a new, cleverly designed poster appears in subway stations and the posters are now world renowned for the ever inventive ways in which they remind us to be considerate towards our fellow passengers.
There are two specific collections, old and new, that I particularly like, though there are seemingly hundreds to go though online, for any designer wishing to while away their full lunch hour.
Firstly, there are the posters from the mid-70s and the start of the campaign. From 1974, this series of eye-catching posters appeared in Tokyo featuring, at first, appropriations of iconic western imagery like Hitler, Superman, Marilyn Monroe and Santa Claus. As mentioned, each poster promoted subway etiquette and manners, like not smoking on the platform during rush hour, not spitting gum and displaying your train pass clearly. The comical posters were the work of graphic designer Hideya Kawakita:
Left: Clearly Show Your Train Pass (September 1976) Right: Don't Throw Chewing Gum on the Platform (September 1976)
Shimatta (March 1977) This poster warns passengers against getting their shoulder bags caught in the train doors.
Left: The Seat Monopoliser (July 1976) Right: Non-smoking Time (November 1982)
In recent years, perhaps the most memorable posters have featured the iconic illustrations of graphic artist Bunpei Yorifuji. Beginning in 2008 and spanning 3 years – something rather unusual considering the transient nature of the annual Metro poster themes – the designs were judged a huge success, being replicated and parodied in numerous places across the world:
And as I couldn't resist showing just a few more, here are a selection of other Japanese manner posters from over the years:
Left: Wasureemon (June 1980) Doraemon offers a friendly reminder not to forget your umbrella. Right: Dream at Home (December 1981)
Three Annoying Train Monsters (October 1982)
Left & Right: No Smoking During Non-smoking Hours (August 1979 & October 1980)
Humans are Forgetful (February 1976)
Left: Isami-ashi: Wait Behind the White Line (May 1979) Right: I'll Stand Up (July 1979)
For more posters, please visit: metrocf.or.jp