The Japanese tradition of pictures on garments took an insidious turn in 1895 and 1905 with the Sino-Japanese, and Russo-Japanese Wars, when kimono were first made with images of troops, cannon, and battleships. In the 20th century, kimono with a plethora of themes were produced – travel, sports, politics, fashion, and in the 1930’s, an outpouring of imagery of war. From 1931 and the Japanese annexation of Manchuria, until Pearl Harbor and the complete war footing it necessitated, Japanese propaganda in the form of clothing for men, boys, and more rarely, women, was produced and worn in Japan in support of the efforts overseas.
Largely overlooked as embarrassing evidence of Japan’s militaristic past until the exhibit and book Wearing Propaganda at the Bard Graduate Center in New York in early 2006, these shocking but often beautiful robes are a window into the mind-set and history of Japan in the 1930’s
The historical kimono shown here represent approximately 25% of a comprehensive collection of 140 that is being offered for sale in its entirety. Individual kimono are also available for purchase. Please inquire for prices.
Many of the kimono available here are featured in the 2012 Museum of Fine Arts Boston publication, The Brittle Decade: Visualizing Japan in the 1930s.
A comprehensive exhibition of modern kimono history including several propaganda examples acquired from this collection will be on view at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art from September 27, 2014 - January 24, 2015.