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Images of Japanese Labor and Social Movement in Pre-1945 Japan (1): Industrial Welfare Association (Sangyo Fukuri Kyokai) Posters


Industrial Safety, Public Health, Cleanliness: Industrial Welfare Association

 (Sangyo Fukuri Kyokai) Posters



The Industrial Welfare Association (Sangyo Fukuri Kyokai) was established in 1925 by the Bureau of Social Affairs, the Home Ministry, for the promotion of industrial safety. The Ohara Institute owns about 100 posters produced by the association.


Posters calling for Industrial Safety

(click the title to see all industrial safety posters)


In those days, the number of industrial accidents was on the rise: the number of deaths resulting from industrial accidents doubled between 1930 and 1934, from 243 to 521. Posters of Industrial Welfare Association drew people’s attention to major causes of industrial accidents, such as collapses of the grounds, mudslides, falls from scaffolds, and vehicle accidents.


The association hosted popular poster contests in an effort to raise awareness about industrial safety. Those who organized the contests presumably believed that having ordinary workers draw posters was an effective way of informing the public of the importance of preventing industrial accidents. These posters impart a strong sense of reality, because they were drawn by workers who knew safety conditions of their workplaces well.


Posters with watchwords such as “Pay attention to unkept hair” and “Disorder of materials and tools is the source for great disaster” indicate that many workplaces in this period were not orderly. Other posters indicate the fact that, although workers were supposed to wear work clothes and hats, this requirement was not strictly observed.



Posters on Public Health

(click the title to see all public health posters)


In addition to industrial safety posters, the association made numerous posters to raise people’s health consciousness. These posters were probably put up in places other than factories. Their key words were “health,” “industries,” “the nation,” and “the family.” That is, people’s health was promoted for the sake of industries, the nation, and the family. Typical watchwords of these posters included: “Health is the mother of happiness. For the nation, for the wife and children,” and “Health is much more valuable than wealth/fortune. Industries rely on health for prosperity.”



A poster with the watchword “Happy going to work, a cheerful family” may appear to be depicting a salaried white-collar worker’s family with a full-time housewife. A closer look at the poster, however, shows that the husband is not wearing a tie. Thus, the husband in the poster is more likely to be either a blue-collar worker or a lower-ranking clerical worker.



There are many posters with health tips in daily lives. Since they were drawn by amateur painters, their designs are not very sophisticated. Yet their straightforward designs and simple messages should appeal to present-day viewers. Watchwords of such posters include: “Don’t catch a cold in your sleep by dressing too lightly. Protect the body by using a stomach girdle,”Gargling and wearing masks prevents catching colds!” “If sunlight does not enter, the doctor surely will. Don’t neglect to sunbathe,” “Moderate exercise. Moderate repose,” “The most important thing is getting peaceful sleep,” “Instead of blowing hot air and thumping one’s chest, breathe deeply, and walk tall,” “Massaging with cold water will train the body,” and “Expose beddings to the sun frequently. It is good for hygiene, and also more comfortable for sleeping.”



Some posters make reference to basic elements of people’s eating and drinking habits such as sobriety, mastication, and brushing teeth. These posters’ watchwords include: “Refrain from insobriety. Your work is plenty and serious,” “Too much alcohol will destroy your health. In moderation!” “Masticate food well. Your stomach does not have teeth–so chew well,” and “The brushed white teeth. Shines health.” The fact that there are several posters stressing the importance of brushing teeth indicates that many people in this period had not developed a habit of brushing teeth regularly.


Posters stressing Cleanliness

(click the title to see all cleanliness posters)


“Cleanliness” was one of the major themes of Industrial Welfare Association posters. Posters exhorted people to lead clean lives with such watchwords as: “Do not neglect cleaning and laundry. Cleanliness/Sanitation breeds a happiness and health,” “Before cosmetics, first be clean,” and “The sink and bathroom should be bright and hygienic.”


The explanation of Industrial Welfare Association Posters is based on UMEDA Toshihide. 2001. Poster no shakaishi. (Social History of Propaganda Posters) Tokyo: Hituzi Shobo Publishing Co. (translation: SUZUKI Akira)

Posters’ texts were translated by NAKAYAMA Izumi.




Exhibitions of Related Themes:


Mie Prefecture Public Hygiene Department Posters



Posters Calling for Tuberculosis Prevention


Updated date:2021.06.21