The great Shōwa bald-off

I spent most of last week's train rides reading Kōki, Banpaku, Orinpikku: Kōshitsu brando to keizai hatten ("The Imperial era, expositions, and Olympics: the Imperial Household brand and economic development", 皇紀・万博・オリンピック 皇室ブランドと経済発展), by Furukawa Takahisa 古川隆久. The book consists in large part of close examination of proposals and memos sent back and forth between minor Meiji bureaucrats, meaning that at times it is almost too information-rich: it's not easy to maintain a grip on the big picture when you are simultaneously being peppered with mini-resumes of every functionary involved in its creation. But this same information-richness can also be a source of great entertainment.

For example, here's a paragraph from chapter five, where Furukawa discusses the celebrations in 1940 of the 2600th anniversary (calculated Ussher-style from the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki) of Emperor Jimmu founding Japan:

では、一般国民はどのように新年を迎えたのだろうか。まず、新聞、一般雑誌からうかがってみよう。新聞では、一九三九年末には「珍妙・楽壇人のトクトウ[禿頭]コンクール 光輝二六〇〇年の施し」と題して、山田耕筰はじめ音楽会の頭自慢四人(山田のほか、作曲家小松耕輔、海軍軍楽隊楽長内藤清五、新交響楽団員小森宗太郎)が頭の輝き具合を競うというふざけた企画を紹介する記事(『国民新聞』一二月五日朝刊。ちなみにこの企画が実行された形跡がない)もあるが、正月三が日の記事や論説は政府の宣伝方針におおむね沿った、まじめでしかも紀元二六〇〇年にちなんだ内容が多い。広告も紀元二六〇〇年にちなんだデザインが多く、それは遊廓の広告にまで徹底している。息抜きのための読み物さえ、元旦の『国民新聞』に載った、エノケン・ロッパ(榎本健一・吉川緑波)の「辰歳漫才」のように、ロッパ「聖戦第四年の春です」、エノケン「早いもんですねえ」、ロッパ「しかも紀元二六〇〇年」、エノケン「二六〇〇年」、ロッパ「西暦で一九四〇年」、エノケン「僕は荏原の五三七三番」、ロッパ「電話みたいなことをいうな」、エノケン「オホホホホ」と、かなり苦しまぎれのギャグを入れているほどである。

So, how did the common people greet the new year? Let us begin by examining newspapers and general-interest magazines. In the newspaper world, we do find at the end of 1939 articles like "Astonishing! Conductor bald-off: a gift for the shining year 2600," a facetious proposal for a contest in which Yamada Kósçak and three other bald stars of the music world (composer Komatsu Kōsuke, navy band bandleader Naitō Seigo, and New Symphony Orchestra member Komori Sōtarō) would compete on the basis of shininess of head (Kokumin Shinbun, December 5 morning edition; there is, incidentally, no evidence of the contest having actually been held), but articles and editorials in the first three days of the new year tend to treat the topic of the 2600th anniversary seriously, taking their lead largely from the government's own announcements. Many of the advertisements also have Year 2600-themed designs, including advertisements for red light districts. Even the light-reading sections had topical jokes, if rather desperate ones. For example, Enomoto "Enoken" Ken'ichi and Furukawa Roppa's "Dragon year manzai," which appeared in the Kokumin Shinbun's New Year's Day edition: Roppa: "Spring has arrived in the fourth year of our holy war"; Enoken: "How time flies"; Roppa: "And it's also the 2600th anniversary of Japan's founding"; Enoken: "2600 years"; Roppa: "In Western terms, the year 1940"; Enoken: "And I'm Ebara-5373"; Roppa: "That's your phone number, dummy"; Enoken: "Heh heh heh"

I tried to find some pictures of Year 2600 advertisements online, but failed.

Popularity factor: 2


Here's a Year 2600-themed poster, which somehow embeds an absurd amount of fascism into a simple, abstract, and beautiful design:


I think it's the sheer size of Fujisan, drenched in red and with its curves squared off to designate it as an artificial symbol of empire, that really screams "hakkio ichiu". More great posters here:



Yeah, the way Fuji is one with the very background just screams omnipresence there. I should have known the Tentacle would have some of this stuff!

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