The total war era for Japan began in 1937 with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. This led to direct and sustained conflict with the Chinese Nationalist government, although sporadic engagements had taken place since 1931. Western powers favored China in this instance, so Japan had little access to foreign loans and was increasingly denied key resources, such as metal and oil, for its military apparatus. In response, the Japanese government stepped up its campaigns to promote domestic austerity and national savings while issuing various anti-luxury edicts. The best known of the these were the 1940 “Regulations Restricting the Manufacture and Sale of Luxury Goods,” accompanied by the slogan “Luxury is the enemy.”
While luxury was at first denigrated by association with Western decadence, the anti-luxury edicts eventually came to encompass not only silks, but also paper and other basic goods. Nevertheless, Osaka Mitsukoshi published issues until close to the end of the total war. Here are covers from 1939 through 1943, with some gaps. While examining the people and objects portrayed, also consider the spaces that contain them, and how these spaces might align or collide.
Which covers are the most memorable? Do you see patterns of wartime collaboration? Or escape from or resistance to the state? Or something else?