Accepted paper:

Presenting Japan to the world: kimono-clad women in early airline advertising

Authors:

Yoshiko Nakano (University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

The paper considers the image of “Japan” portrayed in early advertisements devised by Japan Airlines in an effort to promote services to Japan from its first two international destinations – the US and Hong Kong.

Paper long abstract:

The paper considers the image of "Japan" portrayed in early advertisements devised by Japan Airlines in an effort to promote services to Japan from its first two international destinations - the US and Hong Kong. Geisha girls typically feature in Orientalist representations of Japan. Images of the geisha entered popular imagination in the US after World War II, when the Allied Occupation of Japan brought in American military personnel to Japan, and was then magnified by Hollywood movies in the 1950s. In 1953, the newly established JAL was faced with the pressing issue of how to present and represent Japan in overseas advertising. JAL initially considered both futuristic and traditional symbols but ultimately followed the suggestions of American advertising agents, and decided to rely heavily on images of Japanese "air hostesses" in kimonos. The reason for this was that American men, whose romanticized vision of Japan often included geisha girls from the main cities' pleasure districts, were JAL's most frequent customers. The introduction of the kimono as a uniform was also a branding exercise aimed at distinguishing JAL from its competitors, Pan American Airlines and Northwest Orient, who both benefited from access to a substantial PR budget. The Orientalist approach was applied to the Hong Kong market when JAL extended its service to the territory in 1955. Based on over 400 instances of JAL advertisements published between 1953 and 1970, and oral history interviews, I will examine how Orientalist images of Japan were negotiated across the Pacific.

panel P084
Creativity in business (Commission on Enterprise Anthropology)