A study on Yashiro Yukio’s view of Asian art

A photograph taken during a field trip to China by Yashiro Yukio and his team in 1940. It is clear that at that time there was an advertisement for Jintan on a gate in Beijing.
Yashiro Yukio (right) and Odaka Sennosuke in the early days of The Institute for Art Research. On advice from Yashiro, Odaka pursued the study of East Asian art and made field studies throughout Asia in the 1930s. (from Naki Sennosuke wo Shinobu)

 A meeting of The Japan Art History Society was held for three days, from May 25 to 27, at the Kyushu University, Kyushu National Museum and Chikushi Jogakuen University. On the first day I presented a paper entitled “An Aspect of Modernism in Asia as Seen from the Trademark for Jintan.”
 The name Jintan in the title, of course, is a trade name; it is a product that is still being sold on market (Originally, it was sold as a portable medicine for all purpose and from the 1920 as a breath care product. It is now sold as a non-medical product.) From the time of its first sale in 1905, the image of a the name Jintan on the breast of a gentleman with a beard in full regalia has been known throughout the nation by means of advertisement on newspapers and billboards as a trademark for this product. Moreover, from the very beginning there was an attempt to expand its market not just domestically but also to mainland China, which shares the same kanji culture. As a result, but the end of the Second World War the company had branches throughout Asia and were engaged in advertising activities in different districts that were no less active than in Japan. Thus, in my presentation I explained, through the visual image presented by the advertisement for Jintan, how the company tried to present its product and how, on the other hand, people of Asia viewed this product. By selecting this topic as an aspect, I discussed the issues related to the study of art history and administration associated with fine arts from the 1910s to the 1930s from the point of view of “modernism in Asia.”
 In my presentation, I placed focus on the study of Asian art that Yashiro Yukio (the director of The Institute of Art Research, the forerunner of this Institute, in its early years), Odaka Sennosuke (1901-33; a researcher in the Institute) and others conceived and the investigations that they conducted in different areas. The reason for doing so was that since one can already find a Jintan advertisement in the photographs taken by these researchers I thought that it is possible to verify, in the overlap of pre-War economic activities and studies on the humanities, the concept of “Asia” that the Japanese had at that time. For this presentation, I consulted the 75th Year of the History of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo (tentative title), which will be published during this fiscal year, and the collection of research on Odaka Sennosuke, who is now being re-evaluated as a researcher of Asian Buddhist art. From this point, my presentation was not merely a presentation of a private study but also a report on one of the present circumstances concerning this Institute’s research on “art history.”

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