A Curated Collection of Vintage Japanese Magazine Covers (1913–46)


I just last week returned from a vis­it to Tokyo, where I did what I always do there: shop for mag­a­zines. Despite not pay­ing the mag­a­zine shelves a whole lot of atten­tion in Korea, where I live, and prac­ti­cal­ly none at all in Amer­i­ca, where I’m from, I can’t resist lin­ger­ing for hours over the ones in Japan, a coun­try whose print pub­lish­ing indus­try seems much stronger than that of any oth­er, and whose pub­li­ca­tions show­case the cul­ture’s for­mi­da­ble design sen­si­bil­i­ty that has only grown more com­pelling over the cen­turies.


Will Schofield, who runs the inter­na­tion­al and his­tor­i­cal book design blog 50 Watts, knows this, and he also knows that Japan­ese design has been mak­ing mag­a­zine cov­ers inter­est­ing since Japan first had mag­a­zines to cov­er. The images here come from two of his posts, Extra­or­di­nary ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry mag­a­zine cov­ers from Japan and 25 Vin­tage Mag­a­zine Cov­ers from Japan. The ear­li­er ones, which he describes as a mix­ture of “charm­ing chil­dren’s cov­ers with the creepy mod­ernist cov­ers,” come from Book­cov­er Design in Japan 1910s-40s. “Pub­lished in 2005 by PIE Books,” writes Schofield, “this incred­i­ble book is already out-of-print and becom­ing hard to find (it was actu­al­ly hard for me to find and I spend hours per day search­ing for rare books).”


As for the more recent post, he writes that it “began as a com­pi­la­tion of mag­a­zine cov­ers from the web­site of a Japan­ese anti­quar­i­an deal­er. I dug through all 1500 or so images and saved (like a good lit­tle dig­i­tal hoard­er) hun­dreds to fea­ture, though only 8 made the first cut.”


Both posts togeth­er present a curat­ed col­lec­tion of near­ly 50 most­ly pre­war Japan­ese mag­a­zine cov­ers, still vivid and of a decid­ed­ly high artis­tic stan­dards these 70 to 103 years lat­er. On my own shop­ping trip, I picked up an issue of Free & Easy, my favorite men’s style mag­a­zine pub­lished any­where — its final issue, inci­den­tal­ly, and one whose cov­er, despite depict­ing no less an Amer­i­can icon than Dick Tra­cy, admirably car­ries this tra­di­tion of Japan­ese mag­a­zine art one step fur­ther.


For more vin­tage Japan­ese mag­a­zine cov­ers, see: Extra­or­di­nary ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry mag­a­zine cov­ers from Japan and 25 Vin­tage Mag­a­zine Cov­ers from Japan.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Adver­tise­ments from Japan’s Gold­en Age of Art Deco

Glo­ri­ous Ear­ly 20th-Cen­tu­ry Japan­ese Ads for Beer, Smokes & Sake (1902–1954)

Vin­tage 1930s Japan­ese Posters Artis­ti­cal­ly Mar­ket the Won­ders of Trav­el

A Won­der­ful­ly Illus­trat­ed 1925 Japan­ese Edi­tion of Aesop’s Fables by Leg­endary Children’s Book Illus­tra­tor Takeo Takei

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.