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Perhaps one of the most fascinating things in the world is old photos. There’s something almost otherworldly about those 100-year-old photos of Japan, Japanese landscape, and Japanese people, as if we were looking back through a time-telescope. It doesn’t hurt that the photos, despite technological restrictions, also happen to be gorgeous! The same can be said for old Japanese advertising posters that show off a time and place few even remember.

Check out these 16 alcohol and cigarette posters below and try to remember: Just because the cool kids are doing it, that doesn’t mean you should! Cigarettes are still bad for your health.

While contemporary Japanese commercials are world-renowned for their, um, unique take on advertising, these posters show off a very different side of Japanese society. In fact, these posters are just old enough that the text is written from right to left–which can make them doubly challenging to read! Many of them are also from a time when militarism was, unfortunately, on the rise or in full force, as you’ll immediately be able to tell from some of the imagery. Even so, there’s no denying the skill the illustrators brought to their work!

▼Here’s a poster for Gekkeikan, a sake producer founded in 1637 in Kyoto.

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 ▼”For a cheery drunkenness, drink shochu!” Unsurprisingly, this
poster was produced for the National New Style Shochu Federation.

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▼Here’s one brand nearly anyone would recognize: Kirin beer!

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This poster, whose design was considered minimalistic and elegant at the time, is for Minori cigarettes, a brand launched around the end of the Meiji and beginning of the Showa periods. It was designed by Hisui Sugiura, who also created the posters for the Tokyo Metro Ginza line when it opened in 1927.

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▼New, high-quality Extra Cascade Beer!
We have no idea who the men in red are either.

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▼And here’s another brand that everyone should recognize: Yebisu Beer!
“Number one in quality. Number one in trust. Number one in production.”

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▼Advertising through anonymity! Actually, while it might be a bit difficult
to make out, there’s a tiny “HB” in the bottom left corner, which of course
stands for “Hofbräuhaus München.”

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We hope you like sake, because that bottle won’t finish itself! And you probably wouldn’t want to turn down a drink from Umegatani, the sumo wrestler carrying the bottle of…Umegatani sake! In addition to modeling for advertisements, Umegatani Totaro was the 20th Yokozuna, the highest sumo ranking. He weighed in at around 348 pounds, despite only reaching 5 feet and 6 inches.

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▼Here’s a poster for Sakura Beer. What enormous elephants have to do with
cherry trees and/or beer, we don’t know…but we sure do wish it would hurry and pour!

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▼If it weren’t for the advertising copy, this would fit right into an art museum!

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▼We’re not sure if that smog-spewing smokestack in the background is meant to
symbolize modern advancement or the need to escape with a few brews.
Either way, we sure wish someone would bring us a basket of booze!

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▼Kabuto Beer literally means “Helmet Beer.”
Maybe because it’s so delicious you’ll get drunk and dance around in a helmet?

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▼And taking the award for weirdest juxtaposition of elements in a single poster:
Peackock Cigarettes! Represented by a bat-wing Pegasus leaping
over the planet while smoking and whinnying “Delicious!”

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▼And here are some officers stopping to share a smoke of
Yutada cigarettes, “First class, paper-wrapped tobacco.”

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▼Tokyo Beer! When reality has taken a flying leap into the river.

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▼And our last poster today is for Hiro tobacco. We’re not sure if this woman is
buying or selling, but whatever she’s doing, there will clearly be no funny business.

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Though it’s easy to forget about the day-to-day lives of past people and just focus on the big picture–who invaded who, who betrayed who, and never get involved in a land war in Asia–these posters offer beautiful glimpses into the quieter parts of life a century ago. While we might have had a hard time understanding the slang of the day, there’s one thing we definitely could have shared with the Japanese people of the time: A nice cold mug of beer!

Sources: Tabacco and Salt Museum, Wikipedia (Umegatani)
Images: Himasoku