The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Hiroyuki Sasame
© Poster Hari's Company
Mr. Hiroyuki Sasame
Representative of Poster Hari's Company, Inc.

Jokyo Gekijo theater company
Koshimaki Osen Bokyaku-hen

(1966, Design: Tadanori Yokoo)

*1 The Japan Advertising Artists Club (JAAC) founded in 1951 was of professional organization of the leading figures in modern design during Japan’s postwar era. Led by member designers from the major corporations like Hiromu Hara and Yusaku Kamekura, the Club’s open-participation “Japan Advertising Artist Awards” and other programs helped foster a new generation of designers and many important design works. Eventually criticized for its authoritarian ways, the Club was dissolved in 1970.

Experimental Theater Lab “Tenjo Sajiki”
Throw Away Your Books, Run into the Streets!

(1969, Design: Masamichi Oikawa)
Throw Away Your Books, Run into the Streets!
Experimental Theater Lab “Tenjo Sajiki”
La Marie-vison (Frankfurt version)

(1969 Design: Akira Uno)
See also “Japanese Drama Database”
La Marie-vison
Experimental Theater Lab “Tenjo Sajiki”
Inugami (Frankfurt version)

(1969 Design: Kiyoshi Awazu)
See also “Japanese Drama Database”

*2 Misawa Shuji Terayama Memorial Museum: Founded 1997. The museum was built to house the collection of the Terayama estate donated to the city of Misawa by Terayama’s Mother, Hatsu. The museum was designed with a base plan by Kiyoshi Awazu and advice from numerous people including former Tenjo Sajiki members like Kyoko Kujo. The museum is run by the company Terayama World as the designated operator on behalf of the city of Misawa.
Shuji Terayama Memorial Museum
Presenter Interview
Another aspect of Japanese theater communicated through posters 
Another aspect of Japanese theater communicated through posters 
From the latter half of the 1960s into the first half of the ’80s, Japanese theater was led by the experimental and often controversial angura (Underground) theater movement. The posters for the plays of this “Underground” theater movement were often designed by a group of young artists such as Tadanori Yokoo, Kiyoshi Awazu and Akira Uno, who would go on to become some of Japan’s leading artists of their generation. Their works, employing modes of expression inseparable from the theatrical works that inspired them, would revolutionize graphic design in Japan. As a collector and preserver of these posters, without which no discussion of contemporary Japanese Theater can be complete, Hiroyuki Sasame, the representative of Poster Hari’s Company, has undertaken a project to collect, preserve and exhibit the posters. That collection now includes more than 20,000 examples of over 10,000 unique posters dating from the 1960s to the present. To date he has organized over 50 “Contemporary Theater Posters” exhibitions at venues in Japan and abroad, and in 2004 he published the photography collection Japan Avant-garde – 100 masterpieces of Angura Theater Posters, as a selection of 100 of the best posters of the Underground theater movement. Recently, in September 2009, Sasame opened the Poster Hari’s Gallery in a renovated apartment and launched a series of exhibitions rotating important works from his poster collection. We spoke with Sasame about how he came to be a presenter of exhibitions on Japanese contemporary theater through posters, the history of his project and the changes that present-day theater posters have undergone.
(Interviewer: Eiko Tsuboike)

The “Contemporary Theater Poster Collection, Preservation and Display Project” boasting a collection of over 10,000 posters

What is the size of your poster collection now?
I haven’t really counted it precisely but I believe I now have over 10,000 different posters in the collection of about 20,000 copies. And the collection continues to grow at a rate of about 500 posters a year. Since I get a lot of requests to borrow the posters I started a simple computer archive about ten years ago, which now has roughly 8,000 posters cataloged and of them about 1,000 are in data form for reproduction. Each poster is cataloged in this archive with the name of the [poster] designer, the name of the theater company, the play, the playwright, the main actors, the date of the play’s premiere and the theater name, and as reference an image of something like a flower or a woman that characterizes the poster’s design is added.

And we are told that the important central part of the collection is theater posters from the angura (Underground) theater movement from 1960 into the ’80s, as represented by Shuji Terayama’s Tenjo Sajiki company and the Jokyo Gekijo company of Juro Kara.
Yes, it is. Many angura posters, like Tadanori Yokoo’s famous Koshimaki Osen Bokyaku-hen (Jokyo Gekijo, 1966), which was acquired for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art of New York (MoMA) in 1970, have been recognized for their exceptional artistic value. And as a genre within the history of Japanese poster art, they are recognized as revolutionary works that served as symbols of their era. In preparation for the holding of the World Design Exposition in Nagoya in 1989, a book titled A History of Japanese Posters - POSTERS JAPAN 1800’s-1980’s was published. It is a valuable poster collection that presents a broad overview of advertising art in Japan from the Edo Period, and one of its important chapters dealing with the posters of the angura era is titled “The Impact of the Underground.”
 My collection includes almost all of the representative works of that era. Another substantial part of my collection that has not yet been shown publicly is posters like those for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics designed by members of the Japan Advertising Artists Club (*1), like Yusaku Kamekura and Ikko Tanaka, who were the leaders of the postwar advertising industry. I have collected about 500 important posters by those designers.

By the way, are there any other collections of contemporary theater posters besides that of your project?
In the area of angura theater posters, there is the collection of the library of Musashino Art University, where one of the leading designers of that era, Katsuhito Oyobe, is a professor. There is also a collection of contemporary theater posters in the Waseda University’s Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum. And the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art also has a very substantial collection of commercial advertising posters.

Would you tell us what led you to start the Contemporary Theater Poster collecting, Preservation and Display Project?
I currently run a business called Poster Hari’s Company that specializes in distributing theater, movie, concert and exhibition posters to restaurants, theaters, museums and other venues. I started this company back in 1987 out of the desire to elevate the status of poster distribution and hanging from the errand-running level job it used to be in the theater world of the day to a valid profession, where my company name could appear in the credits on the poster as part of the production and distribution staff.
 That business put me in a position where a constant flow of posters from contemporary theater and other sources were coming into my possession. At the time I didn’t expect the company to last very long. I was thinking that it would be fine if I could continue the business for about ten years and maybe have an exhibition of the collected posters at the end. Also, since I was a child I have always been the type who couldn’t throw out paper things, so I began saving the leftover posters.
 That eventually led to an offer in 1992 from a gallery in the Aoyama district of Tokyo to hold an exhibition, which was given the name “Super Poster Harister Collection” (Hari being the Japanese for “hanging/putting up” of posters, etc.). Due to the fact that this exhibition was publicized as commemorating my 10th year in the poster distribution/hanging business and also the fact that it happened to come just at the time when the dissolution of the popular theater company Yume no Yuminsha had been announced, the newspapers and magazines picked up on the story and the exhibition ended up drawing a total audience of some 3,000 visitors. At that time there were public institutions that maintained collections of film posters at the Film Center and the Kawakita Memorial Film Foundation, but there was no such institution keeping contemporary theater posters. So, as someone who had begun a poster distribution business in the enthusiasm of youth, I felt a strong need to create a facility to preserve a poster collection, even though I didn’t have the financial means to do it myself.
 As a first step, I announced to the people of the Shingeki (New Theater) scene that I would begin collection posters. I made it a practice from that time to collect the posters from each new play that was staged. I knew that there could eventually be a question of the copyrights for these posters, so I made plans to deal with that aspect as well. I theorized that posters were produced for the purpose of advertising and that the ones that should be collected and preserved were used posters that had actually been hung or posted on walls as advertisements. I thought that collecting used posters that would otherwise be discarded would minimize any problem of copyrights. So, I made a policy of collecting ones that had actually been hung in the theaters, and taking the pinholes or staple holes as proof that the posters had been used as advertisements. I also made it a policy that admission should not be charged at the exhibitions of these posters, and that when leased out for client use, the rate should be no more than the actual cost involved. And I also made a set of rules regarding use in commercial-base publications.
 Regarding the angura era theater posters, I began to supplement my existing collection by personally purchasing or soliciting contributions of posters I didn’t have. Then I began organizing exhibitions at various venues.
 Since preservation requires money and the project had already grown beyond what I could handle privately, I was fortunate to receive a grant from the Saison Foundation (3 million JPY [approx. 3300 USD] over 3 years) and took that as the opportunity to formally establish my “Contemporary Theater Poster Collection, Preservation and Display Project” in 1994. The principle for the project was “collection, preservation and exhibiting of theater posters from around the world” and the principle I had already adopted for my Poster Hari’s Company: “Stimulating the theater world through advertising art.”

You are also cooperating in the poster-collecting project started by Tokyo’s New National Theatre.
When the New National Theater opened in 1996, they came to me saying that they wanted to collect an archive of materials related to contemporary theater for their affiliated Information Center, and from 1998 we started a joint poster preservation and exhibiting project. This is a project limited to collecting new poster works with the assistance of roughly 2,000 theaters companies and theaters around the country, from which 500 posters are chosen for the collection every year and a book published featuring 80 of those.
 I had long thought that poster-collecting should be done by a public institution, so I was glad when a national institution like the New National Theatre, Tokyo began this poster-collecting project. There is now a collection of about 5,000 posters in the Theatre’s storeroom. Until now there have been so few opportunities for poster designers to come to the attention of the public, so it appears that this project is providing new encouragement for them as well. And, I believe that this is another activity that can contribute to “Stimulating the theater world through advertising art.” However, with recent changes in personnel and the organization at the Theatre, the project seems to have lost some of its original initiative and it is apparently getting more difficult to secure the necessary funding. I hope they will somehow be able to continue the project.
 Although I started collecting posters at the age of 30 with little more than a vague intent and not knowing anything about what it involved, after doing it for a couple of years I felt I had started something I would have to continue for as long as the art of theater lasted. And now, as of April of 2009, I am running the Shuji Terayama Memorial Museum in Misawa (*2) with Terayama’s former wife and producer of Tenjo Sajiki, Kyoko Kujo. So I have ended up carrying two crosses I can’t put down, one in contemporary theater posters and the other in Shuji Terayama.
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