Propaganda Kimono
Man's Nagajuban  |  Rinzu Silk (textured damask)  |  52 x 48"

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Propaganda Kimono

In this man's garment dating from 1940/1941 when the Tripartite Pact inaugurated the Axis Powers, tiny, precise, images of a visual lexicon of characters from Japanese folklore, including Momotaro ("Peach Boy" - the samurai with his friends, a fox, monkey, and pheasant), and Kintaro, ("Golden Boy" - the plump fellow carrying a bear), are interspersed with the flags of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and military motifs like anchors, bugles, and helmets. As a stand-in for the Japanese flag, the wry graphic designer of this fabric included the peach flag of Momotaro. The writing on the white banner reads, Nihon ichi, "Japan is number one."

Kintaro, a boy raised in the forest who befriended animals and had super-human strength, is shown both lifting a bear and wrestling a giant carp. His axe, with which he could cut down great stands of trees, is held by what appears to be a bear cub attendant. The kanji on his chest is the symbol for gold. Kintaro remains one of Japan's most popular figures and his image may be found in storybooks, manga comics, anime movies, and action figures.

Also prominently pictured is the tale of Saru kani gassen, a story about evil and justice where the kani (crab) confronts the mean saru (monkey) and is joined by others who have been harassed by the monkey - the chestnut, the bee, and the usu (the wood mortar used for making mochi, rice cake). They defeat the monkey and live happily ever after.