Japanese political campaign posters: An interesting battlefield

I’ve wanted to talk about Japanese political posters for a while now, so it’s high time I knock this one off my to-do list. I remember being in the US during election season, whether it was a local one or national one, political signs were everywhere. Mostly you could find them in people’s yards or on big billboards around town.

In Japan you’ll often see political signs for local and national politicians as well, but things might be a bit different than what is done where you live. Let’s examine some differences.

Disclaimer: Not discussing actual politics, but things I’ve noticed when it comes to signs and posters.

Political yard signs in the US

Most political signs in the US only say the name of the candidate and their party or running mate. Thinking back, it’s sort of minimalistic and doesn’t stand out too much. When election season is over, the signs (usually) come down and people forget about it unless it’s a truly heated election.

The World of Japanese Political Posters

Political posters on a wall in Japan

Photo by Justin C.
Rather than yard signs, there tend to be more political posters in Japan which usually have a candidate’s name, his/her party, AND a photo of the person. It’s an interesting idea to plaster your face all over the place, but I can imagine there are times when this could backfire.

Japanese countryside road

Photo by Takao Goto
I live far away from major cities like Tokyo or Osaka, so I can only talk about my experiences in the less dense areas of Japan. I love walking when the weather is nice out, so I’m always noticing different stores, posters, and signs.

My biggest issue with these Japanese political posters is that they stay up all year round. Even if the candidate is already elected, you’ll see signs showing support for them. This extends from local politicians all the way to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe Shinzo's political poster

To be honest, I felt creeped out seeing the Prime Minister’s face everywhere when I would go out for walks. If the guy is already elected, why do we need posters of him? When I was at a U.S. consulate, I got a little weirded out from seeing Obama’s picture on the wall while I was waiting, so don’t think I’m singling out Japan here.

I did an informal survey and asked a Japanese friend what was the deal with having posters of people already elected. She wasn’t sure but assumed that it could have been a way of reminding people that a politician was “working hard” or that people could still rely on that person.

It’s a bit difficult to not look at the prime minister posters as seeming close to propaganda. Is it just me?

Posters that stand out

There are sometimes dedicated walls for political posters in Japan

It’s tough competition in an election, but most posters don’t stray too far from the standard of having a decent photo and basic information. However, every once in a while a campaign manager somewhere will attempt to make something a bit different.

This awesome Japanese political poster

Whoah, watch out! This Imai Masato guy is a samurai dude. I don’t know if that’s a custom-made character for his campaign or maybe it’s borrowed from a manga series. Whatever the case, it’s awesome and I think more candidates should try to outdo each other in wacky posters.

There’s no such thing as too many posters

I’ve gotta be honest, the main reason for this article is the phenomenon of too many Japanese political posters in the same location for the same politician. It’s not enough to have just one poster, how about two, three, or six! I’m not even talking about variations, they’re the SAME poster next to each other.

Yeah, we get it Mr. Abe. You're the prime minister!

Just look at all these Abe Shinzos. How does that even work? Is the number of signs decided by the land owner, the campaign management, the political party, or a simple game of Rock-paper-scissors? This is hilarious to me, but I’m genuinely interested in why this happens.

Do people think that the message is more effective the greater number of posters you have in close proximity?

Apparently so, because our next guy is going super saiyan when it comes to his posters.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you:


Holy crap, LOOK AT THIS. I mean, you can’t make this up. You happen to be going somewhere one day and BAM, it hits you.

How can you not remember this guy? You know what, maybe these kind of techniques do work for helping people remember politicians when they vote.

Special thanks to my friend Carlos for snapping some of these wonderful examples of Japanese political posters gone wild.

How about you?

Have you seen any interesting or wacky campaign signs or advertisements? It could be from any country, it doesn’t have to be from Japan. I love these things and would love it if you let me know what other wacky stuff is happening around the world.

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