A Poster Design Contest Breathes New Life into an Old Shopping District


mom and pop shopowners of the Fuminosato shopping street

The proliferation of e-commerce and the hegemony of big box department stores wreaking havoc on small mom and pop shops is not a new story. It’s been happening all around and, despite complaints that neighborhoods are losing charm and character, it doesn’t seem like there’s much we can do about it. But in the Fuminosato Shotengai (shopping street) in Osaka, which was once thriving with over 100 local shops, a group of store owners are using humor and design to try and get people excited about mom and pop shops.

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“We have good breasts” and “We have good thighs, reads the posters for a yakitori chicken shop.

“I felt like I had to do something,” says Akari Etoh the 66-year old director of the association which organizes shops within the district. Mr. Etoh spoke with Keita Kusaka, a copywriter at Dentsu Kansai, the local branch of the mega-ad agency. Mr. Kusaka agreed to help organize a poster design contest. The ad agency took on the job pro-bono and assigned 60 of their youngest designers and copywriters to create humorous ads for the 52 remaining shops in the district. In 3 months the team had created 200 different posters.

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“Poster? Hurry it up I’ll be dead soon” and “I finally realized – this job is tough,” reads the posters for a pickle shop.

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“We don’t have medicine for idiocy,” reads an ad for a drug store.

The impact of the posters was almost instantaneous. Within one month foot traffic within the shopping street doubled. And it wasn’t just locals. People from far away were coming to see the posters. “Some people just come to take pictures without buying anything,” laments Mr. Etoh. But still “it’s good to see the shopping district coming back to life.”

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“Don’t get stuck in a mold,” reads an ad for a tailor made clothing shop.

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“Please show me how to delete my browser history,” reads an ad for an electronics shop.

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A series of ads for a traditional Japanese men’s underwear shop that pokes fun at itself.

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“Good night and safe travels,” reads a series of ads for a sleepwear shop.

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“We rubbed salt into all the cuts” and “For a whole month we locked it up in solitary confinement,” reads a series of ads for a pickle shop.

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“Some love songs don’t have lyrics” and “What kind of couple would we be if we just turned off the TV?” reads a series of abstract ads for a jazz club.

*all quotes translated from Japanese to English by the author

1 Comment

  1. Fantastic concept – thanks for sharing this story.

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