“Advertisement on street”, c. 1920.

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“Advertisement on street”, c. 1920. A chindonya tout distributes handbills to passersby.

Chindonya (チンドン屋, aka Japanese marching band) in the 20th century were a carry-over from its late Edo period roots, before the rise of newspaper and radio advertising rendered street advertising completely obsolete.

The typical chindonya troupe was composed of 3-5 performers in costumes, hoisting ad banners over their heads, and parading through city streets and parks – wherever a crowd of people would gather – performing songs and dances. One or two additional members were touts, distributing handbills to passersby as the troupe passed along.

The word itself, “chindonya”, consists of the kana “chin” and “don” to imitate or suggest the sounds created by the performer’s instruments, followed by the kanji for “shop” or “store”.

The first recorded instance of street performers forming a chindonya for the purposes of advertising appears in Osaka around 1845 when a candy seller in Osaka used singing and a noise-making toy to attract attention to his own portable candy stall.

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