“Calpis” beverage advertising postcard, 1924.

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“In 1902, Kaiun Mishima, the founder of today’s Calpis Co., Ltd., traveled to mainland China – a land that youths of his generation were drawn to – in search of unlimited possibilities and the realization of dreams.

“While visiting Mongolia one day, Kaiun had an opportunity to drink the sour milk that the nomads there drank daily; he was amazed by the delicious flavor and invigoration it yielded. His digestion, which had been weakened by the long journey, was restored to normal, and he found that both his body and his mind were refreshed by the power of cultured milk.

“Calpis” beverage bottle and label design, c. 1920.

“In 1915, Kaiun left the business he had actively pursued in China from age 25 to 38 and returned to Japan to start a new business based on the clues provided by his encounter with cultured milk in Mongolia. In pursuit of health of body and mind, he launched CALPIS, the world’s first lactobacillic drink.

“‘Cal’ stands for the calcium in milk. ‘Pis’ is the Sanskrit word salpis, the second of the Five Flavors referred to in Buddhism. Originally, the product was to be called Calpil, (from the Sanskrit salpilmanda, the best of the Five Flavors). Ease of pronunciation won over and the product was instead named CALPIS.

“CALPIS was first marketed on July 7, 1919. In 1920, a friend and lower classmate of Kaiun Mishima remarked, ‘CALPIS is sweet and sour … like first love.’ Kaiun was delighted ― first love is pure and beautiful ― and a reminder of our dreams, hopes and longings. The phrase debuted in a newspaper advertisement in April 1922 and has been associated with CALPIS exclusively ever since.”

History of Calpis™ advertising, Company web site

“Calpis” advertising postcard, 1924, five years after its launch. A postcard reproduction of a Calpis’ “International Sweepstakes Poster Contest” entrant. The product name was derived by conjoining “calcium” with “salpis“, one of the five flavors referred to in Buddhism (fresh milk, cream, curdled milk, butter, ghee) used not only to describe the process that turns milk into ghee but also as a metaphor for the doctrine of Five Periods practiced by the T’ien-t’ai school of Buddhism.

See also:
“Club Soap” advertising postcards, c. 1910.
Kodak Verichrome Film & “Vest Pocket” Camera, Japan, c. 1932.
Singer Sewing Machine Co. advertising postcard, c. 1920.

International Sweepstakes Call for Posters

Five years after the Japanese Calpis company started marketing fermented nonfat milk beverages based on traditional Mongolian drinks in 1919, it initiated a poster contest in Europe. The winning designs were published as postcards. The lithographic cards displayed cutting edge Western modernism at a time when this art style was barely embraced in the Western world.

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