“Great Exhibition of Japan’s Rapid Progress” advertising postcard, Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, 1936.

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“Great Exhibition of Japan’s Rapid Progress” [Yakushin nihondai hakurankai] advertising postcard, Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, 1936, was an exposition sponsored by Gifu City March 25-May 15, 1936. During the 1930s in Japan, a new poster style developed that was strongly influenced by the emerging political forces of Communism and Fascism in Europe and the Soviet Union, incorporating bold slogans paired with “socialist realism” artwork. Gifu’s iconic cormorant and cormorant fishermen served as the exhibition’s “mascot”.

See also:
Great Manchurian Exhibition, Dairen, Manchukuo, 1933.
Japan Pavilion, Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, CA, 1939.

The ‘Great Exhibition of Japan’s Rapid Progress’ was held in 1936 at the end of the prewar domestic exposition era, from March 25th through May 15th. The exhibition drew more than 1,900,000 visitors to its 35+ exhibition halls, including the Gifu Prefectural Pavilion, Modern Science Pavilion, National Defense Pavilion, and Folk Pavilion, along with colonial pavilions for Formosa (Taiwan), Chosun (Korea) and Manchukuo (Manchuria).

Gifu’s famous cormorant fishing birds were the predominant visual theme associated with the Great Exhibition. While cormorant fishing is usually done at night on the Nagara River, there were daytime demonstrations given on a small lake within the exhibition grounds.

While considered to be a financial success, the ‘Great Exhibition of Japan’s Rapid Progress’ at Gifu left no long-term legacy – except for it being the time and place when a squirrel on exhibit accidentally ‘immigrated’ (escaped) into Japan’s ecosystem. A non-native species, Taiwan squirrels (aka ‘Pallas’s squirrel’, Callosciurus erythraeus), were being exhibited in the Formosa Pavilion. One escaped to nearby Mt. Kinka. Interbreeding with the domestic squirrel population, its offspring rapidly spread. Widespread damage to crops, dwellings, electrical power lines, and trees caused by the Taiwan squirrel descendants remain the lasting ‘heritage’ of the 1936 Gifu exhibition.

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