Paper Weapons: Wartime Japanese Propaganda Publications

20.7.2012 — 27.3.2013

Upper Gallery, Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence

Japan was greatly strengthened after the Meiji Restoration. The victories in Sino-Japanese War (1894) and Russo-Japanese War (1904-5) inspired Japan to spread her interests throughout Asia. The rise of strengthened Japan, however, threatened the interests of the western powers in China. Such rivalry led to serious antagonistic feelings of the powers against Japan, which further led to the discontent of Japanese militarists.

After the Mukden Incident in 1931, Japanese media sent reporters to the battlefront to cover detailed stories. With the support of the Japanese government and military departments, eye-catching photos related to the wars were featured on the covers of different periodicals and journals. Obviously, this type of publications was very attractive to the Japanese public, who were so uncertain about the future of the country hard hit by economic crisis. The sales of these publications continued to surge, yielding lucrative return for the publishers.

As television and radio broadcasting were not common at that time, these publications were the only available channel for the general public to acquire information on the wars. Initially, these publications were reporting the progress of various military conflicts and the situation of China. These were, however, actually the propaganda of the "sacred war" (seisen). The publications banged the drum for the military with contents that were distortion of the truth, describing the action of invasion as self-defence. Almost all newspapers in Japan, regardless of their scales in business, had become the military mouthpiece. With the display of about 100 original artefacts from the 1930s and 1940s, visitors will have a better understanding of Japanese militarists' ambition to annex Asia and to reign over the whole world.