The most prevalent films in Japan could be roughly separated into two genres: hōga (Japanese films) and yōga (imported/international/foreign films). According to the Japanese dictionary Daijirin, yōga is understood as “films which were produced in Western countries. Also, the term could indicate foreign films in a broad sense”.
Right after World War II, films which were imported to Japan were overwhelmingly American and European. Therefore, most films, excluding domestic ones, were called yōga (yō=Western, ga =image/film). In the 1970’s, films from all areas in the world including Asian films began to enter the Japanese film market. Today, the Japanese film market is diverse; a myriad of film productions and distribution companies are multinational enterprises in the world market. In other words, films nowadays are the borderless product of multinational investments and productions. Therefore, the expression “yōga” is losing its intrinsic meaning, but it is still used as a term for foreign or international films in Japan.
Over a long period of time, Japanese film dominated the domestic market. However, with the rapid influx of Western culture and economic growth, the situation drastically changed. Until 1960, Japanese films had flourished in the market and their share reached 78% in 1960. After that, Japanese films declined, and the market share dropped drastically. Beginning in the 1970’s, the market share of foreign films exceeded that of Japanese films, and people acknowledge this by saying that “yōkō hōtei,” which means “larger share of Western, smaller share of Japanese films”.
The Makino Collection’s ephemera vividly reflect the Japanese film industry’s international perspective; there are not only Japanese film ephemera, but a great selection of materials about films from other countries is also available. These include items related to imported films from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Iran, the Soviet Union, Sweden, West Germany and Yugoslavia, among many others; in addition to a great number of American, French and Italian film ephemera so far. Some more countries will be added on this already broad list of countries.
Although Mr. Makino grouped his ephemera according to different terms, the largest groupings are hōga and yōga. Included in the collection are ephemera from some noted directors’ masterpieces. Ephemera from some serial films are available as well. Here is a glance at some of these beautiful items.
Japanese film’s share reached the worst on record, at 27.1% of the entire film market in 2002. In recent years, the Japanese film industry has gone through a period of reorganization. Film distribution companies have strengthened their relationship with private TV stations, in addition to advertising agencies and publishing companies. As a result, the amount of investment per film has increased and domestic film production too has increased. This close connection to other media has made it easier to reflect audiences’ wider demands, tastes and public trends at each point in film production. Specifically, the method of co-advertising has enhanced the power of film promotion. Following these circumstances, yōkō hōtei was reversed in 2006. It was the return to hōkō yōtei, lager share of Japanese, smaller share of Western films.
Now that film distribution channels have been fully digitized, films are supplied digitally without using prints. Likewise, audiences can easily gain access to film broadcasting services through mobile devices, which are provided via broadband and next generation networks. Subsequently, the mainstream of film advertising and promotional methodologies has moved from the traditional paper-based ones to digital.
Will print culture completely decline, as Mr. Makino anticipated? Regardless, the distribution of film ephemera in Japan is deeply-rooted and continues today. What do you think the future of Japanese film ephemera will be like a decade from now?