Friday, March 31, 2023

Hiroshima 1929 expo booklet with Nintendo ad

Today we will take a look at the booklet shown below, which is almost a century old. Inside we will discover a nice little nugget of Nintendo history.

The booklet is roughly B6 size (132 by 190 mm), contains 128 black and white printed pages, a color pullout and a color printed front and back.

The title is Great Hiroshima Guide (大廣島案内), which is printed in large red kanji on the front.

The sub title reads Showa Industry Expo Conference (昭和產業博覽會恊贊會), which is sponsored by Hiroshima City (廣島市主催).

As an aside, for those of you not familiar with the changes over time to the writing style of Japanese script, this booklet stems from an era when the custom was to write top-to-bottom and right-to-left.

Great Hiroshima Guide (1929) front page

The drawing on the front shows various landmarks of the city of Hiroshima, including Hiroshima Castle.

On the back we immediately recognize the Itsukushima shrine, located at the shoreline of the nearby Itsukushima island (also known as Miyajima).

Great Hiroshima Guide (1929) back page

The colofon at the back of the booklet indicates that it was printed in March of 1929. That is 94 years ago!

It also states that the booklet was not for sale (非売品).

The booklet was commissioned by the city of Hiroshima, in cooperation with the "Showa Industry Expo Association" (昭和產業博覽會恊賛會), and presumably handed out for free to (prospective) visitors of the expo.

The publisher and editor was Yakichi Ishikawa (石川彌吉).


In the preface, the editor explains that the booklet covers the main attractions ("famous places") of the city of Hiroshima and surroundings, using "as many pictures as possible". Information about shops and products is "provided by advertisements".

Indeed, besides editorial content, more than half of the booklet is filled with advertisements.


At the front of the booklet, there is a very nice pullout map, printed on one side in color. When pulled out, it measures about 46 centimeters wide.

The front of this map shows a drawn aerial view of the city of Hiroshima, with indication of the tram lines and tram stops as well as the locations of the expo. The back shows a map of the greater Hiroshima area, with all railway connections.

The Hiroshima Showa Industrial Exposition was held in 1929 "to mark Crown Prince Hirohito’s ascent to the throne. [...] Although there were some military displays, the 1929 expo was for the most part civilian in nature. Hiroshima and other prefectures’ industries occupied most of the ground, and horse and car races, model planes, and a ‘children’s land’ were the main attractions." (source: Hiroshima Castle and the Long Shadow of Militarism in Postwar Japan by Ran Zwigenberg, Japan Review Number 33, 2019, via Old Tokyo).

The expo was spread out over three locations, with the Hiroshima City West Parade Ground (shown in the photo on the page presented below) being the main one.

If we zoom in on the map, we also see a Hiroshima site which has become famous after the second World War for tragic reasons. It is the building capped with a dome, that can be seen in the centre of the section of the map shown below.

The building, completed in 1915, is also described in the booklet, at the bottom of page 18.

At the time it was known as the Hiroshima Prefectural Products Exhibition Hall. 

It would later become a world famous landmark - called the Hiroshima Peace Memorial or Atomic Dome - as the only building in the centre of Hiroshima that was still standing after the first atomic bomb was detonated above the city in August of 1945, be it burned out and in ruins.

Back to 1929. The booklet also covers the city nightlife, including theatres and cinemas, as well as destinations for trips outside of the city of Hiroshima, like the Itsukushima shrine.

As mentioned, besides all this tourist information, the booklet contains a large number of advertisements.

And it is one ad in particular that we are interested in here; a full page ad in the section following page 32. 

The text at the top of this page indicates that this is part of the Hiroshima Famous Store Guide (廣島著名商店案內).

As you will undoubtably have seen (or expected by now), the ad is for Nintendo cards. At this time still referred to by its founders name as Yamauchi Nintendo (山內任天堂).

The text furthermore introduces the company as the maker of "emperor cards" (かるた王) from Kyoto (京都), and mentions that the company name and round marufuku logo are registered trademarks (登錄商標).

The ad goes on by stating that the company is "number one in the East by production volume" (生產數量東洋一) and that the cards it produces are "the best quality in the world" (品質優良世界に冠たる).

As local sales point for visitors of the expo, the ad mentions the Kamodani Kihei Store (鴨谷喜兵衛商店), which has the commercial name Kamoki Main Store (商號カモキ本店). This is located in the Toyoko Town area of Hiroshima.

Besides the most well-known Daitōryō (大統領) or "Napoleon" cards, shown on the right below, three other versions of Nintendo cards are shown and mentioned in the ad, from left to right:

  • Kyōbijin (京美人, meaning 'beautiful Kyoto women')
  • Fuji (不二, which means 'unmatched', referring to the cards' quality), and
  • Three cranes (三羽鶴, the crane is a symbol of success and good fortune)

Interestingly, the ace of clubs is shown as part of the brand image, while we mostly see the ace of spades being used for this purpose. [More on that here.]

That concludes this coverage of the Nintendo ad from 1929. A special year in the history of Nintendo, as this was the year in which founder Fusajiro Yamauchi was succeeded by his son-in-law Sekiryo Yamauchi as second company president.

If you are interested in this specific era, also check out this Nintendo company brochure from the mid 1930s.

As a final note, I would like to thanks fellow-collector Fabrice Heilig for alerting me to the existence of this booklet and the ad therein.


  1. Great cover design. The map looks good as well. Thank you for that !

  2. Do you have information on Nintendo during World War II? I'm familiar with the backgammon game that Nintendo made and I know David Sheff's Game Over provides some knowledge, but that's it.