Tohoku Calling

I remember clearly the moment when I found out about the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami – it being potentially the only time that I was late for a lecture with a genuine reason. My flatmate was Japanese; and I peeked into her room to see if she was okay. As it turned out, she was near to sleeping peacefully, oblivious to the human vs. Earth battle in her home-country. As such, I became the unenviable “bringer of bad news” – watching her click frantically through BBC News and reach for her mobile. When I returned later that day, she and several other Japanese students at my university had already organised fundraisers.

The consequences of the earthquake and tsunami on 11th March 2011 were devastating, yet amongst the gloom and real life rubble, I recall the Japanese people being the heroes. I admired their positivity, unity and grace in the face of a disaster; and this appreciation remains. Consequently, it took me little more than a slow overheated computer to post this great outdoor campaign by East Japan Railway’s Tohoku Shinkansen brand, designed to attract visitors to the badly-hit Tohoku Region in Japan.

The eye-catching work by Dentsu featured as part of an integrated branding exercise – crucially rebuilding the region’s towns, alongside reconstructing and re-igniting its identity. The bright blue and pink graphics were painted onto Shinkansen train cars, serving to connect the regions of Eastern Japan; as well as on billboards and through a train ticket support pass package. While even if the creative is overtly Japanese in character, they only further a sense of patriotism and optimism about the country’s future – regional politics broken down through consistent design, while local eccentricities are celebrated. I like to view them as a bit of a raised middle finger to the underlying plate tectonics; although obviously with Japanese sophistication.

The campaign was awarded Gold for Design at the 2012 Clio Awards and a Gold Design Lion at Cannes International Festival of Creativity.

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