Japanese Shop Sign

Unique Japanese Fisherman’s Nautical Shop Kanban


Age:1930-1950

Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 68-0”l x 11-1/4”w x 4-1/2”d

Shop signs, showcase a rich history of merchant advertising in the Edo and Meiji Periods and continue in old villages and town today.  Often highly graphic in imagery and shape, and would allow for easy understanding of what the shop sold should a passerby not be literate. 

This sign was created by Kisaburo-san who operated the only nautical, fishing/lure store from 1930-1960 in the beautiful Village on Sado Island.  As in the past storeowners on this quaint island advertised their shop’s goods and trade with individually crafted shop signs created by hand which were hung outside their stores, in this case above the sliding entry doors. This Kanban, inspired by the old Edo signs, did not advertise fly fishing rods made of bamboo and used by more modern fly casters, but the traditional poles and objects used by townspeople, and made of wood before bamboo came into fashion. The sign incorporates diverse woods and iron elements simulating a fishing pole that is made of Walnut. It has the fishing line rolled up on the reel made with iron fittings with individually fashioned spokes & carved reel and has the original line, covered simulated hooks and lead weight hanging from the line. It also has the vintage hand-carved fish made of paulownia wood to complete the scene.

The base of the sign supporting the fishing rod resembles an ornate openwork transom, (Ranma), which originally hung above the door to welcome in customers. The carving of the transom simulates a knotted fishing net carved from unfinished Cypress, (The pierced wood net is carved on both sides to show the front and back as one enters and exits the shop).  It appears like a “prop”, but that was the purpose of small village Kanban, to largely help potential customers to visually find shops and fulfill their needs. No name was on the sign because everyone in the town knew each other, and the sign served more as an advertising and architectural function. It was purchased at the only collective shop in the Village on Sado Island in 1989. NOTE: Only the complete and original Kanban is part of this sale. Other images show what Nakane’s shop additionally sold.

Condition: Unlike the antique Kanban that were carved from one piece of wood and painted, this shop sign incorporates complimenting elements to illustrate what the shop owner sold to the general public. It is in Very Good condition, “as is”, with its original decorative elements, finish and patina consistent with age.