Old-fashioned and so cute! Antique medicine packages from Japan.

Vintage Japanese Pillbox Designs

Medicine packaging of today often looks so serious and sterile. Whereas some years ago in Japan, in opening your medicine cabinet, the colourful products would practically jump at you. Medicine packages of the Showa Era (1926-1989) were once bright and friendly, often displaying juvenile illustrations or simple patterns, and basically looked like any household product. PingMag would love to introduce you to some of these sweet designs, which may still be familiar to a few.

Written by Ryoko
With kind help from Retro Museum of Packaging from the Showa Era
Translated by Kevin Mcgue

Ointment Packages

American William Merrell Vories came to Japan in 1905 as a Christian missionary – and went on to work as an architect. Moreover, he established the Omni Brotherhood, which began importing Mentholatum ointments from America. The brand became very popular in Japan, and the rights to sell Mentholatum were eventually bought out by the Osaka firm, Rohto Pharmaceuticals. Today, the Omi Brotherhood markets a similar product under the name Menturm. At the Retro Museum of Packaging from the Showa Era, we found some very appealing vintage Mentholatum packages from the brand’s heyday.


A Mentholatum package featuring a fair lady…

…and one with black hair in a rose coloured design.

No, it is not a tin of pasta! And although bandages and scissors appear on the label, it is not for bandages either.

The Japanese name of this product, Mensutra is read from right to left, in the old style.

This medicine was called “OZO,” and that name forms a circle on the top of the package.

This package has a red paper belt around it, which is a symbol of gifts in Japan.

This old poster for Menturm has a pharmacist on the left, and a demon-like creature on the right. You better get well…

This green package contained Muhi, an anti-itching ointment. This nice one is still sold today.

This “Bunriko” package has a very traditional looking picture of a kid in a kimono.

The detoxifying medicine “Bunriko” came in a package coloured in subdued tones, with a very traditional picture of a child in a kimono on the top. It was produced by an old pharmacy known for making all sorts of medicines based on home remedies in the city of Shiki, in Saitama Prefecture. The pharmacy has closed, but the building is being preserved as culturally significant.

Oblate

Oblate is Latin for thin communion wafers used in Catholic Mass. In Japan, the word came to refer to extremely thin strips of starch that medicine would be applied to. The oblate would then be placed on the tongue and quickly dissolve. Oblate are not used so much now, but when, they come in funky new shapes such as triangles. Meaning the round ones we found are kind of nostalgic.

A small, round oblate and some lovely vintage packages.

Baby Powder

We also found an original package of Powcuro, a brand of baby powder that was used during World War II. In the centre of the lid is a small illustration of a baby’s face done in Japanese style, but it is surrounded by a bright checkered pattern to give it a Western feel.

Baby powder with a cute one on top.

Masks

Today, it’s pretty common in Japan to wear surgical masks in public to deal with pollen allergies, prevent spreading a cold to others, or avoid catching other people’s colds. The masks can be bought in convenience store or train station kiosk, and are thrown away after one or two uses. In the past, however, such masks were made of heavy black velvet and came in very nice boxes. We found some old mask boxes with very stylish illustrations on them:


A “Crown Mask” for gentlemen…

… and a black velvet “Charity Mask” for the ladies.

Vitamins

Chocola BB is a line of vitamin supplements that is still popular in Japan today. Actually, the old packages we found are not all that different from the ones used today, but what really stands out in the old style is the hand-written style font used for the product name, and the simple use of colours that give that vintage feel.


Nice graphics! Chocola BB vitamin pills…

… and the Chocola D vitamin drink.

Salonpas

Salonpas, a hot compress, from Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical Co., is another product that is still sold today. When Salonpas first went on sale in 1934, it was a revolutionary new product. Before that time, people would apply a black salve to a piece of Japanese paper, and apply it directly to the skin, and a lot of the salve would be stuck to the skin afterwards. The packaging designs of today still use a simple white and navy blue colour scheme that can been seen on the old packages.

A old Salonpas package. Then, as today, packaging on Japanese products often includes descriptions in English.

Digestive Medicine

One of the Seven Japanese Gods of Good Fortune is Hotei, the fat god of abundance and good health. Hotei appears on the package of digestive medicine by Koukandou, a pharmaceutical company with a history dating back the the Edo Period. We also found a medicine with a op-art package from Daiichi Yakuhin.


One might think of digestion when looking at this figure…

Hypnotic! A package with concentric circles.

Cold Medicine

We found that cold medicines from Omi Seizai came in packages with a variety of designs, all of them with a bold use of colours and layouts.

The fonts and use of colors must have been quite bold at the time.

Adhesive Bandages and Liquid Soap

A while ago, we showed you interesting tape roll designs from the Nichiban company. Now, we found some old packages of adhesive bandages from the same company. Their “Keep” bandages came in boxes with a vibrant three-colour design, and very hip angular fonts. We also came across some liquid soap in a pump bottle in the shape of Sato-chan, the elephant mascot of Sato Pharmaceuticals, which is still a beloved character.


A colourful and angular package of bandages.

This cute elephant contains liquid soap.

Finally, have a look at a pharmaceutical company’s vintage sign:

Nihode Pharmacy’s trademark was this grinning dragon. Nice!

Many thanks to the Retro Museum of Packaging from the Showa Era for their kind help!

  • http://wearesakuzaku.com Matt McVickar

    This is fascinating — thanks for collecting all of this. I suppose the ‘bright and friendly’ trend has continued inasmuch as ‘cuteness’ is still very central to Japanese commercial goods. I’m thinking of the commercials for laxatives I used to see a few years ago, all of which sported giant otters. :-)

  • otakugirl

    Great article. I can see lots of good design in those old packages. Too bad they got replaced by sterile modern ones.

  • http://www.quintohache.com/blog flko

    impresionante colleción

  • http://note.aimeeisdrawing.com Aimee

    I love the fonts and the colors. It’s interesting how we focus on what the product looks like now, while on these packages they were more concerned with aesthetics. Personally, I don’t find vitamins that fun too look at, and who rather have these on my medicine shelf.

  • Badger

    Its similar to the tiger balm packaging. Its great.

  • Cesar Kohl

    Very curious article! Here in my town, Curitiba, there’s a book store with some old packages to people see how these things were. And its style is so like this!!!

    Very very nice!

  • http://www.annaantoniades.com Anna ANTONIADES

    This is amazing, I would to see these boxes in person…. are there still places that we can find them….?
    What a beautiful article…. thank you pin mag./.

  • http://wordsmyworlds.blogspot.com enrica rinintya

    a very nice article! and very beautiful packaging,,
    If they’re still being sold, where can I find them :) They’re worth a collection to do !

  • Pingback: PSDTuts - Photoshop Tutorials and Links - Best of the Web - March

  • Pingback: Amazing, Adorable, Ambitious and Astonishing Links of April | Malene Hald

  • Pingback: Best of the Web | www.brand-forge.com

  • Pingback: Vintage Japanese Medicine Packaging « The Flavor

  • Pingback: Kevin Mcgue - Tokyo-Based Journalist & Filmmaker » Vintage Japanese Pillbox Designs

  • Pingback: Kevin Mcgue | “Vintage Japanese Pillbox Designs” Translation

  • http://kinki.ru Kansai Man

    Amazing collection!Thanks!

  • http://hairstyles6.blogspot.com hair

    a very nice article! and very beautiful packaging,,

  • http://www.seokat.com.pl/edukacja,i,nauka/ksiazki,s,2212/ ksiazki

    przebojowy system platnosci w srodku posrednictwem Internetu (w tym rowniez mikroplatnosci) pozwalajacy podtrzymac te forme udostepniania informacji na zdrowych zasadach ekonomicznych.

  • http://www.ebrandwatches.com men watches online

    Your article very interesting, I have introduced a lot of friends look at this article, the content of the articles there will dgfdgbe a lot of attractive people to appreciate, I have to thank you such an article.

  • http://epicweightliftingroutines.com weightlifting routines

    All we need to do is take a good look at our selves, and then be honest with the findings. If you need to work-out just do it. The more you wait the more you will need to do, to finish your goal

  • http://www.bestsecretformula.com Lightyear wireless

    Wow great stuff. I love what you have here.

  • http://www.yourpersonaldevelopmentandsuccess.com/ personal development

    I like your way of thinking. Personal development and its many forms are really close to my heart. I also believe in getting different points of view on this subject to really broaden my thinking.

  • http://www.quicksendsms.com QuickSendSMS

    Nice Website! You should promote it from the messaging console at QuickSendSMS.com. Easy to use, nice and quick and you can text friends about it for free.

  • http://www.weightliftingroutines.com weightlifting routines

    Getting a routines is paramount for your progress, and completion.

  • http://www.detektei-map.com Detektei

    Danke f�r die Information. Ich habe eine Detekei in meine n�he gefunden. Viel Erfolg weiterhin und Gr��e aus Seesen.

  • http://www.affiliatemarketingenhancer.blogspot.com Affiliate Marketing Reviews

    Your article about furniture making that runs in the family bloodlines were very interesting.

  • http://www.boomers-bank.us InBound Marketing & Sales Consultants

    what is unified communications,unified communications definition,

  • http://www.affiliatemarketingdesignhabitat.blogspot.com Affiliate Marketing Reviews

    Let’s face it, These comments about Ladies favoring pologamy is getting out of hand.

  • http://www.heyycanli.com goruntulu sohbet

    harika site

  • http://www.heyycanli.com goruntulu sohbet

    buyrun siteye mukemmel

  • http://skintreatmentsforacnescars.info face acne treatments

    I like your website. It has a very good design. At the moment, I am looking for a good face acne treatment product.

  • http://kandjfence.com Fence New Jersey

    From packaging, we now move on to pillbox design.

  • http://janisproductions.net Wedding Videography Philadelphia

    Mr. Porky! Whoops wait, that’s an elephant sorry!

  • http://srahomeproducts.com Patios South Jersey

    Even a simple pillbox has designs. These are current? Can’t imagine.

  • http://janisdigitalmedia.com Video Production Company Philadelphia

    Medicine packaging is just boring. Not these though!!!

  • http://www.weightprogramtoloseweight.com Weight Program to Lose Weight

    This is a extermely nice article and very interesting. I have bookmarked and will check back often. Thank you for your contribution.

  • http://www.heyycanli.com goruntulu sohbet

    super bir sohbet odasi gel gor goruntulu kamerali eglenceli

  • http://www.authenticeaglesjerseys.com/ Official Eagles Jersey

    I like your website. It has a very good design. At the moment, I am looking for a good face acne treatment product.

  • http://www.busygolfer.com golf supplies

    Hi, I like your website. I’m currently looking for golf supplies in the UK & USA.

  • http://mightysolos.info Get 125.000 visitors Free with Mighty Solos

    Niels van raak

  • http://www.allfailure.com All Failure

    Good Aritcle

  • http://www.jaspis.se smycken online

    very good. thank you

  • http://www.fashionlouboutinsale.com/ christian louboutin

    This is good Internet marketing and public relations.

  • http://www.cherrycrestfarm.com things to do lancaster

    Can I simply say what a relief to find someone who truly knows what they’re talking about on the internet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=184834114934913 Black Friday Canon PowerShot

    In this case there is nothing that interests me very much.

  • http://forokindle.com Kindle

    Very Good content. Its excellent for design world and Japan.

  • http://www.classificados.katavendo.com.br Kata-Vendo – Bons ventos para seus neg�cios

    anuncio, anuncios, anuncie, anunciar, classificado, classificados, classificados gratis, anuncios classificados gratis, imovel, imoveis, autos, automoveis, automovel, veiculos, carros, motos, celulares, video-games, computadores, dominios, cameras digitais, livros, quadinhos, revistas, cds, cd, dvds, DVD, hd, informatica, eletro-eletronicos, eletronicos, audio, video, decoracao, joias, relogios, esportes, lazer, negocios, filmadoras, videos, selos, moedas, ferramentas, antiguidades, raridades, oportunidades, promocoes, empregos, curriculos, servicos, artigos esportivos, empresas, produtos, vestuario, revistas, Sao Paulo, sp, Rio de Janeiro, rj, parana, pr, classificados, katavendo, kata-vendo, catavendo, cata-vendo, an�ncios, gr�tis, gratuitos, gratuitamente, empregos, oportunidades, comprar, vender.

  • http://www.pattaya-resort.com Pattaya Beach Hotel

    Get drunk. Get laid. Go to Pattaya Thailand

  • http://www.realelixir.com อาหารเสริม

    ผลิตภัณฑ์อาหารเสริม เพื่อการเสริมสร้างผิวขาว กระจ่างใส

  • http://www.osmanliinsaatforum.com Osmanlı İnşaat Forum

    Osmanlı İnşaatın Yeni Başlatmış Olduğu Projeleri Bu Site Üzerinden Takip Edebilirsiniz..

  • http://www.baimintspa-academy.com School of thai massage

    school of thai massage and spa certificaes Association of thai treditional medicine Appoved by the Ministry of Health

  • http://32lcdpc.com 32 Lcd Pc

    Best 32 Lcd Pc Review & Buy at Cheap Price

  • http://www.realelixir.com อาหารเสริมนาตาลีเดวิส

    จากประสบการณ์กว่า 20 ปี เกี่ยวกับธุรกิจยา และอาหารเสริม พร้อมความมุ่งมั่นที่จะพัฒนาอาหารเสริมของไทยให้ทัดเทียมกับระดับสากล เพื่อตอบสนองทุกความต้องการของทุกกลุ่มผู้บริโภค ทั้งเรื่องของคุณภาพ และราคา จนได้รับการยอมรับจากกลุ่มผู้บริโภคจากหลากหลายสาขาอาชีพ ไม่ว่าจะเป็น กลุ่มนักธุรกิจ พนักงานออฟฟิศ แม่บ้าน นักเรียน นักศึกษา ไปจนถึงกลุ่มศิลปิน ดารา นักแสดง

  • http://c-35.com Canon Black Friday

    Thank You FYI.

  • http://www.realelixir.com กลูต้าไธโอน

    เป็นสารประเภทTripeptide ที่ประกอบด้วยกรดอะมิโน 3 ชนิด ได้แก่ ซิสเทอีน(Cysteine), ไกลซีน (Glycine), กลูตามิค (Glutamic acid) กลูต้าไธโอน เป็นสารแอนติออกซิแดนท์ที่สำคัญชนิดละลายน้ำได้ที่ร่างกายสร้างขึ้น และเป็นพื้นฐานสำหรับสารแอนติออกซิแดนท์อื่นๆ ที่เกี่ยวข้อง ซึ่งรวมทั้งกลูต้าไธโอนเปอร์ออกซิเดส สารประกอบ กลูต้าไธโอน ช่วยปกป้องร่างกายจากการทำลายของอนุมูลอิสระ ช่วยกระตุ้นระบบภูมิคุ้มกัน และช่วยตับในการย่อยสลายสารพิษ ร่างกายของเราจะผลิตมากขึ้นหากได้รับสารพิษเข้าไป เช่น ยาฆ่าแมลง สารเคมีต่างๆที่ปนเปื้อนในอาหาร น้ำดื่ม สารพิษเหล่านี้จะทำลายเซลล์ และระบบของร่างกาย

  • http://gpsbestmaps.com gps best maps

    Thank you for good content..

  • http://www.panatweb.com Movies and TV Series

    wat a nice post

  • http://watchestimex.com Watches Timex

    Timex Running Watches

  • http://www.realelixir.com แอลคาร์นิทีน

    สารสกัดจากธรรมชาติต่างๆ ที่นำมาเป็นอาหารเสริมเช่น กลูต้าไธโอน,แอลคาร์นิทีน, น้ำมันรำข้าว, กรดอะมิโนต่างๆ และอื่นๆ นั้นมีประโยชน์ต่อร่างกายของเราอย่างไรบ้าง

  • http://www.abdominalmuscle.org Abdominal muscle

    I think this is all politics

  • http://www.smacktom.com consumer electronics

    smacktom.com provides premium accessories for cell phones with free shipping

  • http://savingoncarinsurancetoday.com Anonymous

    A few weeks ago my family and I went on vacation and had to rent a car. When at the car rental counter we were asked if we wanted to buy one day car insurance. Not knowing what 1 day car insurance was at the time time we figured we better be safe then sorry. So of course we did.

  • http://www.rollup-awnings.com roll up awnings

    Hey this is awesome blogs. Keep posted usefull information. Thank you

  • http://www.bravotv.ro news

    Cele mai noi stiri

  • http://www.benimlezayifla.com zayifla

    Thank you. O like this post. I would like to share at my facebook account.

  • http://viralurl.com/conversion.php?u=486844&m=96766 Recreation and Business

    Find here the best, the Top Recreation and Home Business: the best services, free and paid programs, best recreation websites, best shopping and marketplace, traffic and marketing free websites.

  • http://www.yorumblog.com Laptop Özellikleri

    Thank you. I’ll sharing the post at my twitter.

  • http://hochzeitsreportage.tv Carsten

    An Ihrem wichtigsten und wunderschönsten Tag begleiten wir Sie als Videografen Team und produzieren ein hochwertiges Hochzeitsvideo

  • http://www.temple-jewellery.com/ Temple Jewellery

    This piece of information is a gem for me, very helpful, really a great piece of writing, thanks for the effort made, really impressed.

  • http://www.1tradezone.my Malaysia’s Online Marketplace

    Alamanda.my offers the same online marketplace like other website but with better and more friendly interface!. Buy and sell everything here or you can find jobs, services, properties and other stuff too. Feel to use the website conveniently and have fun.

  • http://www.hitbeats.de Ihre Live Band f�r jedes Event Deutsch-Polnische Hochzeitsband

    Polnische Band, Kamila Gryz Tischmusik, polnische Hochzeit

  • whirlpool washers

    Hi ….. I have information about Whirlpool washers, you should read them and get tips and tricks commersial business with Whirlpool washers.

  • http://www.polnisch-russische-hochzeitsband.de Polnische Band MOTET ist eine deutsch polnische Band die sich auf internationale Hochzeiten spezialisiert. Deutsch, schlesische, polnische und russische Tanz-, Show- und Hochzeitsband. Wir spielen auf polnische, russis
  • http://gunlukkiralikev.com.tr istanbul günlük kiralık

    Günlük kiralık daire fırsatlarımızı takip edin, beş yıldızlı otel konforunda, SPA, türk hamamı, açık ve kapalı havuz farklılığına 97 TL ye sahip olun

  • Yuki

    Hey, I’ve been trying to find out where I can get Ozo lol. My family has been using the same can sparingly ever since my great grandmother passed away. Its a really amazing ointment! You wouldn’t happen to know where we could find some huh?

  • http://www.sphinx-asia.net Wealth Management

    At Sphinx Asia our focus is on providing our clients with the right tools, to grow their wealth through investment, to plan for retirement, and secure their future.

  • http://furnituregardenteak.com garden furniture

    I get a lot of useful information in your blog, and of course I hope I can continue to enjoy the articles are informative