Best wordplay on a setsuden poster

In yesterday’s post I described what I consider the best-designed of the countless setsuden electricity-conservation posters that have been going up all over the Tokyo area. Today I’d like to show you the one with the best wordplay.

The posters in my previous setsuden gallery are aimed at the general public, but the one in the photo above was designed for a more specific audience. It was produced by the Fitness Industry Association of Japan, and I found several copies of it posted around the sports club where I usually swim.

Its wordplay is based on the rhyming Japanese words denki and genki.

“Denki,” shown here in kanji, Roman letters and hiragana, means electricity.

“Genki” is a very common word sometimes translated as “health.” It also has connotations of fitness, peppiness, high spirits and good cheer. According to one of the dictionaries on my desk, it can be used to describe a “bouncing” baby or a “spry” old man. The closest all-purpose single-word definition I can think of for genki would be “vitality.” It is technically a noun, but most often functions as an adjective.

Everyone in Japan these days wants to save denki. Everyone who joins a Japanese sports club wants to be genki.

Hence the poster’s main slogan: “Denki off. Genki on.”

Usually these words are written in kanji OR hiragana. But as you can see, the poster has mixed the two writing systems to make the words more closely resemble each other in visual terms.

I also like the way they’ve managed to convey the slogan in English: “Power off. Power up.”

Not only the words but also the visual design certainly fit the context in which this poster is seen. It shows two light bulbs situated in such a way that one of them resembles a pear-shaped human torso while the other resembles a V-shaped torso. Since this calls to mind the very transformation many of the club’s members probably joined in hopes of achieving, it is likely to catch people’s eye through its connection with what is already on their mind.

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One Response to “Best wordplay on a setsuden poster”

  1. odorunara Says:

    This poster is up at my gym out in my tiny country town! It’s one of my favorites.

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