Two men in military garb. They bow slightly, and their hands make the universal motion for "go first". The text reads loosely, "After you, Prime Minister." This ad originally appeared in 1982.
And now in 2012, it's finding an audience with a new generation of Japanese, worried about the country building up its army, going to war, and re-instituting mandatory military service.
If the huge hint (above) don't already give it away, the writer of this catchphrase was Shigesato Itoi.
In the West, Itoi is best known for the Earthbound role-playing games. In Japan, he's best known for being a copywriter—a hugely influential one, at that.
This June 1982 image, designed by famed art director Katsumi Asaba and penned by Itoi, originally appeared in an advertising journal called Koukoku Hihyou (広告批評; Advertising Criticism). As website Spoon & Tamago points out, the ad is, of course, rooted in a different time with a slightly different context. The meaning still strikes a chord.
The original Japanese text reads, "Mazu, souri kara zensen e" (まず、総理から前線へ or literally "Starting with the Prime Minister to the front lines."). It's classic Itoi, summing up a situation succinctly and brilliantly in the original Japanese.
The newly elected Japanese government has made rumblings about changing the pacifist constitution and turning the Self Defense Force into a traditional military, with the ability to wage war.
In light of the recent election in Japan, this decade's old ad is finding a new audience with a younger generation, who is frustrated with the country's political shift and worried about the return of universal conscription.
Within the past few days, the original image is increasingly popping up on Twitter and Facebook, along with Itoi's now timeless tagline. There's a reason why Itoi is more famous in Japan as a copywriter. It's words like this.
After you, Prime Minister [Spoon & Tamago]