Take a trip back to the metropolis at the peak of the Bubble Era with this fascinating series of candid video montages.
1990 Japan. After 17 years of continuous growth and rapid development, the country emerged from post-war ruin to attain the status of global economic behemoth.
26 years later, Japan’s economic status has diminished somewhat, and though the country remains a cultural and culinary juggernaut on the global stage, the time in which its growth and conquest of the business world appeared inevitable belongs several decades in the past.
Now, thanks in no small part to consumer video technology that Japanese companies helped to pioneer in the 1970s, we can all travel back to those heady times. That’s because YouTuber Lyle Hiroshi Saxon has posted a series of his travel videos, which in the era of streaming content and self-produced internet videographers seems at once quaint and shockingly contemporary.
▼ Check out the video here.
His videos, with their frequent jump cuts and lengthy run time, take on a slightly mesmerizing quality. Saxon’s willingness to videotape seemingly everything he encounters verges on art, with the camera turning toward department store windows and other typical sights in the urban landscape.
▼A golden age of gaming!
Surprisingly, many people in the videos don’t appear to notice or care about this activity, strange considering that he was hauling around a fairly bulky, vintage VHS camcorder.
The video clocks in at a little over an hour, granting contemporary viewers a vivid and immersive portrait of Tokyo in the year 1990. In many ways, the scenes Saxon chooses to record seem aggressively ordinary: commuters rushing into trains, mannequins aligned in department stores, and seemingly interchangeable street scenes. But it’s these very qualities that make the video such a compelling time capsule.
A kind of work weirdly voyeuristic and obsessive work of art, Saxon seldom turns the camera off, capturing the kind of mundane details and glimpses of daily life that other tourists would likely miss in favor of the usual landmarks. He occasionally turns the camera toward himself to add some commentary, in a kind of proto-selfie.
▼ The man behind the camera.
Nostalgists and hipsters alike should find something to love in this video. The great 1990-era fashion of Tokyo, and the gritty, analog quality of the video makes this seem like a holy grail for those obsessed with the ever-so-slightly obsolete aesthetic and technological trappings of the recent past. An unapologetic lover of cultural ephemera myself, I’m grateful that Saxon shared his videologues with the world.
As a current resident of Tokyo, I have to say that it’s surreal to see how certain areas have changed or remained the same. And for those who haven’t haven’t had their fill of traveling back in time with (slightly) vintage Japanese video diaries, check out this HD footage from 1992.