Sunday, August 17, 2008

"Walking the Streets of Ikebukuro in July 1991"

For someone who is sixteen; seventeen years ago is the far distant dark ages before the beginnings of time. For me, it's the other way around. It doesn't seem like enough has happened over the past seventeen years for things to have changed very much, so it keeps coming as a shock to me to notice how different my long-sleeping, recently revived video recordings from 1990-92 (digitized from analogue 8mm tape) look. Without dwelling on the changes too much (or maybe too much, we'll see), here is a description of my video clip (at YouTube) entitled '"Free Tissues, Crosswalks & a Speech" (July 1991)'.

Coming up one of the narrow stairs from the underground part of Ikebukuro Station, walking past a platoon of schoolgirls wearing "sailor" style school uniforms. This was before Japanese school uniforms became - in just a few years - mini-skirts (they had to be below the knee before), and the sailor style uniforms were considered to be the most stylish (and generally used by private schools, while public schools were more conservative).

The most striking part of this section of the clip for me, was the fact that I'm taking pictures while walking up public stairs. Two things have made this an overly dangerous thing to do. Cell phones & mini-skirts. There were several very public incidents of people with cell phones caught taking (or attempting to take) pictures up young women's skirts as they climbed stairs. Several things happened - among them; cell phone manufacturers made cell phone cameras so that they make a rather loud and obnoxious artificial shutter sound form the phone's speaker when a picture is taken; and there was a university professor caught, who was publicly and professionally ruined for his idiotic actions. So I never take any pictures while going up stairs any more (unless the whole flight of stairs is empty)! Best to be on the safe side.

The free packs of tissues (with advertising on the packs). Those haven't changed much. They still pass them out, and they still target certain people when passing them out. Most are for loan companies (or real estate companies) and - generally, not always - they will give them to anyone. The man who reluctantly handed over a pack I later saw very energetically passing them out to women. I don't remember exactly what it was - I have some other video I took of close-ups of tissue packs I'd been given - I'll try to find that and see what they were exactly.

Right where the over-amplified man giving a speech says "Ittai, Nippon wa do natte'ru daro?!" ("What in the world is happening to Japan?!"), I walk past a... monk(?) who is ringing a bell and awaiting donations. You used to see one of these guys pretty regularly, but it's become rather rare. I did see one in Shinjuku a few weeks ago.

Speaking of the over-amplified speech (coming from a loudspeaker truck parked in front of the station - not visible in the clip - with the shouting man standing on a platform built onto the roof), there used to be a lot of those, and they were generally right-wing people urging the country to move to the right. That you don't hear these people in public much these days may have something to do with things having gone to the right somewhat - just as they wanted - so maybe they see no need to make public displays now? I can't quite catch most of what the guy was saying, but there is the sentence very clearly heard that I mentioned in the preceding paragraph, and later on he's saying something about the military.

What else? Fashion and hairstyles I guess - mostly evident with the women. Oh yeah! Many people in 1991 in Japan actually had black hair! So many people (especially women) dye their hair now, that when you see someone with jet-black hair, it's actually striking! "Wow! Look at that! Actually black hair!" If you don't believe me, take a look at the dozens (hundreds maybe?) of shades of hair dye sold in drug stores, and then take a close look at the color of women's hair out in pubic. Another thing you didn't see in 1991, was men with plucked eyebrows and makeup. No comment on that one.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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