Thursday, April 07, 2011

"Radioactive Tokyo 2011? / 1991 Kyojima, 1991 Shinkansen, 1991 Ginza Side Streets, Etc."

The nuclear emergency in Fukushima continues to overshadow daily life.  I look around my apartment and ponder what I would put into a backpack to carry off on a probable one-way exodus from Tokyo if a worst-case scenario becomes reality and Tokyo is converted from a thriving city of (metropolitan figure including suburbs) 30,000,000 people, into a toxic no-go land of radioactivity.  And what then?  Can 30,000,000 people actually relocate to southern Japan?  Probably not all - many millions would likely die....

And so looking back at old video clips from 1991, the pre-Fukushima Disaster era seems like a kind of paradise - with people walking around looking for restaurants at lunchtime, not worrying about the invisible destructive force of radiation threatening the viability of the entire country, and the health of the planet in general.  Now it's different - there's an edge in the air as people go about their daily tasks, perhaps looking back on pre-tsunami/nuclear-disaster times with nostalgia.

The batch of videos this time opens with a look at 1991 Kyojima - which is a narrow bit of land between two rivers which luckily escaped the fire-bombing of Tokyo in 1945.  In the 1991 view, there were still pre-WW-II wooden structures remaining:

March 1991 - Kyojima (in Shitamachi)

Walking around in the Kyojima area of Shitamachi in March of 1991.

Another trip back to 1991 - I walk around on the Shinkansen super-express platforms at Tokyo Station and onto waiting Shinkansen trains to have a look inside - including a look at private rooms on the lower level of one of the first-class "Green Cars":

1991 - Tokyo Station Shinkansen Tour

Walking through Shinkansen trains at Tokyo Station in 1991.

In this video from 1991, I do something that I don't think you can do now - I walk through a pachinko parlor recording the scene of people playing the game.  Almost all of the machines in this view from two decades ago are mechanical - with little ball bearings bouncing around.  More and more, the machines are electronic versions of slot machines, with more electronic noises than the mechanical noises recorded in this video:

Ginza Pachinko - May 1991

Having a look at a 1991 pachinko place in Ginza.

The atmosphere of this May 1991 lunchtime view of Ginza has such a different feel to it compared to current Ginza.  Things were more relaxed in a way then.  By May 1991, when this was taken, the "bubble economy" was already on its way down, but there was still belief that it would rebound sooner rather than later, and overall, this was basically still part of the "bubble era".  At this point, with a depressed economy going back about two decades now, and with the tsunami/nuclear disaster pulling things further down, people are not as optimistic as they were when this clip was recorded:

Ginza Side Streets - May 1991

Walking around on lunchtime side streets in Ginza in May 1991.  The video opens on a Yurakucho Line train on the way there and closes on a Marunouchi Line train leaving.  (All rights reserved by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon. 1991, 2011)

Back to 2011 - post March 11th, 2011 - with half the lights turned off in the station to conserve power in suddenly insufficient-electricity Tokyo.  And when I climbed on a Chuo Line train, the internal lights were all off - although they were turned back on as the train neared Shinjuku:

Darker than Usual - Kokubunji Station and Chuo Line - (110404-1316)

A look at a darker than usual Kokubunji Station and Chuo Line train.

Many parts of the Tokyo Station complex are under construction, but this walk is primarily though the areas where construction has been completed, coming out by the newly built Daiichi Department Store:

Tokyo Station Stroll - (110404-1404)

Walking around in Tokyo Station - exiting near the Daiichi Department Store.

Shinkansen Passing by in Yurakucho - (110404-2235)

Watching a Shinkansen train passing by in Yurakucho late at night.

Yurakucho to Tokyo via Yamanote Line - (110404-2322)

Riding from Yurakucho to Tokyo via the Yamanote Line late at night.

Chuo Line Train Departing from Tokyo Station - (110404-2326)

Watching a Chuo Line Train Departing from Tokyo Station.

Yotsuya to Shinjuku on the Chuo Line - (110404-2341)

Riding from Yotsuya to Shinjuku on the Chuo Line.

Night Chuo Line - Outbound from Shinjuku - (110404-2344)

Riding a nighttime Chuo Line outbound from Shinjuku.

Exiting Seibu Shinjuku Station - (110405-1920)

Exiting the ticket gates of Seibu Shinjuku Station.

From Seibu-Shinjuku Station to Street - (110405-1922)

Walking from Seibu-Shinjuku Station to the street.

Shinjuku - Near Kabukicho - (110405-1924)

Walking down the street in Shinjuku - near Kabukicho.

Walking Towards and then into Shinjuku Station - (110405-1926)

Walking down the evening streets of Shinjuku towards - and then into Shinjuku Station.

This being April, it's the season of new hires joining companies out of university, and fist-year students of high schools and universities breathing a sigh of relief as they join their new schools - past the grueling and infamous entrance exams.  And so the atmosphere by the east exit gates of Shinjuku Station was optimistic feeling, with people meeting, talking, going off somewhere with friends, etc. - with the scene under half the number of lights usually used.  Actually, this amount of lighting is probably just about right - most spaces are over-lit with banks of EFT (Evil Florescent Tubes), so cutting back doesn't even seem dark really:

Shinjuku Station - Looking Around at the East Exit - (110405-1937)

Looking around at the East Exit of Shinjuku Station.

Shinjuku - Omoide Yokocho - (110405-2157)

Walking through Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku.

Shinjuku Station - South Exit - (110405-1946)

A look at the South Exit of Shinjuku Station.

Water heaters now are - while still of the instantaneous type - generally externally mounted and hooked up to multiple sinks, but in 1991, older apartments usually had small instantaneous gas-fired water heaters mounted directly over kitchen sinks.  In this 1991 video, I walk around in an empty apartment building that has been mostly gutted in preparation for demolition, but still has many of the old water heaters mounted on the kitchen walls, so I explain how the different types work (different types because each household was responsible for buying their own water heater, so there was no standardization of what type the building used):

Old Apartment Water Heaters, Etc. (Before Demolition) - June 1991

Walking around in an old concrete apartment building in June 1991 - which was just about to be smashed to rubble - checking out the various types of water heaters left behind, etc.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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