Monday, September 17, 2012

"1990: Trip to Tateyama on the Boso Peninsula, Sobu Line, Shinjuku, Parade, Etc."

If you want to know what it's like riding out into the countryside via regular (not reserved seat, special express) trains, then the first video below has some good scenes/sounds of a trip I took in November 1990, part of the time with the window open, so you can hear all the noises of the old type train I was in very well.  From the clack-clack of the segmented rails (they've since gone to long seamless rails) to the high-RPM whine of the motors (newer trains are quieter and sound quite different).

To really get the full effect of what it felt like at the time to ride these trains, try listening with headphones and with the sound loud enough to simulate the level it was at at the time (which you'll just have to guess at of course, but the point is, not too low a sound level, or you'll miss both details and the overall effect).  It's a long video at almost 90 minutes, but regarding the sounds I mentioned, the part where I was by an open window is towards the beginning of the video, so that's easy to experience just by starting from the beginning (and if you have time, maybe even take the whole trip with me).

I started off saying "If you want to know what it's like...", but maybe I should have made that past tense.  The newer trains only have a few windows that open, and those only open at the top, not the bottom; and people appear to be afraid of fresh air now, so they are almost never opened.  There's a world of difference between riding in a sealed box and riding in a cool old train with the windows open.  There are still a number of older trains running, but fewer and fewer, and hardly any in central Tokyo.

1990 Trip to Tateyama (Boso Hanto) 館山 (901110)

1990 Shinjuku Station Live (901108)

I've had several people currently in their early twenties who have said they wish they could have experienced the bubble economy years, and I generally tell them that they probably have an overrated image of the era from modern movies/dramas that glamorize the time.  I mention how the plans of the time resulted in the current Tokyo with its many new (since that time) high-rise buildings, expanded train system, etc., but it wasn't all sparkling lights and fun at the time.

But in (re)watching this short clip from 1990, I remember the optimism of the time.  A lot of new construction was beginning then, and newer things were not just utilitarian, as they had tended to be in the past, but were... I'm not sure "extravagant" is the correct term, but certainly it would apply in some cases.  But new things are just new things - the feeling of the country moving steadily forward was powerful and people were optimistic about the future.

Contrasting that with now, there are so many very worrying trends and incidents in the world, it's increasingly difficult to feel very optimistic about the future.  And in that regard, the young people I've met who wish they had experienced the late eighties are actually right to feel they missed out on something - although I still think they have a rather different idea in mind than what it was really like.

1990 Sobu Line (Central Tokyo, Etc.) 総武線 (901110)

Looking out a window on a local Sobu Line train as it goes through central Tokyo.

1990 Nishi-Shinjuku at Night (Here and There) 901108

1990 Old Tateyama Station (901110)

For anyone who has been to Tateyama Station, this might be interesting - either in a nostalgic way if you have experienced the old station, or in a historical sense if you only know the current rebuilt version of the station.  Speaking of the bubble era again though - this is the type of thing I mean when I tell the current twenties crowd that *during* the bubble, there was a lot of old stuff still.  It was during the bubble that *plans* for all the new stuff they have now were put in place, but the bubble years themselves were really more the old Showa Era than the new Heisei Era.

1990 Yakimo Truck やきいもトラック (901108)

1990 Shinjuku Station at Night (901108)

1990 Suburban Bookstore (901108)

1990 Ikebukuro to Shinjuku 池袋-新宿 (901108)

1990 Ikebukuro Station 池袋駅 (901108)

1990 Restaurants in Shinjuku Station (West Side) 901108

This is the underground passageway lined with shops and restaurants that leads to the underground entrance to both the Keio Line and the JR lines.

1990 Hibarigaoka to Ikebukuro ひばりヶ丘-池袋 (901108)

1990 Newspapers, not Cell Phones (901108)

This is a very short clip, but it shows (at the beginning) people in a train looking at - no, not cell phone screens - but newspapers.  The only people who had cell phones in 1990 were businesses and rich people.  The phones themselves were very expensive, and it was very expensive to use them.

1990 Hibarigaoka-kita ひばりが丘北 (901110)

1990 Exiting Burbs Station (901108)

1990 - Emperor Akihito Parade Day (901112)

This might be of some historical interest.  This was the day that Crown Prince Akihito officially became Emperor Akihito, and I walked around on the parade route recording the event.  There were just a few seconds when he could be seen, but my purpose in going to the parade route was to see the event of people going to see the event, more than the central focus of it.  Looking at it now, the various cameras are interesting to see.  Film cameras, large video cameras (which I was using myself), etc.  No digital cameras.

I started out in in the suburbs, and took a few trains to the center of Tokyo, and then after the event, took a few trains back to the suburbs.  I included the trip there and back to show that it was - by and large - an average day for most of the city.  The problem with news reports is that you get only the central issue, and as time passes, it's easy to get the mistaken impression that the entire city was involved in something; but you can't have 30,000,000 people in one part of the city!  So, it was a big event of course, but everything didn't stop that day because of it.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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