Sunday, August 28, 2016

September 7th, 1991 - A Busy Day Taking Video in Japan

I had an interesting Saturday in 1991 - on September 7th, 1991, to be exact.  It began the night before, when I took a bus and train over to Nogata to have a few Friday night beers with some friends.  But before I continue, allow me to explain how I can remember so many details of that weekend some twenty-five years ago.
1991 夜の西武バス Night Seibu Bus 910906

Elements of that Friday and Saturday have remained vivid in my memory, but I thought about them on and off over the years as isolated incidents... until August 2016 that is, when I had a good look at that Friday and Saturday again via video I took at the time, detailing a journey that took me from Tanashi to Nogata, and then to Nakano and (via a three-hour walk in the middle of the night) to Suidobashi, and from there a long trip (via several different trains) to the Nikko Line up past Utsunomiya, where I spent some time looking around a couple of small country towns, and then some time spent in Utsunomiya, and finally the trip back to more locations in central Tokyo Saturday night.  Watching the scenes I recorded back then now, a number of related details come to mind - some of which I'll touch on as we revisit that day twenty-five years ago.

1991 田無駅-野方駅 西武新宿線 Tanashi to Nogata - Seibu-Shinjuku Line 910906

The video clips listed on this page are from analog recordings, but the sound was digital and is in stereo.  (There are some places where the picture jumps ahead a few frames - a result of timing errors endemic to analog 8mm video tape.)
   Anyway, the first video link up above is of the bus ride to Tanashi Station on Friday, September 6th, and the next one (above this block of text) shows the trip from Tanashi Station to Nogata Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line.
   I had a good time watching video, talking and consuming beer and food in Nogata, and by the time I left, I had missed the last train home.  Since I was planning to go out and take video the next day anyway, I decided to just march across Tokyo to Tsukiji and record the early-morning fish market scene there.

1991 夜中の中央東京道散策散歩 Tokyo Midnight Walk 910906

So I set off - taking video as I went.  Have a look at the above video, which speaks for itself as to what I saw during the walk - from a station being shut down (people sleeping on the platform) to night construction work, people having a late-night bowl of ramen at one of the stand-and-eat places, etc.
   I got off to a good start, but after having several beers with friends and then walking for three hours in the middle of the overly warm night, I was feeling really really tired.  As I walked along one lonely street in central Tokyo, I came upon a curious sight.  There was a first-floor... office?/showroom?/??? with long sofas and a large TV beaming out its pictures and sound to an empty room....  As I peered in the window of the brightly lit space, it just seemed strange.  There was no one in sight, and when I pushed on the door, it was open.  A blast of refreshingly cool air came out....
   After standing there for several seconds pondering the brightly lit, refreshingly air-conditioned 3:00am space with the comfortable-looking sofas and TV playing a midnight movie, I decided to go in.  I called out as I went in, but there was no answer.  Looking around, I found a drink machine that sold drinks for an absurdly cheap price - twenty or thirty yen I think it was.  After getting a cheap drink (the type that goes into a cup, not a canned drink), I sat down and pondered the western movie playing in English on the large TV and looked around the empty room.  After finishing the drink, I leaned back to relax for a few minutes before being on my way, and....

1991 朝一の中央東京 Very Early Morning Central Tokyo 910907

The next thing I knew it was 5:30am!  Over the years, I've often thought back to that night and shuddered to think what might have happened if people - not necessarily very friendly people - had come back to the space at - say - 4:00am and found me sleeping in that chair.  That said, the rest did me a lot of good, and when I left the space I was re-energized and back in the mood for taking video.  (Thinking about it now - I wonder if maybe someone *did* come to the room, and kindly just left me sleeping there without waking me up....)
   Back outside, I walked around the area a bit recording empty streets - I suppose 5:30am in the middle of a mega-city is just about as lonely as it gets.  In a natural setting you would have birds and whatnot stirring after a long night, but early morning city streets are so desolate.

1991 日光線までの旅 水道橋駅-神田駅-上野駅-今市駅 Nikko Line Trip 910907

As I walked, I came upon Suidobashi Station, and since it was too late for Tsukiji (I had planned to get there before dawn), I decided to head out towards Utsunomiya and Nikko.  The above video details the train trip out of town, with its many transfers.

1991 今市駅と下今市駅 日光線と東武日光線 Imaichi and Shimo-Imaichi Stations 910907

Figuring I would find more of authentic Japan in a town near, but not in the tourist zone of Nikko, I went to Imaichi - one stop from Nikko.  (I had also previously seen the town from the window of a train I took to Nikko and thought I'd like to explore it at some point...).  The above video shows the two stations in Imaichi and some passing trains, while the following video details the three or four hours I spent walking around the small town.

1991 今市市の散策散歩 栃木県 Imaichi City Walkabout - In Tochigi 910907

Imaichi was interesting, but not in a dramatic way - nothing exceptionally good or bad happened to me while there, and so I completely forgot about going there... until watching myself do so in the above 1991 video.
   Some videos - like this one - make me wonder how much of our lives we just forget.  Or to put it another way, how little of our lives do we remember?  I get the impression from revisiting 1991 that more than half of our lives are simply forgotten....
  The mechanism seems to be to remember good and bad things, and not bother putting most other things into long-term memory.  I have a fairly detailed moving picture and sound record (video tape) of the period of my life from the evening of Friday, September 6th, 1991 to late at night Saturday, September 7th, 1991, and really the only parts I very distinctly remembered without having seen the video again, were the strange room I fell asleep in for a couple of hours, coming upon Suidobashi Station, and meeting the foreign workers (near  Shimotsuke-Osawa Station - shown further down the page).
   After watching the video, the scene (from the middle of the night as I walked across central Tokyo) of Higashi-Nakano Station being shut down came back clearly, and some elements of my time in Imaichi City are coming back to me as I think over the scenes I've revisited in the video, but by September 1991, I had been taking video like that fairly intensively for a year and a half, so it was just an ordinary part of life to me.

1991 今市駅-下野大沢駅 日光線 Imaichi to Shimotsuke-Osawa - Nikko Line 910907

After spending a few hours in Imaichi City, I went one station down the line (towards Utsunomiya, away from Nikko) to  Shimotsuke-Osawa, and spent some time walking around there as well (recording as I went).

1991 下野大沢駅辺りの散策散歩 Shimotsuke-Osawa Walkabout 910907

While there, I ran into a couple of foreign factory workers (foreigners working in a small Japanese factory that is).  It wasn't something I had expected to encounter, but it fits in with the time.  In the bubble economy, with the strong yen, fewer locals wanted low-wage work, and so the vacuum was filled somewhat with foreigners from various countries....

1991 下野大沢駅-文挟駅-宇都宮駅 日光線 Shimotsuke-Osawa to Utsunomiya 910907

From this point, I suddenly realize that I don't really have much else that I feel like commenting on.  I went to Utsunomiya, spent some time there, and then went on to Shibuya, Hiyoshi, and Hibarigaoka (via several different trains).  So I'll just put the rest of the videos from that time below.  Their titles are self-explanatory.

1991 宇都宮散策散歩-A Utsunomiya Walkabout-A 910907

1991 宇都宮散策散歩-B 宮ビル商店街など Utsunomiya Walkabout-B 910907

1991 宇都宮駅-赤羽駅-新宿駅-渋谷駅 宇都宮線-埼京線-山手線 Utsunomiya to Shibuya 910907

1991 土曜日夜の渋谷駅-九月七日 Shibuya Station - Saturday Night 910907

1991 渋谷駅-日吉駅 東急東横線 Shibuya to Hiyoshi - Toyoko Line 910907

1991 日吉駅前 土曜日の夜 Hiyoshi Station Area - Saturday Night 910907

1991 日吉駅-渋谷駅-池袋駅-ひばりヶ丘駅 東横線-山手線-西武池袋線 Hiyoshi to Hibarigaoka 910907

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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