Music History

Japan goes retro as it remembers Bubble Era music

There was a time in the 1980s when it looked like Japan was going to take over the world. Much like today’s Chinese companies, Japanese entities were on a buying spree, gobbling up assets around the planet. That turned out to be an economic bubble which, when it burst, sent Japan into a decades-long period of stagnation.

The time had its own music, too. It was disco-y, electronic, and powered by drum machines and power chords. Here’s a sample.

Bubble Era music fell into disrepute for years, probably because it was a reminder how the good times went bad so very, very quickly. Now, though, with Japan enjoying its best stretch of economy growth in a while, the sounds of Bubble Era music are coming back.

Bed In is one of the everyone-old-is-new-again Bubble Era bands grabbing attention today.

Need to know more? The New York Times has this feature.

Kaori Masukodera remembers, barely, riding as a child with her mother, her hair teased and her lips bright red, in the family’s convertible to the beach. It was the last gasp of the 1980s, a time of Champagne, garish colors and bubbly disco dance-floor anthems, and the last time many people in Japan felt rich and ascendant.

A so-called Lost Decade and many economically stagnant years later, the family’s convertible and beach vacations are long gone — but Ms. Masukodera is helping to bring the rest of Japan’s bubble era back. She performs in a pop-music duo called Bed In that borrows heavily from the keyboard lines, electric drums and power chords of the ’80s. They dress ’80s, too: The shoulder pads are big, the skirts are mini and the hues are Day-Glo when they aren’t just plain shiny.

“Until a few years ago, most people saw the bubble period as a negative legacy, and it was considered quite tacky,” said Ms. Masukodera, 32, wearing a tight blazer with jutting shoulder pads emblazoned with images of the Tokyo nightscape, paired with a miniskirt and gold jewelry.

“That completely changed in the last few years,” she added. “Now people recognize it as kind of a cool period.”

Kinda like disco, right? Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37438 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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