Saturday, May 21, 2011

17/05 VOX POPULI: No return to excesses of a "Juliana's lifestyle"

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.


After nearly four decades of business, a well-known bowling alley in Tokyo's Shibaura district has recently closed. It never reopened after operations were suspended in the immediate aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11.

Squinting at an outer wall of the parking lot, I saw the letters JULIANAS, weather-faded and barely discernible.

Opening 20 years ago, Juliana's was a landmark disco nearby. It was so sensational back then, it was touted as something of a social phenomenon. But after three years and three months, it disappeared like a bubble.

A sporting goods store opened on the lot vacated by Juliana's, but it too folded in January. All that now remains is a bleak storefront.

Juliana's was co-owned by Nissho Iwai Corp. (now Sojitz Corp.) and a British firm. According to "Baburu no Shozo" (Portrait of a bubble) by Kyoichi Tsuzuki, the big-time disco was "a kind of makeshift festival site." Tsuzuki elaborates, "There, any woman could become queen for a night if she was ready to bare a bit more skin than usual and kick up her heels."

On raised dance platforms on the floors of this remodeled warehouse, women in figure-hugging outfits bumped and gyrated, fluttering feathery fans that were nicknamed "Juli-sen."

Many people today think of Juliana's as a symbol of Japan's asset-inflated bubble economy, but the economy and stock prices were already beginning to tank when Juliana's was at its zenith. In reality, it was like an out-of-season flower blooming in the burned-out ruins of the bubble economy.

The era that ensued was called the Lost Decade. But with fiscal and economic problems further compounded by political instability, some experts say our country has actually squandered the last 20 years. Even if we now wish to live modestly and quietly, society no longer offers the sense of security and peace of mind that should underpin such a lifestyle.

We know there is no true happiness to be found in the sort of frenzied self-absorption that Juliana's customers reveled in all night. But we also know that remaining in our own shells isn't a solution either.

This being the case, I suggest that we at least reassess our values in this post-disaster era and try to recover what we hold dear. Learning to live within our means and helping one another are things we have stopped doing since the bubble era.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 15

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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