How 1980s Japan Became History’s Wildest Party | Earthquake Bird | Netflix


– [Narrator] So besides the three leads, there’s another constant that runs through the psychological thriller
“Earthquake Bird”: Japan. Specifically Japan in the late 1980s is a real presence throughout the film. Sometimes it’s awe-inspiring
for the characters and sometimes it’s
incredibly disorienting. Which is kind of fitting, because in the 1980s a
massive bubble economy was remaking Japan into this awesome, extravagant, dizzying party. A party that was about
to go off the rails. This is a taste of
Japan during the bubble. (upbeat music) Party. That’s the word
that keeps coming up when you read articles about the bubble. And it’s one reason this big party scene made it into “Earthquake Bird.” even the macroeconomic parts of the story feel like partygoers taking
things just a bit too far. This is a super-simplified
version of what happened, but the bubble got its start in 1985, at a time when Japanese goods were selling like crazy around the world. And… America didn’t like that so much. At a trade summit that year, the US got Japan to agree
to weaken the dollar relative to the yen so
that maybe, just maybe, American goods could sell like
crazy around the world too. But in agreeing to that,
Japan risked a recession. So they slashed interest
rates to prevent the yen from getting too strong. And that, caused this. (upbeat dance music) Seemingly everyone in
Japan and their uncles suddenly rushed out for a loan and hypercompetitive
and even reckless banks were eager to dole them out. People bought land and then
used that land to secure further loans with which they
bought stock and more land. It was a buying frenzy, which
you can all see in the charts. The real estate and stock
markets tripled in value in just a few years. And there are these
stories that make tangible the obscene amount of wealth
in Japan during the time. It’s hard to even tell
if they’re true or not, but they’re still revealing
in how extra they are. To hail a cab in downtown Tokyo, it’s said that you had to wave
a 10,000 yen bill in the air, 100 bucks, just to get
a driver’s attention. If you dropped that
same bill on the ground in the hottest neighborhood of Ginza, it was allegedly worth less than the tiny patch of sidewalk it covered. The grounds of the Imperial Palace, which weren’t ever going to be for sale, were somehow worth more than
the entire state of California. And the land in greater Tokyo
was four times more valuable than the entire United States. Yep, the whole country. You can imagine it made this search for an affordable
apartment pretty difficult. It even began to spill
over as Japanese companies bought up parts of the globe, starting small, just a skyscraper or two, then graduating to golf
courses, movie studies, and finally even landmarks
like Rockefeller Center. If commercials are a window
into a nation’s soul, and I like to think they are, then I submit to you that this famous energy drink commercial
shows just how triumphant Japan felt when they
belt out stuff like this: (singing in foreign language) (speaking in foreign language) But what was daily life like for those who lived in the bubble? Well that too was often a… (upbeat dance music) In bubble Japan, there
was apparently a lot of time and money spent
on earthly pleasures in nightlife districts
like Ginza or Shinjuku. Which was a fairly dramatic
shift for a culture that had previously emphasized
saving and community. Food was big, and it became
increasingly extravagant. In some places, after-dinner coffee was served sprinkled with
gold dust for 500 bucks. But drinking may have been even bigger. This chart shows what Japanese workers used their wages for, both
at the height of the bubble and 30 years later. Check out the 1989 figure. And drinking happened everywhere. Bars, hostess clubs where the girls sometimes got $14,000 tips, and of course, at the
ever-popular karaoke lounge at the site of a scene or
two in “Earthquake Bird.” to give you some idea of how
much people were going out, in just one of those bubble years, Japanese businessmen charged $50 billion in food and drink to their
companies’ expense accounts. But it wasn’t just business. The Japanese were known connoisseurs of personal luxury items as well. And as you can see, their
fashion tended to be dialed up. This suit is objectively the
greatest costume in cinema. One big trend for women at the time was called (speaking in foreign
language), body conscious, tight, revealing, form-fitting clothing that often made its way to a dance floor. And those dance floors were epic. Like Studio 54 in the ’70s,
they somehow captured the times. People on the internet still
swap stories about Juliana’s, a cavernous club in Tokyo that
came to symbolize the bubble and where basically anything could happen. But like any really wild
party, there’s always a crash. The stock bubble popped first, causing a cascade of
bankruptcies everywhere. And just one year later,
people had stopped buying those extravagances they
had once lusted over. Then bad stuff started oozing
out from under the glitz. There were tales of inequality, corporate corruption,
and Yakuza infiltration. And yes, there was even plain old murder, although in real life it tended
to happen over real estate. It took Japan at least a decade to recover from its hangover, and even in 2019, the stock market is nowhere near its 1989 height. Still, even with all
the lows that followed, it’s hard to watch this (upbeat dance music) and not want to be at one
of the most extravagant, expensive, extended parties
the world has ever seen. It didn’t all happen in Ginza or Shinjuku. The bubble remade the
Japanese suburbs as well. In the late 1980s, the Japanese had over 1,000 golf courses under construction and – this is my favorite part – they build a dozen giant indoor ski domes. Teiji’s dilapidated “Mad
Max”-style electrical substation, I don’t know, is bizarrely
not that out of place in the context of bubble-era architecture. True to form, it’s wild
and loud and extravagant. Sort of like “Transformers” had a building kid with a castle.

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