Post Bubble Japan

During the heyday of the Japanese bubble economy, Japan’s rock scene saw the birth of a novel genre of music known as visual kei. The rebellious and shocking nature of visual kei, that was simultaneously a sound and a subculture, served to prelude the popping of the bubble.

With the fall of the inflated economy, Japanese rock saw a meteoric rise, an upswelling in popularity that visual kei accompanied. As witnessed in the States after the post-stagflation recession in the early 80s, rock music represented one of many avenues for people to channel their disillusion and discontent, either personally through the sound or vicariously through the subculture. In this context visual kei was essentially symbolism, representing many feelings: severance between one’s identity and the traditions of the past, honesty of expression in a society where pursuit of economic success had been a facade, the futility of social and artistic restraint, etc.

The picture here is of the guitar of former X Japan lead guitarist Matsumoto Hideto, better known by his stage name: hide. hide died in 1998, though whether by accident or suicide no one is certain. The shot was taken 9 years later at a show during X Japan’s resurgence, where the guitar occupied the same spot on stage that hide would’ve in the past. The lovingly decorated guitar speaks to the fact that visual kei was more of an idea than a fashion and that it was an entire avenue of expression for musicians and fans alike. Although visual kei no longer enjoys the mainstream popularity of the 90s, the idea endures in the underground scene, carrying the same ideas that inspired music since its inception.