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Home videos of 1990s Japan are the YouTube equivalent of a warm blanket

Home videos of 1990s Japan are the YouTube equivalent of a warm blanket

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In 1990, Tokyo resident Lyle Hiroshi Saxon began filming video of his life. Most of his videos, which he’s graciously put on YouTube, are simple walking shots of train stations or city streets. You’ll get a few seconds of a group of businessmen, cut away to an interesting store display, then back to a faceless crowd. But if you happen to be feeling panicked or overwhelmed, the overall effect can be surprisingly powerful.

It’s also the kind of offbeat project that could only come together in a place like YouTube. The videos aren’t particularly popular (most hover around 500 views), and they’re strange enough that it’s hard to imagine anyone choosing to put them on TV.

Saxon’s style isn’t quite Slow TV — the editing is too choppy and there’s no specific process to knit the thing together. It’s just loose footage, a mass of roving B-roll covering whatever he saw each day. It’s not so different from what you’d see in any big city, but the little differences — the VHS grain, the wide-lapeled suits, the subtle confusions of life on a new continent — all make it strangely comforting. It’s relaxing to walk around, and even more so if you’re doing it in another time and another part of the world.

And if you want the stress of the past, there’s also a visit to the 1993 MacWorld Expo, which is every bit as surreal as you’d think.