When director Fran Rubel Kuzui made ‘Tokyo Pop’ (1988) it was very much the height of the bubble era for the economy in Japan. It is a delightfully fluffy kitsch piece of ’80s nostalgia with a certain simple charm. Production took place at multiple locations around the capital city naturally beginning (on screen!) at Narita Airport as Wendy (Carrie Hamilton) arrives in Japan from New York.
There is the obligatory scene from Yasukuni Dori in Shinjuku as Wendy tries to get a taxi back to the Mickey House Hostel in Kami-Itabashi which has long gone. Having met Hiro (Yutaka Tadokoro a.k.a. Diamond Yukai) and his bandmates at an outdoor ramen stall, they end up in a love hotel but don’t actually sleep together.
N.B. The time codes given are approximate.
The following morning starts (27 minutes in) with Kappabashi’s landmark; the large statue of a moustached, chef hat-wearing man on top of the Niimi Western Tableware Shop (1-1-1 Matsugaya, Taito-ku) between Ueno and Asakusa.
The scenes in Yoyogi Park on the half hour mark really are of their time as there’s a flea market, punk dancers, cosplayers and live musicians. Sure, such things can still be seen today but it’s all a little different and a bit more subdued. Yoyogi National Gymnasium on the right of the screenshot is still there but is hidden behind all those trees in my comparison shot. The building in the distance in the centre of the shots is still there.
Wendy bumps into Hiro and the action moves down the road to the footbridge just round the corner from Harajuku Station where they make peace and agree to go for a drink.
Following their drink the next night, they walk and talk as they pass through the Kabukicho district in Shinjuku on 35 minutes.
Shibuya Scramble Crossing hasn’t changed but the buildings around it certainly have in the three decades plus since filming took place. Wendy crosses the road towards the Hachiko exit where she meets up with Hiro on 44 minutes at the famous Hachiko dog statue which has long been a very common meeting spot outside the station.
They may have met up for their date in Shibuya but moments later they are 5-6 kilometres east of there at Hie Shrine (2-10-5 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku). This is one of the “Ten Shrines Of Tokyo‘ which are considered the most important as they were selected in 1868 by Emperor Meiji after he had moved to Edo and renamed it Tokyo.
I hadn’t actually recognised this shrine from those previous images but it was instantly noticeable as soon as I saw Wendy and Hiro and ascend the steps that run through the tunnel of beautiful red torii gates. You really don’t need to go to Kyoto just to see such an image!
Next up is a scene between Hiro and his grandpa where they talk about music at Ichigaya Fish Center (1-1 Ichigayatamachi, Shinjuku City) on 76 minutes. This place is all about fishing for fun and you pay to fish for carp (goldfish for kids) which are all returned to the pond later when your session times out. It’s a little difficult to get too near to it (without actually going in) to replicate the angles seen in the following screenshots as those damn trees hide things yet again!
The matsuri festival on 77 minutes looks like it takes place at Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa.
Hanazono Shrine (5-17-3 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku) features on 83 minutes.
The garden scenes with Wendy which immediately follow are in a different place but I’m not sure where. Let me know if you recognise this place with a golden buddha statue.
It is of course the famed Takeshita Dori Street in Harajuku where Wendy and Hiro esacpe from fans on 87 minutes en-route to the amateur rock festival.
Fans continue to chase them through Yoyogi Park and on to the rock festival venue (88 minutes) which looks like it is the Odakyu Building on the west exit of Shinjuku Station.
This is the concert where Hiro and his band succeed by performing their own original songs in their native tongue without relying on the gimmick of having a foreign front-woman.
‘Tokyo Pop‘ was never reproduced on DVD and I just could not download or stream it when I first tried to acquire it about a decade ago. I went on YouTube recently though and half-heartedly typed in a search for it expecting to see nothing more than a trailer so I was absolutely delighted to see that it had been uploaded to YouTube by someone last year. Very grateful I was that this movie can now be seen by a new generation of people with an interest in Japan.
Click here to read ‘Review: Films Set In Japan – Tokyo Pop (1988)’