'Tokyo Biruzingu': Pure nostalgic architecture porn

'Tokyo Biruzingu': Pure nostalgic architecture porn

A new DVD provides a visual tour of modernist Tokyo buildings that have survived earthquakes, wars and the Japanese love of 'new'
Tokyo Building
Why look at a photo book of old buildings when you can watch a motion picture of motionless buildings?

'Showa retro' is a popular term these days -- a blanket category describing all post-war culture from the days before Japan got too rich and too internationalized.

Architecture is a key area for nostalgia hunters, but between the 1923 earthquake, the 1945 firebombing and corporate love of tearing down old buildings and replacing them with generic new ones, finding 'retro' modernist buildings in Tokyo is a major challenge.

Now we don't have to even go anywhere to see Tokyo's past.

The filmmakers behind the new DVD "Tokyo Biruchingu" (Geneon Universal, ¥3,990) -- note the classy archaic katakana spelling of 'building' -- have attempted to create a visual tour of Japan's well-known and well-hidden retro architectural wonders. The 70-minute DVD looks at 15 different buildings built from the late 1920s up to the mid-1960s, including Mitsui Honkan and the Kudan Kaikan.

The DVD should be required viewing for modern building developers. Notice, for example, that the use of real brick or stone facades creates a nearly permanent aesthetic value for these old structures. There is a reason that tiled or stucco buildings never get centerfold treatment in this kind of architectural porn.

While waiting on "Tokyo Biruchingu"'s official release, feel free to do your own urban retro tours. Start with two not on the DVD: Mitsukoshi's Nihonbashi flagship, completed in 1935, and the Hibiya Kokaido concert hall, built in 1929.