Search Menu
Home Latest News Menu

Photographer Greg Girard's new book is a textured voyage through vintage Tokyo

JAL 76 88 gives a visceral recount of Tokyo from 1976–1988

  • Olivia Wycech
  • 19 October 2022

We've long been enamoured with photographer Greg Girard.

Arriving in Japan from Canada long before the West was infiltrated by neon-lit images of a Blade Runner-inspired future, Girard landed in Tokyo en route to Southeast Asia in 1976 and stowed his luggage at the airport during transit. With no accommodations booked, he only meant to explore the city for a few days—but ended up living there for four years.

"I spent the night wandering around Shinjuku and nearby neighbourhoods, and by morning I knew I wanted to stay," he says in an interview with Brad Feuerhelm in his new book, JAL 76 88.

The initials JAL stand for Japan Airlines while the numbers refer to the years the work spans: 1976–1988. Throughout these 10+ years, Girard wandered the labyrinthine streets of Shibuya, Shinjuku and more, capturing the neon-steeped aesthetics that blazed across billboards for 24 hours a day. We've previously published photos from Girard alongside an interview, as the photographer inadvertently captured the beginnings of club culture across Asia, but his new book JAL 76 88 is a largely unseen collection of around 100 noir-esque images. The visual relics span the same ten years that Japan experienced booming economic growth and give a visceral recount of this era's impact on culture.

In the book, Girard adds: "The photographs in JAL 76-88 are artefacts of a pre-bubble Japan, and particularly Tokyo, before the term "BladeRunner-esque" became the default for a neon-soaked, urban Asia-influenced near future."

"It's perhaps worth pointing out that in 1976 there was nothing to prepare a first-time visitor for Tokyo. At that time, the notion that the future had arrived, and was alive and well in an Asian city, was simply an unknown."

From the early days of disco in Asia to small-window mom-and-pop shops and even the preeminence of the American military in post-war Japan, step into a way-back machine for a textured voyage through vintage Tokyo. Many of these works have landed in galleries and institutions worldwide, but the book is the best experience (as they usually are).

JAL 76 88 is the ninth book by Girard and Magenta's Phantom Shanghai and City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City. JAL 76 88 expands upon the content featured in Tokyo-Yokusuka 1976-1983.

JAL 76 88 by Greg Girard was published by Kominek and is out now. Purchase the book on Greg Girard's website here.

Load the next article