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Tokyo Night Life

Tuesday 21st January 2014

Japan Underground's Tom Smith on how to rock and roll all nite in Tokyo

Broken Doll MilkwayThere are plenty of things to do during the day in Tokyo; from the trip out to the Ghibli Museum, to meeting your anime and manga needs in Akihabara, to window shopping in Harajuku, to visiting temples and the usual guidebook activites – but what happens when the sun sets, the tourist attractions shut their gates and the shops close for the day? It was a problem that I had faced several times myself. I wanted to see bands playing live music, experience local pubs and bar culture, and not get back to my hotel until it was light. Now, my nights in the city are as busy, if not busier, than my days. Here’s a quick look at some of the night hotspots worth hitting for music fans.

If it’s clubs you’re after, don’t go expecting the same kind of experience found in the UK (but do expect plenty of drunkards passed out at the station awaiting the first train home). Firstly, dancing after midnight is forbidden by law in Japan (seriously), which might explain the distinct lack of big clubs in the capital despite having a population upwards of 13 million.

There are places that offer that ‘big club’ experience (try ageHa in East Tokyo or Womb in Shubuya – and avoid Gasspanic where possible) but mostly the venues offer a smaller and more intimate experience.

For example, I recently caught a DJ set from Yasutaka Nakata – the man behind Jpop legends Perfume, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Capsule – in a tiny place called Air, hidden down a residential Shibuya street. It had three floors, the main holding no more than 250 at a push, and had a fully functioning restaurant on the ground floor that served proper meals all night. Another techno club I went to had a traditional tearoom directly above the DJ-booth, only accessible by a rickety ladder. As I said, a very different experience.

One of my main reasons for travelling to Japan is to quench my thirst for the country’s rock music, and if I’m in Tokyo you’ll probably find me somewhere within the vicinity of the Tousen Udagawa Building (map), a 5-10 minute walk north of Shibuya Station. You’ll known when you’ve found it by the amount of teenage rockers sprawled across the street and in the nearby convenience store, stocking up on cheap booze to cheekily sneak inside a venue with them.

The towerblock is an indie-music heaven and houses floor after floor of live houses. In the basement you’ll find Chelsea Hotel (which is neither a hotel, nor is it in Chelsea) with Star Lounge on the ground floor, The Game above it, and my favourite venue Milkyway above that – my favourite because it offers three choices of unlimited drink wrist bands, two of which include unlimited alcohol for a couple of thousand yen. Bargain!

Between the above venues, you’re guaranteed to find a show to satisfy your need to rock. But be warned, gigs in Japan ain’t cheap. Average entry is between 2-4000 yen (around £15-20), regardless of how famous the bands are. Doors are also early, with most shows opening just after five and kicking people out before 10pm. And don't expect the most famous band to headline either. Often visiting bands from outside of Tokyo will have the ‘headline’ slot. One show I went to had the biggest band of the night on first. At 3pm. Suffice to say, I missed them entirely.

RockaholicYour night doesn’t have to end after a gig. Just around the corner are two of the best rock bars I’ve visited in Japan; Bar Rockaholic, and Bar Rock no Cocoro – the latter boasts free wifi while the former (whose barman is pictured above, with a GazettE thing going on) encourages guests to requests songs and sing along over shots of tequila. Both places open in the early evening and remain open until around 5 or 6am depending on demand. If you’re lucky you might even spot the odd famous musician making an appearance too. Last time I was in Tokyo I managed to bump into the vocalist of SiM as well as the guitarist of THE KIDDIE in two separate bars on the same night.

You can get a guided tour of the area courtesy Gackt’s video to Graffitti, found below. The full version has the singer fighting yankiis outside of Bar Rockaholick, as well as riding off into the sunset in a horse ‘parked’ behind Bar Rock no Cocoro. Here, in the shortened version, he croons to a drunk salaryman and dances with excited band girls outside of Chelsea Hotel:

It’s also worth mentioning Bar Come On Rock if you find yourself near Shibuya’s major music venues Shibya O-East, O-West and Club Asia (and it’s love hotel district). I’m pretty sure the owner of the bar has a secret identity as a member of a certain masked-band, and if you look to the walls you’ll find all sorts of musical celebrities have drank there. Plus, every night is free entry and certain events there feature unlimited drinks for lady-folk for a mere one thousand yen. The same price as a vodka-Red Bull! Sometimes I wish I were a girl…


Digimon: Digital Monsters Season 2

was £39.99
By popular demand, the anime fan-favourite released for the first time on DVD!

Four years after Tai, Mimi and the rest of the Digidestined brought peace to the digital world and found their way back home, the Digimon Emperor - a new villain - threatens the world and its Digital Monsters. With some the original kids off to junior high, a new generation is chosen to defend and save the world from evil.

Davis, Yolei, Cody, and Ken join T.K and Kari to form the new Digidestined team. Together they journey back to the Digital World to battle the Digimon Emperor and free all the Digital Monsters from his control.



Sword Art Online Music: LiSa

Tom Smith on Sword Art Online's LiSa
Salarymen to the left of me, shoppers to the right. And here I am, stuck in the middle with otaku. Well, more accurately I’m frolicking with them, in Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall, a concrete amphitheatre that’s dwarfed by the towering skyscrapers of Tokyo’s business district to the west, and high-end retail haven Ginza to the east. Between the two is the venue, hidden in the peaceful Hibiya Park. Peaceful, that is, until 3,000 anime fans descend en masse, clutching chunky glow batons, wearing identical shirts and all waiting for the latest lady-singer that tickles the tastes of otaku to hit the stage; LiSA.
With the release of Dragon Ball Z Kai Season 1 now available to fans on both Blu-ray and DVD, we take a look at what sets Kai and Z apart.

Naruto Music: Totalfat

Tom Smith on Naruto’s rising punk-pop stars
‘The next hero in the Japanese rock scene!” boldly claims their press release. Someone certainly believes in Japan’s rising guitar act TOTALFAT, it’s not every day there’s an English language press release accompanying a theme song from Naruto (or most anime for that matter).
The official Japanese website for Blue Exorcist (Ao no Exorcist) has recently launched a countdown, which is set to end on 4th July at 8:00 JST (23:00 GMT).

Bleach Cosplay: Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez

Paul "Jaeger" Jacques seeks out the best anime costumes
Kasey Lee strikes a pose as Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, with the telltale Hollow jawbone still hanging on his cheek. Never let it be said this blog is afraid of showing topless cosplay.
Another MCM London Comic Con has come to an end and we would like to say a huge thank you to all the fans that came to visit the Manga UK booth over the weekend. We had a great time meeting you all and watching you take part in the Anime Karaoke!
In Kodansha’s March issue of Nakayoshi, it was revealed that CLAMP's Cardcaptor Sakura is getting a brand new project to celebrate the manga's 20th anniversary.

Takahata's Style

Andrew Osmond on why the Kaguya director deserves an Oscar
On February 22nd, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, directed by Isao Takahata, will compete at the eighty-seventh Academy Awards. It’s a moment long overdue. Takahta has been called the Ozu of animation; it’s a medium he’s worked in since 1959, making both rarefied artworks and nationally-beloved favourites.

Tales of Vesperia Cosplay: Yuri Lowell

Paul Jacques finds an Imperial Knight at the Birmingham Comic Con
Melissa Joy dresses as Yuri Lowell, the Imperial Knight from Tales of Vesperia. Justice!
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