Japanese pop? Live jazz? Underground vinyl? No matter what type of musical entertainment you’re after, you’ll find something in Tokyo to suit your taste. Culture Trip has rounded up the best venues, record shops and musical emporiums for the ultimate tour around the Japanese capital.
Tokyo is an eclectic city and the music scene is no different. Though not internationally recognised like London or New Orleans, it’s among one of the most exciting and unique hubs for creativity. Pop music dominates – Arashi, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, AKB48 and Utada Hikaru are among the most famous Tokyo artists, but truly anything goes. Record stores thrive, underground scenes flourish (if you know where to find them), and tiny niche bars dedicated to obscure genres are everywhere. Below are the best places in Tokyo for music lovers.
The best record stores in Tokyo
Where to see live music in Tokyo
Intimate Intro is one of the best jazz clubs in the city. The wild vibe is apparent in the club’s motto: “smokin’ drinkin’ never thinkin'”. Yet a visit to the regular, late-night jam sessions is sure to convince any listener of the talent that comes through here. Sometimes the bartending owner himself joins in, trading a glass for a saxophone. The musical experimentation often goes on well into the night, if not until the sun comes up. And the best part? Listening is free.
Cafés and restaurants with good music
Meikyoku Kissa Lion is a landmark relic of the past. Open since 1926, this Shibuya staple is one of the few meikyoku kissa (classical music cafés) left in Japan. Kissa is short for kissaten, a traditional coffee shop inspired by European cafés. Lion continues an almost century-old tradition of drinking coffee while listening to classical music in near silence. It resembles a storied church or perhaps a retro theatre, with chandeliers, cracked wooden accents, and plush chairs laid out in rows in front of the massive wooden speakers.
Hands Expo Cafe is a great place to visit for an all-around Tokyo experience. The food is delicious and beautifully presented (Culture Trip recommends the pancakes), there’s a shop stocked with cute souvenirs and edible treats, and musicians take to the stage weekly. One of the main draws of Hands Expo Cafe is the regular traditional Japanese music performances. Here you can experience the sounds of the fue (bamboo flute), taiko (drum) and biwa (lute).
Tokyo nightclubs with beats you can dance to
Great music festivals in Tokyo
One of Japan’s biggest summer music festivals is Summer Sonic, an annual event that draws thousands of fans from around the world. Held simultaneously in Chiba (Tokyo) and Osaka, the event has featured big international stars such as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Metallica, as well as underground up-and-comers.
This worldwide electronic music festival takes place annually in Odaiba, an artificial island in Tokyo Bay and one of the city’s most iconic entertainment districts. Over 400,000 festival-goers show up every year to listen to the likes of deadmau5, David Guetta, Afrojack and Tiesto over a three-day period. And the visual and light displays are a sight to behold, too.
This is an updated version of an article originally created by Alicia Joy.
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