From the ridiculously compact to the lavishly spacious, Tokyo is home to some of the best, most diverse live music venues in the world. Unlike the rock-loving Koenji and the hip hop heads in Harajuku, pop music fandom here isn’t relegated to one particular area – here’s your ultimate guide to the best pop venues.
Japan’s biggest J-Pop group AKB48 are so insanely popular that they have their very own theatre located in the heart of their home suburb of Akihabara. The concept of the group was, and has continued to be, an idol group that’s accessible to fans. In order to maintain that level of accessibility the rotating cast of members perform most days of the week, giving eager fans ample opportunity to catch the girls in action. If you want the ultimate live J-Pop experience, it’s right here.
Owned and operated by TBS Television, this live space is part of the company’s campaign to ‘unite television, live performance and entertainment all in one place’. Opening over 20 years ago, this mid-large size venue is a fantastic place to see international touring stars and local pop heroes. With a capacity of a little over 1,000 the space is large, but always still feels intimate.
5 Chome-3-2 Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 3584 8811
J Pop Café
One of the city’s most photogenic venues, J Pop Café hosts a variety of different performances, from classical to jazz to, as the name suggests, J-Pop. The venue has two rooms: a classic band room style intimate live space and a second room with a stunning glass glazed dome ceiling through which the night sky subtly illuminates the stage. Watching a show under the city lights is arguably one of the best ways to see live music in all of Tokyo.
31-2 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 5456 5767
Situated just five minutes from Shinjuku sits Shin-Okubo, aka the city’s ‘Little Korea’. Home to a vast collection of Korean restaurants, cosmetics stores, cafes and supermarkets it’s also home to the city’s best K-Pop live music venue, Showbox. Featuring a rotating cast of some of the Korea’s best K-Pop exports, Japanese fans can get up close and personal with some of the biggest names in the business.
Tokyo, Shinjuku, Okubo, 1 Chome−178, 1F, Japan, +81 3 3208 4522
Also known as Sweet Basil’s, this well-loved venue in the high end suburb of Roppongi is one of Tokyo’s best kept pop music secrets. Not the type of live house to box themselves into one particular genre, the lines up at STB139 are incredibly eclectic. From folk, classical, tango, fusion, Hawaiian, gospel and of course pop, the venue is home to some of the city’s most interesting performances.
6 Chome-7-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to, Japan, +81 3 5474 0139
Located in Chiba a little far out from Tokyo, Makuhari Messe is one of the wider Tokyo’s biggest convention centers. Hosting a broad cross section of events, this space is not just for live performances, however it is one of the best larger size live spaces in the city. This year the stage hosted performances by the iconic J-Pop legends Perfume and international superstar Ariana Grande.
Chiba Prefecture, Chiba, Mihama Ward, Nakase, 2−1, Japan, +81 4 3296 0001
Ex Theatre Roppingi
Opening in 2013, this mid-large size venue is a go to for some of the biggest international names in the business. Located inside the TV Asahi EX Tower building, the ritzy space hosts sporting events, trade exhibitions and of course concerts. Recently it was the venue of choice for One Direction’s Harry Styles, who made his solo Tokyo debut here in December.
1 Chome-2-9 Nishiazabu, Minato Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 6406 2222
Summer Sonic Festival
Though it’s a festival not a space, Summer Sonic, one of the biggest events on Japan’s music calendar is worth mentioning here. Running in mid-late August, this multi-day event sees a huge cross section of mainstream pop headliners perform alongside an eclectic bill of rock, indie, electro and all acts in between. Hosted out in the more spacious eastern prefecture of Chiba (not far from Tokyo) it’s quickly gaining traction as one of the best pop-focused festivals in the world.