The Best Places to See Rock in Tokyo

Ash | © Tokyo Times/ Flickr
Lucy Dayman

Tokyo is a city overflowing with live music, especially rock. From tiny DIY punk spaces to meticulously crafted big capacity venues housing international touring acts, it’s all here. Like most things in Japan there will be something to satisfy you needs, no matter how niche your taste, so the hardest thing about seeing rock in Tokyo is choosing where to go. Here’s a guide to some places you should consider visiting.

1. DOM Sound Studio, Koenji

Music Venue, Yoga Studio

Located in the music hub that is Koenji is one of the area’s more unconventional venues. Tucked just a few steps away from the station, DOM is by day a rehearsal studio, and by night a live music haunt. Open for room rental, and with a very relaxed BYO alcohol policy, it’s become one of the best places to see local DIY shows all year round. The studio also has an open rooftop, which is a ideal little escape during the steamier summer months.

2. UFO Club, Koenji

Music Venue

If Koenji is the center of punk in Japan, then the UFO Club, located just a few minutes from Higashi-Koenji Station is the genre’s central nervous system. A regular drop in for both some of the country’s most legendary and emerging psychedelic, rock and punk artists, UFO Club is a hotbed of underground talent. If you want to see something strange and wonderful you cannot miss this iconic and intimate venue.

3. Heavy Sick Zero, Nakano

Music Venue

Winner of the unofficial best venue name award, Heavy Sick Zero, is one of Nakano’s more diverse music hangouts. As a suburb Nakano is home to a whole stack of live music houses, where you go depends really on what you want to see. That said if you don’t know what you want to see, then go straight to Heavy Sick Zero. Home to electronic and hip hop fans as well as metal, rock and everything in between, the venue’s relaxed attitude to genre makes it the perfect place to discover something new no matter what night of the week. Go in with no expectations.

4. Moon Step, Nakano

Music Venue

Another Nakano icon is Moon Step, home to Tokyo’s biggest head bangers and lovers of hard-core, punk, rock and all that falls in-between. A short walk from Nakano station, Moon Step is kicking from 6pm until 10:30pm every single day of the week. If you want to check out the vibe before committing to the entry fee, the bar also has an open to the public pub area, where you can go hang out and rub shoulders with the city’s music loving locals.

5. Three, Shimokitazawa

Building, Music Venue

For many upcoming bands, there are a number of rites of passage to go through before truly feeling like you’ve ‘made it’ whatever that ‘it’ may be. For bands hailing from Tokyo and wider Japan, a successful show at Three is definitely up there as a career highlight. Located in the super hip pocket of Shimokitazawa just a few minutes from Shibuya, Three is a hub for many underground and bigger name indie acts. Its cheaper drinks and no-fuss lounge area make it a must stop off location for even the casual music fan.

6. Liquid Room, Ebisu

Music Venue

Though it once considered Shinjuku to be home, Liquid Room is now an Ebisu mainstay and one of the best places to catch both local and international touring acts. A little more spacious than some of its contemporaries on this list, the space functions as as a café lounge and gallery complex as well as a meticulously designed band-room.

7. Unit, Daikanyama

Music Venue

A short journey from Ebusu’s Liquid Room sits Unit, a multi-genre room that hosts everything from electro to thrash metal. But in its recent history it’s the venue’s support of the local rock scene that makes them one best live venues in the city. Like Liquid Room it’s a great place to see international touring acts and local bands on the rise any night of the week.

8. Warp, Kichijoji

Music Venue

Located in the much loved creative community of Kichijoji , Warp is a bit of an insider’s tip. It’s difficult to find too much about Warp in English but that’s part of its charm. A short walk from Kichijoji station the venue is a rock lover’s paradise. If you’re in town and are interested in jamming with some locals the venue also has recording studios available for booking. Keep your eye on the venue’s rather busy Twitter for all the upcoming show and event details.

9. Moon Romantic, Aoyama

Music Venue

If you’re done with sticky floors and sweaty walls, get on over to Moon Romantic located in Shibuya’s more sophisticated pocket, Aoyama. With a sharp focus on interior design layout the 200-capacity music venue is a little more sophisticated than its contemporaries. In terms of programming the space is home to a variety of genres, mixing folk, rock, indie and world music depending on the night.

10. Wall, Hatsudai

Music Venue

Not too far from Shinjuku station sits Hatsudai’s Wall one of the city’s most cherished independent live music spaces, especially for heavy rock, punk and hardcore. Though it’s a little out of the way its killer consistent line-ups make up for the journey getting there. The venue’s staff pride themselves on building a killer community of like-minded music fans, so no matter what you’re guaranteed to have a good time.

11. Earthdom, Shin-Okubo

Music Venue

Around the corner of Shinjuku sit Shin-Okubo, Korea Town and Earthdom a killer heavy live music venue. Given its powerful soundsystem, Earthdom is arguably one of the best venues to catch punk and hardcore in Tokyo. If you’re prepared to have your eardrums bleed, hop on over to Earthdom on a Saturday night.

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