Jazz Spots Of Japan, Part 1
Overview of three types of jazz spots
This is a brief overview of some of the general types of places that you may find in Japan, to help you learn more about and find the places you may want to visit.
Variations of Jazz Spots
There are many types of jazz spots in Japan. By jazz spots, I mean jazz clubs, jazz joints, jazz rooms, jazz spaces, jazz places… basically anywhere that jazz is featured as a draw or essential feature of the establishment.
Some commonly found jazz environments include:
Bright jazz cafes
Casual hole-in-the-wall joints
Mini-theater listening rooms
These spots can range from big spacious rooms to tiny neighborhood bars. They can be bright or dark, elegant or dingy, and pretty much everything in between.
There are places that worship jazz with fanatical reverence that jazz addicts may regard as sanctuaries, and there are simple places where the quality and selection of music take priority over the furnishings and decor.
There are also fancy, upscale places that play jazz music for an elegant aural atmosphere, otherwise heavenly settings where jazz is just part of the decor.
This overview introduces the general types of jazz spots available by categorizing them and listing some differences so that you can choose the best types of places that you may want to visit or learn more about.
An Incredible Abundance of Jazz
One of the most remarkable aspects of jazz in Japan is realizing how many unique and special places there are to discover. Discovering how appreciated jazz is in Japan and how many musicians and listeners support the art is sometimes a surprise. This can be especially eye-opening for those fans who live in places where jazz music is underappreciated or ignored completely.
A love for this jazz culture in Japan and the new music that it brings is what motivates me to share this information here. It’s all owing to the great musicians I’ve met, the friends I’ve made, and all the CDs, clubs, notes, and photos I’ve collected during the last twenty years.
At the same time, one challenge here is to resist the urge to supply too much information. Discovering great places on your own, and experiencing the moment of entering a new spot for the first time without knowing exactly what to expect, are part of the fun of your jazz journey. No spoilers, as they say.
So, the goal here is to find a balance of the right level of information to share, to whet the appetite, and to provide useful information, but not in an exhaustively descriptive or overly detailed way.
Finding Jazz Spots
If you are visiting Japan and want to choose a place to go to listen to some live jazz, you may be initially overwhelmed by the number of places you may find. This is especially true in a big metropolis like Tokyo.
Also, non-Japanese speakers and solo adventurers have extra hurdles to overcome. Finding interesting jazz spots and live events requires decoding websites, parsing the posted live schedules, and understanding any rules or etiquette for any particular place.
There are also practical challenges like finding the best routes to clubs and understanding the cost structure and payment methods.
What is the entry charge?
Are there per-person minimums?
Are foreign credit cards accepted? Some places only accept cash (in Japanese yen, naturally).