Live Music the Tokyo Way

Live Music the Tokyo Way

Japan. The first thought that pops into your head probably isn’t Punk, Rock ‘n’ Roll or Acoustic Roots music. But in trendy Tokyo, you’ll find a music scene that’s thriving.

Expedia’s Aussie travellers love Japan, especially in the summer time. Shinjuku and Shibuya are popular spots to stay but make sure you put the neighborhoods of Shimokitazawa and Koenji on your to-do list.

Shimokitazawa and Koenji are both just a train ride to the west of Tokyo proper and only about 25 minutes from each other by train. Both are packed full of live music venues, known as ‘Live Houses’, where you can catch a live gig 7 days a week.

Live Houses range from large multi-level affairs to small, single room basements. You might find everything from big name Japanese Indie Rock Bands to Punk Grunge Bands, to Jazz Sessions to Open Mic Nights.

Shimokitazawa, commonly known as Shimokita, has been considered one of the (and I hate to use the word, but I will) hippest neighborhoods in Tokyo. The narrow streets are home to not long Live Houses but also graffiti, cafes, art galleries, theatres and vintage clothing stores. Well established as a cool area, it attracts a young and energetic crowd and is also home to the Kitazawa Music Festival, held every July.

Koenji is similar to Shimokita, as in it has a lot to offer, and might be considered a little edgier and artistic when it comes to musical styles. It doesn’t draw the big names like Shimokita, but it does boast some intimate little venues and has a history rich in Punk Rock.

One venue in particular is Penguin House. It’s a pub-like space that can be hired out for private events, but also has plenty of live music from mixed genres. The Penguin House has been open for nearly 30 years and refers to itself as “a live house of non-genre”, which I think might just be a bit perfect for a night out on the town. You can also bring your own food and enjoy the live music while sipping sake.


Of course Tokyo is also a town jam packed with amazing hotels and if you’re going to be checking out the best in live music you’ll need a cool place to stay as well.

Traditional boutique hotels are called Ryokans and Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa has old Tokyo right on its doorstep. Staying in a Ryokan is a great way to experience Japanese hospitality. Hotel Okura is in the popular Roppongi district and is also an excellent choice for somewhere to crash after a hard day (and night) checking out bands in Koenji and Shimokita.

So maybe its time to pack your lunch, drink sake and enjoy the surprises that arise from the multi-genre pot that can be found bubbling away in the narrow back streets of Tokyo’s western neighbourhoods!

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Gareth Evans

About the Author Gareth Evans

When Gareth Hugh Evans started Timber and Steel three years ago he had no idea that it would become one of the most highly regarded and widely read music blogs in Australia. Seeing the rise of acoustic, folk and roots based music both in Australia and worldwide but with no local music site dedicated to the genre Gareth decided to grab the bull by the horns and start his own - and the response has been overwhelming. Timber and Steel was only meant to be a hobby, now it's Gareth's life. 3 travel must haves? Laptop, mp3 player, sunglasses What's on your travel bucket list? Going electric at the Newport Folk Festival, Bar hopping in Nashville

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