Four Japanese artists provide a glimpse into a rich culture of music, art and food.
In the Japan City Guides films, produced with the Japan National Tourism Organization, we asked four artists to show us the music, food and art spots hidden in their home cities. We meet the charismatic owners of listening bars, nightclubs, restaurants and more in Tokyo, Sapporo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. Our guides—Akiko Kiyama, AOKI takamasa, DJ DYE and Foodman—provide an intimate glimpse into Japan's grassroots creative scenes. Each film comes with a supporting playlist or mix inspired by their home city.
Step inside some of Tokyo's most elegant musical hangouts.
Akiko Kiyama, who was born and raised in Toyko, has spent years navigating the city's bewildering vertical and horizontal sprawl. In this film, the minimal artist guides us through four of the city's best specialist music spots: Waltz, a cassette shop that stocks everything from '80s pop to limited-run noise and drone; Spincoaster, a hi-fi bar with a democratic music policy; Oath, a small house and techno nightclub decorated with more than 70 chandeliers; and Lion, a classical music cafe with a no-talking policy that's been tucked away on a Shibuya backstreet since 1926.
"These selections are based on my taste: dark, swelling stuff with high intensity and exquisite rhythms," Akiko tells us. "There's a lot of stylistic variety in electronic music and it's delightful that you can find such diversity of artists and sounds even just in Tokyo and its surrounding area."
Kyoto and Osaka (Kansai)
Pizza, vinyl-cutting and go-karting in Kansai.
People are strange in Osaka, according to AOKI takamasa, but in the best possible way. This is a city where people throw parties, have fun and make music on their own terms. We begin at Compufunk, a record shop, bar, party space, recording studio and vinyl-cutting facility that's a cornerstone of Osaka's club culture. We then hit up a techno-friendly pizza bar, a go-karting track and the Circus nightclub, before driving to Kyoto, where AOKI visits Soto, a live venue presenting niche sounds run by local experimental band Kukangendai.
"This playlist is conscious of both Osaka's funky, free and open-minded atmosphere, and Kyoto's cool, peaceful and stately atmosphere," says AOKI takamasa. "You can enjoy this playlist while driving through both cities, at day or night."
In cosy hideaways on snow-filled streets, a welcoming musical community.
For DJ DYE, Sapporo is a city of the perfect size—small enough for a familial atmosphere, but big enough to foster a healthy creative scene. DYE, a member of the hip-hop group Tha Blue Herb, travels around Japan as a DJ, playing hip-hop, reggae and techno. When he returns home, he likes to stop by places like Waltz, a late-night bar favoured by local musicians that specialises in old rock, funk and soul. It's the kind of place where you'll see young music heads hanging out with people in their 50s and 60s, arms around each others' shoulders, sharing drinks and laughter. As DYE shows us, Sapporo is that kind of city.
The theme of this playlist is "strolling around Sapporo." As DYE explains: "I selected tunes, listened to them while walking around, selected again, then listened to them while walking around again. I think I managed to feature lots of tones and music that fit to this city. Some tracks by artists from Sapporo are also included."
Get to know one of Japan's less appreciated cities with a musical maverick.
"If I had to express it in bathwater temperatures, it'd be about 42 degrees—just right," says Foodman, real name Takahide Higuchi. In this film, Foodman peels back the curtain on his home city, showing us the performance spaces, like Club Mago and Spazio Rita, where his unique approach to music was formed. We discover a tight-knit community bound by a genre-hopping and multidisciplinary approach to the arts. We also take a detour to nearby Okazaki, where Foodman visits a shop operating at the intersection of music and fashion.
This exclusive mix is made up of tracks from Nagoya- and Okazaki-based artists, with Foodman mining the space "where sounds intersect across different genres."