Underground Gigs and Karaoke

Stephen: Something that readers who are unfamiliar with Scottish people may not realise, is that there is a general rule: No matter where you are in the world, you can probably find somebody that you know from back home. This trip was no exception, as one of Al’s friends from Glasgow (Kuv) happened to be living out in Tokyo, and we met up to hang out and have her show us some stuff she’d gleaned in her time.

We went for food in Kuv’s part of the city, and had okonomiyaki, which is a sort of savoury omelette pancake thing made with meat or seafood or various other things, topped with some deliciously sweet and spicy sauce. It was pretty awesome.

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One of the best parts had to be that they would make it at the table for you. You could always do that yourself if you liked, but we lacked the necessary skills. Realising that the group of schoolgirls across the way were doing it themselves just underlined how far apart we were culturally, and if Kuv hadn’t been there to explain we wouldn’t have had a scooby what was going on.

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Afterwards, we headed to a part of the city called Koenji – the place where Grace and I had cocktails a couple of weeks prior. It’s a pretty cool area, with lots of alternative arts and music going on… and also somewhere that doesn’t attract too many tourists, which is always a blessing.

I had been in touch with some local chip musicians through the online community, one of which (Takashi) had invited us to a gig that they were putting on. We met up with a couple of Kuv’s pals (Irish!), and headed over. It was a sort of makeshift band rehearsal space slash arts venue, and it took us a bit of time to work out exactly where we were meant to go when we arrived. It turned out it was in one of the rehearsal rooms.

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When we walked in it felt tiny and cramped, but pretty quickly we realised just how polite and nice everybody there was, and the room seemed to get bigger. There was a bunch of different people either DJing, or playing live electronic music, some just with an iPad and a MIDI controller, and some other people doing straight up chiptune from their Game Boys.

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The guy below was such a nice, quiet, unassuming person, who made some of the most awesome music just using a Game Boy Advance and Nanoloop. Afterwards I told him how great his set was, and when someone else let him know that I was from Scotland and make chip music as well, he seemed unbelievably appreciative. He goes under the name SunamachiSoundSystem, and has a few tracks up on Spotify here if you fancy a listen:

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This next guy was called Tobokegao, and he played what seemed like some more straight up chip music, but he was clearly so into it that it was pretty infectious. When we got home, I found the album he was performing online, and I recognised all of the tunes immediately. That’s no mean feat with chiptune, and it’s become one of my favourites:

https://cheapbeatsmusic.bandcamp.com/album/picnic

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This night was so much fun, and it brings back a lot of good memories. I loved that in such a huge city as Tokyo, we were in this tiny room, drinking a carry out with a bunch of folk that we had never met before, and they were all just so into having a good time. It struck me that this is exactly the sort of thing I’d love to see more of, but that would almost be impossible to find back home, either because of the legal requirements around booze and security and all that, or because the people who went would be insufferably pretentious. There was none of that here, and I loved it.

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We skipped out on the last act to go and indulge in another item from our bucket list… karaoke.

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It might seem like a cliche, but in Japan these places really are everywhere. Karaoke is a big deal. The room was literally like it had been plucked out of Lost in Translation, and we lucked out in that it also had an awesome view over the city. It couldn’t get much more perfect.

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The karaoke itself isn’t all that cheap, and you could buy drinks, but they were pretty pricey. Being Scottish, we sneaked in our own booze, obviously. We originally hired the spot for an hour, but ended up staying for three or four.

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So many good memories from this night… writing it is making me miss Japan big time. The night just developed naturally, and we slowly got pished and had an amazing time, thousands of miles from home. It’s probably a testament to how good the night was that even Al got up and wired into the karaoke, despite not drinking.

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This is one of those nights I’ll remember for a long time. On the way home, we got on the last train, and by some sheer act of fate happened to get on the exact carriage that Takashi and some other people from the gig were on. That blew my mind a bit thinking about the size of the city… and I wondered how often chance encounters like that would happen.

On the way back we stopped in a few more bars, and things began to get hazy… Take me back?

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Al; I’ve got little to add to what Stephen has said above, other than the strange underground gig/karaoke night was one of those ‘once in a decade’ nights – my fear before coming to Tokyo was that my whole experience would be marred by a lack of truly memorable experiences, but this night was it. What’s even better, is that it wasn’t the only truly memorable night, but if you go to Tokyo, you’ll find this out for yourself. NOTE; this is in reverse order, as the WordPress app is rubbish, and I’m too lazy to rearrange/reupload the pictures

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Grace: Hello! I only have three pictures to share. I was too busy having a good time.  First, as stated above, we went for okonomiyaki.  Kuv told us it was good hangover food, and I probably had one – so it worked out well.

Karaoke really is as crazy as you’d expect in Japan. The particular one we went to even provided costumes for people to wear in the rooms (but that cost extra money) so nope! It’s fun enough as it is.


I sang my staples: Cher and Beyoncé.  A little later I tried to rap, but was a little too sauced to hit the verses.

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