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Discovering Live Music in Tokyo

Some of the best districts and venues for live music in Tokyo

· 5 min read

Are you a music lover planning a trip to Tokyo? You're in for a treat! For thousands of years, Tokyo has been a hub of culture, art, and music - influenced by Japanese tradition and international styles. The city has several districts that are known for their live music scenes, such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Roppongi. Each district has its own unique vibe, so it's worth exploring them all to find the one that suits your tastes.

If you are visiting Tokyo, check out some of the city's best districts for live music, along with some recommendations of the best venues to check out for an evening out with great music!

Discover The Underground Scene At Koenji

Source: Experience Suginami
Source: Experience Suginami

If you are looking to explore the underground music scene, there is no district better than Koenji. Located slightly out of central Tokyo and away from the popular tourist destinations, Koenji is pretty much the heart of Tokyo's punk music scene. While it's not as high profile as the other areas like Shibuya or Roppongi, Koenji continues to attract many independent musicians and artists. And if you want a sneak peak into the raw, underground music scene in Tokyo, this is where you should be. There are a number of live houses in the area to discover, with some of the most prominent ones being Jirokichi, Muryoku Muzenji (which by the way, is known to be one of the most bizarre live music venue), 20000 Den-Atsu, and Koenji High.

💡Pro-tip: Consider heading to Koenji couple hours before the show to explore the area; the streets at Koenji have an unique charm to them, and you might be surprised to find a couple of pretty Instagrammable spots as you roam around.
Source: Mooncastlesun
Source: Mooncastlesun

Shimokitazawa is a hip and trendy district in Western Tokyo, and has its fair share of live houses and performance venues. If you are looking for the latest trends and up-and-coming musicians, then look no farther than Shimokitazawa. While the venues in Shimokitazawa are primarily still skewed towards rock and punk music, you will also be able to find performances of various other music genres like pop and jazz. Some of the most prominent live houses in Shimokitazawa include Shelter, Mosaic, and Shimokitazawa Three.

💡Bonus: Although it isn't exactly live music, if you are a music lover (or if you love collecting vinyls), you definitely also have to visit Upstairs Records & Bar. You will be pleasantly delighted by the vast collection of vinyls, or simply just sit back and enjoy a drink in the cozy bar.

Explore the Iconic Venues in Shibuya

Source: Shibuya-O
Source: Shibuya-O

And of course, we can't miss Shibuya when talking about live music in Tokyo. Home to many iconic music venues, the live music venues in Shibuya have seen numerous concerts and acts by local and international bands alike. While the venues are a hot favourite for rock music, it is not uncommon to also find shows for pop and alternative music at these venues. Some of the most iconic venues to check out include the collection of Spotify O venues (with Spotify O-East and Spotify O-West being the bigger and more popular ones) and WWW X. And if you are looking for something that's a bit more intimate and less mainstream, consider checking out the Shibuya Kinmirai Kaikan.

Jazz Your Way Through Shinjuku

Source: Truly Tokyo | Florentyna Leow
Source: Truly Tokyo | Florentyna Leow

Now, if jazz is more your type of thing and you're looking for jazz bars rather than live houses, then head over to Shinjuku. Here you will find several jazz clubs that have been around for decades. Some of the most famous jazz clubs in Shinjuku include Shinjuku Pit Inn and Someday. And if you are looking for a place to chill and have a drink with some jazzy background music, head to Jazz Cafe & Bar DUG. But Shinjuku is not all just about jazz — it is also home to one of the most popular live houses in Tokyo, the Shinjuku Loft. The venue has a gritty and raw atmosphere that perfectly matches the music that is played there, making it a favorite spot for music lovers.

Tips for Enjoying Live Music in Tokyo

To make the most of your live music experience in Tokyo, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Check out the schedules before heading to the venue to make sure there is a show that is going on on that day (and to make sure that it's not sold out). Most of the bigger venues have something going on almost every day, it is good to double check just to be sure.
  • To look for live performances happening at the major live houses and venues in Japan, you can try using this site. The site is only in Japanese, but if you are using a Chrome browser you can easily have it translated to English and it should be relatively straightforward to navigate.
  • If there is a band or group that you already follow, you can check out the band's own schedules to find out where they are performing. But otherwise, if you just want to discover something new, we suggest that you just hit any of the live houses.
  • Most venues offer on-site tickets as well (provided they are not sold out or fully booked), so you can just pop by the venue on the day of the show itself.
  • Take note that most of these venues would also require you to purchase a drink to go along with your ticket. Check the ticketing and entrance conditions before going to make sure you are comfortable with it before heading to the venue!
  • As live houses could get rather crowded, it is recommended to travel light. Or you could deposit your bags at the lockers outside the venues if they are available.