Jukeboxparables

WT2010 – JAPAN – Day 13 – Shimokitazawa & an All-nighter in Shibuya

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on March 22, 2010

WT2010 – JAPAN
Day 13 – Shimokitazawa & an All-nighter in Shibuya
[On the iPOD] The Cribs / Iggy Pop

Struggle street. I was flipping through a guide-book pondering the museums and points of interest. They involved train trips and transfers and effort, something I’d exceeded in past days but was baulking at after two late nights getting intimate with alcohol and the the near-sight of a Tokyo sunrise approaching the horizon.

Then almost flippantly a place called Shimokitazawa is mentioned, it has no dedicated section because its outer-Tokyo but then again so is my hotel in Sangenjaya (by outer I mean an outer-line a mere two stops from Shibuya) I google the area an realize it’s actually 2km in a straight line north of my hotels road. It would probably be quicker to walk than catch a train in and hop on a transfer back out. I decide it’s a plan; walking has become my default form of exploration.

I’ve forgotten to mention this; People love bikes here (bicycles as well as motorbikes) Tokyo seems dedicated to the bike rider, perhaps it’s not as dedicated as some stand out places but every footpath you find bike lines (they share them with pedestrians and are usually wide or have a line down the centre saying bikes on one side) Besides that locals have an uncanny ability to dodge anything and everything. My first night here I watched a women with shopping on hee handle-bars holding an umbrella swaying vigorously in the wind whilst it SNOWED she pedalled on. People cycling one hand whilst the other is holding a cigarette or whilst talking on a mobile phone they dodge cars and weave around and through tight passages without stopping. Some how I’m yet to witness a stack.

Walking to Shimokitazawa I came across a park that completely split one part of town from the other (like a road you could say) but not a road, it was a park with a dedicated cycle path. It must have been converted from an actual road, I can’t forsee a park originally being that long. A great idea of urban planning. People of all ages use bikes and the men-women ratio is near 50/50 Id say. It’s great to see.

A mere 2km wander from Sangenjaya is Shimokitazawa; I’m promised some good shops; but the entire town is essentially a shop as far as I can tell. One minute I’m walking passed peoples homes and the next minute its a restaurant, a bargain basement, a vintage clothing store, an upmarket clothing store, a music store, an antique store, an electronics store. But mostly clothes and food.

On I walk to find a bridge leading under a train line, turns out the town is split North/South by this bridge (or so it seemed so far) I then explored that side of the tracks only to another train line and it’s a pedestrian/car crossing right in the centre of town. It turns out it’s also split East/West by a second train line. So Shimokitazawa is essentially four quadrants of awesomeness. The shops just don’t end, they’re all of interest and I literally walked around for 2hours just trying to figure out what I wanted to buy, whatever it was you could find it there. Remember we’re not talking big shopping centres but a local community who have built a town of shops to cater for all.

A stop and stare at the price of a brand new LCD screen and an American fellow bumps into me introducing himself as someone who served on duty from the states but has since settled down with a Japanese wife and is living outside of Tokyo he’s been here for awhile. I express admiration for the town we’re in and he replies with “Shimokitazawa is the bomb” too true. It was refreshing to come across a down to earth, chilled out cool American without an air of superiority.

I stumble through a record store and many a clothing store. Some are more commercial than others and if your looking for something slightly Indie and Alternative just keep walking you’ll find it somewhere. Don’t ask me where because you DO get lost in this place. Which is half the fun. I had the camera out wholey awares that I wasn’t going to take photos of shop-fronts because I would have too many damn photos to sort so I restrained myself diligently. I did however take a photo of a crepe place. Their crepe menu was in small crepe size boxes on the wall; faux designed plastic examples of what you could order. It looked amazing. I would walk a thousand miles and I would walk a thousand more just to…(ok I’ll stop) just to find that crepe store later on when I felt desert was on the cards. I couldn’t however, so I settled for a cake/coffee ‘deli’ which served amazing cakes such as “Caramel / Banana” etc.

You’ll also find a few restaurants that are hosting live-bands (at lunch time) and they’ll serve you a drink or food with your ticket. Theres many places like this in Shimokitazawa, you’ll find kids walking around with guitars constantly. The prices are pretty hefty though (compared to back-home) Bands (even small ones) seem to get paid well here (tickets to one place were 2500yen including a drink) that’s about $28 I wanted to checkout some local acts but If I bought the ticket I’d have to forgo paying for dinner later on (with no citibank in town) So instead I checked out one or two local buskers. Pretty talented.

Just like that the day was winding down, you can spend a good half-day wandering this little suburb of shops aimlessly. Sadly though it’s apparently all going to come to an end I’ve heard. The powers that be are building an extension of a subway line directly under it (I think) and the small cultural vibe and community style shops are set to make way for the real urban sprawl of Tokyo (think sky scrapers) The locals are fighting back to keep Shimokitazawa the way it is. I’m definitely on their side. Inner city Tokyo is great with it’s Neon shops but this place (the buildings stand no more than 2 stories tall) have that community vibe that developers always don’t care for. It happens all over the world it seems (I draw parallels to venues and pubs giving way in Sydney) It seems you can’t stop progress no matter the cultural cost, if culture even has a value to big wigs.

I’d put my DSLR camera away so many times this day; Instead I opted for the LOMO film camera (so not many shots until theyre developed) but I was on my way back when I noticed a cat sleeping on mans lap… the photos speak for themselves really.

I strolled back to my hotel and that night (it being a Sunday night the night before a holiday on monday) Long weekend essentially. I was aiming for a club in Shibuya I got there way too early (11pm) so I decided that I’d have a wander around somewhere else first. I had no idea what I was going to find, if anything hell I had trouble finding the place I was going to and I knew where I was going.

No more than a few metres up this quiet backstreet road I observed some Musos coming out of a bar (carrying equipment etc) So I decided to scope this place out. It was called “Derori” I walked in to find an avant-garde oldschool rock vibe venue. It had drums/guitar/bass/pa setup on the floor and a DJ decks behind it. A bunch of people were at the bar so I decided to take a seat with a drink.

Within minutes a guy from behind the bar came over to greet me and ask where I was from and How i’d found the place. I told him all about my travels and after a few words a nice lady came over to talk to me who as it turns out owned the bar. Eventually more and more people came in and I got to talking to a few locals who have traveled. The music was classic rock but as far as I could tell there was no one DJ behind the decks, it was more random people getting up to mix.

Eventually a guy hopped on drums and another on bass and another on guitar, I downed a few drinks and listed to them Jam along to what the DJ was spinning; mostly the likes of Iggy Pop, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, The Ramones and so on. Classic music along that vibe. Next thing I knew the guitarist is asking me If I play guitar, I reply yes. He hands me his Telecaster (plugged into a Vox amp which is cranking) As much as I love the aforementioned music I don’t play too well in that style but I obliged. Doing my best 12-bar-blues rock solo thing pretty poorly, but I tried to mix it up a bit.

I turn around to find a filling dance-floor and I start bumping into people; Iggy Pops “I Wanna Be Your Dog” comes on and I’ve got the song down in about 20sec (as I said I don’t play in that style at all) The PA is fighting against the sound coming from this 3-piece band that Im jamming in. Struggling to hear the song it’s probably sounding like complete ass but I don’t care and kick on for a good 30minutes to various tunes. Eventually we put the gear down and people start coming up to me at the bar. An Australian from Canberra even, I talk about travel plans and a few people reply; Is the band touring overseas too? How long have you guys been together? (They must have walked in late)

The bar was kicking, I enquired about the song selection and asked why different people were getting on stage. One girl said it was ‘A party’ I asked what the occasion was and got “No reason” as an answer. It’s a good an answer as any. Apparently the DJ decks were free reign, people had brought their own vinyl and cd’s and you could mix them up live. Naturally I pulled out my Iphone and played a track.

The vibe of Derori is one of people with a seasoned knowledge and love of the avante-garde and some classic rock and punk tunes. I could imagine Iggy himself rocking out here. I looked at the time and it was close to 2am, damnit I was supposed to meet someone at that place down the road. I didn’t want to leave all these cool people but I decided I’d come back later on. The bartenders and DJ’s and co were all occupied so I slipped out quietly.

A venue called Seco was the destination for a night called British Pavilion. It was a bigger venue with multiple DJ booths and a younger crowd of the Indie variety. It’s funny how I’ve traveled halfway around the world for the sounds of familiarity, but theres just nothing better to dance to. The door charge was kind of steep but included a free drink ticket so what the heck.

A short summary without going into details I met a bunch of awesome people one of which was one of the DJ’s dressed in an awesome avante-garde-steam-punk getup. He gave me like 4 free drink tickets for some reason over the night So I virtually didn’t pay for anything that night. One thing perplexes me about Japan, back home you have ‘promo girls’ right who are usually dressed in a companies gear and go around giving free samplers of said companies brews or sometimes not. This club featured 2 girls dressed as nurses and another as a playboy bunny all of which were serving shots for FREE, for apparently no other reason than to keep punters happy.

And boy was I happy. Damn damn damn the language barrier, that’s all I’ve got to say! It was like 6am and the venue had run its course, a bunch of cool indie songs, a bunch of cool people from all over town (and out of town) Everyone is really welcoming, I was probably the only gaijin in there but I felt at home.

Ok time to head home! Hold on what’s that I hear? Music coming from Derori, I head down to find it as I left it only the people are a little drunker. A different set of people jamming, Im sitting next to a rad looking spiked hair old rocker. A girl leans in and asks me If I know who I’m sitting next, I reply no. She says he’s a famous bass player from a big band in Japan. I’d guessed a much from the two girls either side of him. Derori has the feeling of that bar I’d talked about earlier called MOTHER, it has that sense of a bunch of friends running a bar and treating every night as a party to meet and make new friends and have a good time with them. You can’t buy that by throwing money at a venue. Why don’t they have places like this in Sydney?

I say bye to some friendly faces, It’s 7am Maccas breakfast time. Sitting there, face blankly staring at the wall. I could live somewhere between Sangenjaya and Shimokitazawa, a cool community a stones throw from the epic radness that is Shibuya. Hmmm.

MORE OVER AT FLICKR

MORE OVER AT FLICKR

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