Tokyo venues thinking outside the box

October 11th, 2009 by Jason Jenkins


Great music has the ability to transport you to a different place. Sometimes quite literally. Over the last few months, some interesting aural performances have been happening in venues that are not known for – or built for – live music.

One example is the Soundgardening series (pictured above) happening in the teahouse of Kiyosumi Teien in Kiyosumi Shirakawa. Like Shinjuku Gyoen, Kiyosumi Teien is a manicured garden with a traditional tea house overlooking its koi-filled pond. Artist Philippe Chatelain turns this quiet setting into a private listening area for digital musicians to create and share. Each member of the audience is provided with a champagne tasting (from sponsor Laurent-Perrier) and a pair of headphones. Like the Silent Disco of this summer, Soundgardening performances happen only in the ears of those present so that the ducks and cranes (and neighbors) a few paces away remain undisturbed.

Another unlikely venue for experimental sounds is Highti, a run-down storehouse in the east-end of suburban Tokyo’s no-man’s-land. Highti is quite the opposite of a manicured garden: the entrance is up dusty wooden stairs strewn with cardboard boxes, the mismatched chairs include a few mannequin torsos and the surrounding particle-wood doors open into the bedrooms of artists and designers who live there. There’s a paper cup at the entrance to place your ¥500 entrance fee, and the makeshift bar sells drinks, grilled cheese and avocado sandwiches for ¥300 each.

What both venues do have in common is a sense of intimacy. The Soundgardening shows sell only 35 tickets, and due to the location and experimental nature of Highti shows, the crowds tend to be small and passionate.

What other unlikely venues have you discovered in Japan? Add them in the comments.


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