When we hear the notes bellow from a saxophone in a lustful kind of way, or we watch as the musician make the sexiest, up-tempo music sing out of the piano, our minds wander to the origins of jazz and blues in the deep south of the USA. And while jazz holds strong roots in southern cities such as New Orleans, music knows no language boundaries and has spread across the globe and into the hearts of millions of listeners and musicians alike. Tokyo, Japan is on the list of growing hotspots in the jazz scene. So, where will you go to listen on your next trip to Tokyo? We have the guide to the best jazz joints in Tokyo here just for you!
At its peak in the fifties and seventies, there were over 600 jazz cafés around Japan where customers would spend hours listening to albums while sipping coffee and tea. But as the digital age has grown, the number of these cafés has decreased. Kissa Seikatsu is one of the few remaining in Tokyo and is an escape from the bustling city outside. With only 12 seats and bags of freshly imported coffee beans from Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Indonesia, there are piles of jazz vinyls from the greats to lesser-known names.
The not-to-miss bar Sometime is a great place to end your night after hoping in and out of the many jazz venues in Tokyo’s Kichijoji neighborhood. There’s no stage at Sometime, so musicians play in the center of the room. Watch from the bar or from the loft above. On most evenings, expect to see three sets with performances beginning at 7 p.m. And if a night out isn’t what you’re looking for, stop by for Sunday brunch and a live jazz session.
Named after the iconic Harlem club that became famous during the 1920s prohibition era, Tokyo’s Cotton Club tries to bring back the glam of jazz in those days. While famous names such as Ella Fitzgerald or Duke Ellington won’t walk through Tokyo’s Cotton Club doors, other famous names such as Rita Coolidge and Itō Takeshi (T-SQUARE) already have. Enjoy a meal featuring French cuisine along with your choice from an excellent selection of beer, wine, spirits, and liquor.
Open for daytime and evening shows, Pit Inn focuses on showcasing the best jazz in the ”smoky, no-frills venue” which has been open for more than 40 years. It’s a jazz bar for the true music lover; all the chairs and small tables face the stage and when the music begins, the chatter dies down and guests pay attention to every note orchestrated by the band members. Mostly mainstream musicians and international talent play the stage at Pit Inn.
Whether you’re visiting Japan for the jazz festival in September or simply would like to listen to some jazz on your next visit, we hope we could bring you some awesome suggestions from neighborhoods to specific bars.