We arrive just before 6am in Haneda airport, Tokyo, after a pretty sleepless trip but adrenaline has it’s own turbo-boosting effect and we’re both excited to be here. It’s nice to get here so early as it give’s us plenty of time to collect our selves and the gear, and to navigate the transport system.
Three trains and we are at Nakano station, a major transport conduit at the heart of the Nakano area, famous for manga animation and the Broadway. The Nakano Broadway is a massive complex of stores selling a million different plastic figurines from various characters of pop culture.
We walk from the train station to the backpackers where we are to camp for three days, ground central. It’s an easy 15 minute walk and a warm welcoming environment. We can check in at 11 but we’re able leave our bags and go and find something to do for a couple of hours.
We go and look for something to eat for breakfast/lunch. We have read about a vegetarian restaurant in the Broadway so go exploring. Nakano Broadway is massive. We walk round and round, past a million Ultra-Man, Godzilla, Totoro replicas hustling amongst a mountain of other items. We find the cafe but it seems closed, the curtain covering the doorway is down but there are people inside, maybe we’re early. We do another lap and when we return the curtain is still drawn. Poking into the curtain to inquire if they are opening, we are surprised to be invited in to what we discover is a cooking class of vegetarian cuisine.
Korbino, it’s a tiny restaurant, seating maybe 10-12 maximum and the class is of local women who have come to learn to cook Vietnamese-styled vegetarian food. It’s a cooking lesson full of laughter, and we are certainly part of the amusement, but it is mutual , warm and friendly. One of the women does wonderfully to translate for all of us there. The restaurant has been here for more than 30 years, and it seems the owner of the restaurant fled Vietnam under difficult circumstances. It’s a sobering moment amongst all the humour. There are tears and then laughter. We are not allowed to pay. An extraordinary introduction to Nakano and a remarkable first taste into this city.
We grab a few hours sleep before meeting Kaori, who has been brilliant in organising our three shows. She is the bass player for local group Goofy 18. Together we head off to the first venue.
Aja LiveBar, the first venue is about 1 kilometre down the road from the backpackers. It’s below the ground level, a tiny space, containing about 12 seats and a small corner seat with a lowered ceiling. It’s gonna be snug. We soundcheck and then go to get food from the 7Eleven down the road. These convenience stores are to be a significant feature of eating while in Tokyo. It super nice to see a couple of folk from Whanganui turn up and party with us.
It’s an evening of two-piece acts. Fudds are first, electric guitar and drums – a thoroughly solid and robust performance of driving guitar and rolling drums.
Goofy18 follow Fudds, this is Kaori’s group, and is a hefty drums/bass unit. Heavy affects on the bass envelop songs that are 1 big part dynamic punk, 1 part pop. Duel vocals with Motegi on the drum who smacks out the rhythms with force!
Next is 5W1H (pronounced Guo-W-Ichi-1) – swings with a harder Radiohead vibe, with less of the angst and more of the funk. It’s very cool with a definite nod to the manic side of local music.
Finally our turn, the first show in Tokyo. Getting changed is a challenge, the venues small, the bathroom smaller, imagine getting dressing in a single-door wardrobe. We do the deed and adrenaline sustains the day, we belt out our set and it’s warmly received with big enthusiasm.