It a wonderful thing to wake in a new and unknown place, when you are there voluntarily and with willing. And we are both of those things
Our plan is to meet with Motegi, drummer for Goofy18, and to get lunch at a local udon cafe. It’s a short walk to the tiny, beautiful and bustling cafe where we wait in line outside till a table is free. When a space becomes available we find ourselves sitting looking directly into the kitchen where we can watch the kitchen staff all fulfill their role in the assembly of spectacular food. It does not disappoint. Afterwards the plan is an afternoon of slow mooching among the crowds of thousands. So we head back up to Nakano Broadway and meet a few more of Motegi’s friend. We go up and down the levels looking at all manner Manga and anime characters, interspersed with food, fashion and some freaky items. It’s a cool place.
The afternoon concludes and we must prepare for the next show. Soundcheck, or 30 minute rehearsal times as is the expected norm here, are tightly scheduled and ours is at 6pm in a bar in the Waseda district. Our soundcheck is at the end of the schedule as we’re the first band to kick the event off. So we part company with those at the markets and head back to the backpackers to gather all our stuff, then spin through the city towards Waseda to the venue on the trains.
Waseda RiNen is another underground venue. It’s been open about 6 months. We kick off the evening in usual fashion, it’s a nice explosive set. Its hard to gauge if a band like ours often plays at a place like this, but what we offer is enthusiastically received.
Next is Papalion. A psychedelic rock trio playing tight original compositions with a nod to the late 60’s, and at other times it sounds like a strong confident nod to the US band The Meatpuppets…at least thats what we think.
Following is Haiti from Limbo. A larger band, 5-piece, with a harder mid-70’s groove, however the drummer played with the attack of a committed metalhead – all power and mightily solid.
The last act for the evening is Danzetsu-koryu. They sound somewhere between a harder rock and roll monster, The Monkees and late 90’s grunge rock. The singer guitarist plays ballad-folk-like tunes and then collapses in to a wall of hearty riffs, a spritely bass player moves all over the fretboard and a powerhouse of a drummer smacks seven shades of shit out of the skins. Immense Fun! A pleasantly diverse evening of sound. We leave to the sounds of Leonard Cohen droning from the bar PA.
We amble back through midnight Tokyo to find a fast-food joint to eat hot chips on the footpath before rest. Waking to the last day, we collect ourselves and meet with Motegi again for more food before we make our way across town to the last show.
The venue JAM in the area of Nishie-Fuke is flash! Impressive P.A, super helpful stage staff, and the biggest venue to date. We will be the last of five acts.
Opening the evening up is Goofy18, playing to a room of friends. Kaori has been key organiser for this tour, and alongside these shows has orchestrated a battalion of takoyaki cooks for this night. Takoyaki are small round pan-fried balls mostly of octopus, but theres a selection of vegetarian takoy[less]aki as well, to be cooked outside the performance space – popular and delicious. Goofy18 set is hampered by some early technical issues with the bass, but the lack of sound is swiftly remedied and the party begins in full.
Second up is Haigan. A massive band, two guitarists, bass, electronics, drummer, trumpet and two vocals. A loud confrontation assault of improvised death-mental/grindcore/manic escalating wall on wall of noise and howls, screams, roars of vocals. A Boredoms 2.0. Frenetic and never static. It’s an intoxicating tsunami of sounds, except these are ecstatic waves and we feel fully exhilarated afterwards.
Next is the Electric Mongoose U.F.O Factory, a 6-piece unit with two kit drummers, a tap-dancer to add additional percussion, bass, guitar and electronics. A wildly impressive instrumental group playing tight, complex and insanely groovy tunes, the tap-dancer front and centre stage directing time-signatures to the band to respond to immediately, mixing up the 3s, 4s 7s, 5s and more.
NA/DA is forth is the line-up. Drums, gat/vocals, and cello. A darker gothesque brooding set. Trying to find references to describe what they sound like we come up with a reference point somewhere between the Cocteau Twins and Nine Inch Nails, maybe a bit of the repetition of a Philip Glass track, a sniff of Joy Division.
Then our turn. It’s a real pleasure to play on such top quality equipment. We plan a more assertive set given the context of some of the other acts. And it delivers, the new songs are really finding there feet and punch. Encore is also an order of the day, it’s a gleeful end to a short tour of Tokyo. Afterwards we meet loads of folk on the floor, we manage to sell almost all the quota of merch we budgeted for this leg. Then we have beer, and more Takoyaki, and many swift introductions and departures, but with the hopeful conversations that we will meet again mid-next year when we plan to return.
It’s late when we get back to the backpackers. We have to pack before grabbing four hours sleep before heading back to the trains to the airport. We need to be up early to navigate, and hopefully avoid the worst of, the ascend rush hour traffic. Next stop Seoul.
Massive THANKS to Kaori Ogasawara for the fine organizing,and to Motegi Su for sharing the lunch-times with us. We hope to see Goofy18 in NZ one day.
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.