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A week ago, we returned from an incredible tour of Japan, where we met many amazing people, ate much great food, and visited many fine record shops. For those of you in attendance, DOMO ARIGATO. For those who couldn’t make it, here’s some highlights.
Friday March 18th – Wah Wah, The Room, Shibuya (Tokyo)
The Room, like most venues we played at, is underground (literally and figuratively). If you weren’t looking for the Room, you wouldn’t find the Room. But this is not uncommon in Japan. Some of the best record stores we visited and restaurants we dined at were several floors above street level, with little more than a small placard to indicate what await. And like most venues we played at, the Room was the perfect size. Compact, cozy, but not crowded.
Saturday March 19th ONDO – Hiroshima
ONDO is a great little organic restaurant with a robust sound system and lively nightlife after hours. Entering through a laundromat, ONDO had the comfortable feel of your favorite neighborhood bar. A wall full of LPs, booths full of co-eds, and a bar full of trouble.
I should introduce to you Daisuke Kuroda (left), who organized our tour. Daisuke is a fantastic DJ, a respected collector, and quite literally the sweetest dude ever. Daisuke does not like to fly, and has only left Japan once for a rare-soul weekender in Germany. It was a privilege not only to meet Daisuke, but get to observe his technical proficiency, incredible selection, and stunning collection. Oh the bottle? That’s Lento; Shoju. Drink it in a high-ball glass with club soda and lemon. What do they eat in Hiroshima after guzzling a few bottles of this? This (Okonomiyaki):
Sunday March 20th Keith Flack – Fukuoka
We DJ’d in this freaky nightclub for the 6th anniversary of a party called Black Water Gold, which is a sensational cloister of English words. We shared the bill with Philadelphia disc jockey Skeme Richards, who, despite never smiling in photos, is a super nice guy! He’s been traveling to Japan to DJ once a year since 2008, which is a fantastic idea—we would like to do this also. Fukuoka is the birthplace of ramen, and also futuristic police stations and mad scientist lairs like the ones below.
Monday, March 21st West Harlem – Kyoto
We’d heard many globetrotters say that Kyoto was their favorite city in Japan, and so we were eager to see what the hype was about. Kyoto is very walkable, easy to navigate, has an abundance of temples and shrines to marvel at, and a laid back vibe that reminds us of… Vancouver, maybe? While enjoying some fresh air outside of the venue, I heard Don Cornelius’s voice declare, “Out of Durham, North Carolina, the Modulations. I traced the source to a neighboring bar called “Soul Bar – I Gotcha.”
Once I got inside, I discovered the owner and proprietor, alone, watching Soul Train re-runs. I spot a few boxes of 45s behind the counter and come to find out this fellow is one of the OG soul collectors in Japan. Go figure.
Mata ne, Kyoto.
Friday, March 25th Deep Enough Annex – Club Cactus, Tokyo
We come to find out that Daisuke had organized this event as a collector’s summit, featuring some of Japan’s most particular collectors. There is a term in Japan, “Otaku,” which refers to people who harbor obsessive interests and this was essentially an Otaku Invitational. People danced, and cheered, but they also observed, exhibiting intense interest and immense respect for each impossibly obscure record being played by each skilled selector. Once a record had finished spinning, folks would gather by the turntable to take a photo of the label for further research. Surely you saw this on our Instagram?
Saturday, March 26th Soul Renaissance – Soul Blood, Kobe
I’m going to have to give it up to Kobe for the most disastrous and chaotic record kiosks.
Soul Blood was kind of this magical little cantina on the 3rd floor of an office building, above a 7-11. Where else do the elevator doors open to reveal Daisuke Kuroda playing “You’re A Melody” by Aged In Harmony?
The next day, as we lugged our raggedy bones to the airport, we were overcome with emotion as a handful of new friends magically appeared at the airport to bid us farewell. Who does that? The warm and genuine citizens of Japan, that’s who.
We could never thank everyone, but we’ll start by sending a HUGE Kon’nichiwa to our hosts Seiji Shimizu, Takehira “Shimanzel” Shima, Masahiko Ono, Mr. Narukawa, and naturally, Daisuke Kuroda. A BIG Kon’banwa to our new friends Naoki Ienaga, Yusuke Ogawa, Genki Arai, Ryuhei “The Man” Teshirogi, Satoshi Moriwaki, Erika Kosaka, Makoto “Makatron” Nagatomo, Matt Jungblut, Skeme Richards, Yukari Baba, Takanori Hirano, Yoshihiko Imaru, and Ruminz. Otsukaresama to Yuki Doheny for sharing with us some of her and husband Ned’s favorite tourist attractions, and to Asaf Siegel for teaching us the word “Osusume” (“recommendation”) which indeed took us far at food spots. Finally, a MAJOR Domo Arigato to EVERYONE who came to the shows, pitched in, and showed love for the things we do here in Chicago. See you NEXT SPRING you crazy kids! If you see THIS MAN, buy him a drink (see below)!
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