Tokyo manages to be both incredibly mainstream and totally underground at the same time. The city brings together hundreds of thousands of people at openair festivals and Jpop concerts, but also just a handful of fans at one of the many gigs that take place at intimate venues every night. Follow us into the heart of Tokyo’s nightlife with these five great spots to go out.
SuperDeluxe: An alternative space with Tokyo Ale
SuperDeluxe began as Deluxe – a renovated garage transformed into a shared office used by various creative people including artist Namaiki, the architects of Klein Dytham Architecture, and Tokyo Ale – one of the earliest beers to emerge in the Tokyo craft beer scene. At some point, the people of Tokyo Ale started to organize live music events by night at Deluxe, transforming it into architecture and design office by day and live music venue by night. Deluxe then relocated one block from the Roppongi Hills Complex in the center of Roppongi and became SuperDeluxe.
Dedicated to experimental and alternative creations, SuperDeluxe now hosts various events almost every day: from avant-garde pop, electronica, improvised music, alternative theatre, and hula hoop nights to audio/video and other underground events. Check out their monthly PechuKucha night, where artists showcase 20 images of their work, each for 20 seconds. And, of course, you have to try out the Tokyo Ale — a local favorite.
Nishiazabu 3-1-25-B1F, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031
〒106-0031 東京都港区西麻布3-1-25 B1F
Forestlimit: A concert venue with a very alternative vibe
Forestlimit is a particularly alternative studio and bar that hosts regular events. The interior design is very DIY, reinforcing its artistic identity. From DJ evenings to noise music gigs, the venue organizes unique performances that lie at the crossroads of musical genres. But far from being just a music venue, Forestlimit has also housed exhibitions, debates and all kinds of cultural get-togethers, a showroom for Japanese synthesizer module vendor Clockface Modular Store, dance lessons from the company Baby-Q, and much more.
Hatagaya K3 Building B1F, 2-8-15 Hatagaya, Shibuya-ku Tokyo 151-0072
〒151-0072 東京都渋谷区幡ヶ谷2-8-15 幡ヶ谷K3ビル B1F
DOMMUNE: 21st century nightclub
DOMMUNE is the brainchild of Naohiro Ukawa, an artist known for his poignant visual works, and boasts the first live-streaming channel and studio in Japan. Since opening in 2010, DOMMUNE has been broadcasting online talk shows dedicated to subculture, social matters and underground music Monday through Thursday nights from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Then, from 9 p.m. to midnight, cutting-edge DJs and musicians perform a live show at the DOMMUNE studio in front of a lucky audience – which is also broadcasted online! From veterans Jeff Mills or Derrick May to the new prodigy from London SBTRKT – all the big names of electro, underground and experimental music come to DOMMUNE when they’re in Tokyo. In a city where nightclubs are so tiny that most of them can barely accommodate a dozen people, DOMMUNE can’t compete for the title of smallest nightclub in Tokyo. But with a maximum capacity of 50 it will enable you to see electro, techno and alternative music stars in an intimate setting.
DOMMUNE studio is located a 15 to 20-minute walk from Shibuya Station. Don’t forget to make a reservation via their website before you go, although sometimes, if there is still space, you can enter without one. Their program is often put together at the very last minute, so check their website and Twitter page frequently when you’re in Tokyo. If you can’t find information you’re looking for, try sending an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, if you really can’t get in, there’s always the live online stream!
4-6-5-B1F Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0011
〒150-0011 東京都渋谷区東 4-6-5 サンライズビルB1F
Mona Records: Charming home of girlie pop and rock
A café, record shop, and live performance space spread over two floors (2F for the café and record store and 3F for the live space), Mona Records is the brainchild of Ultra Vybe, one of the biggest music distributors in Japan. The café looks like a haven of peace with its cute illustrated walls and homemade food and pastries. It’s the favorite hangout both for girls who love cute things and for a typical local crowd with plenty of rock-n-roll hair styles. As a record shop, it also offers a nice selection of Japanese indie pop with a special focus on girl bands.
To find Mona Records in the crowded and jumbled streets of Shimokitazawa (nicknamed “Shimokita”), one of Tokyo’s coolest neighborhoods, glance up and look for the signs nailed to each corner of the street.
Ina Building 2F & 3F, 2-13-5 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku Tokyo 155-0031
〒155-0031 東京都世田谷区北沢2-13-5 伊奈ビル2F&3F
Ftarri: Improvised music and BYOB
Located near Tokyo Dome in Suidobashi, Ftarri is an intimate venue and record store specializing in improvised and experimental music from Japan and abroad. The owner, Yoshiyuki Suzuki, has also been running the website Improvised Music from Japan as well as several related labels for more than 15 years. The venue is BYOB, so don’t forget to bring a bottle of your favorite booze. The store also sells unique merchandise including one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories by The Medium Necks and other independent artists.
It’s a bit hidden on the B1 floor, so look for the Konpira-jinjan Shrine in front of the building as your landmark.
Okano Bldg. B1 Floor, 1-4-11 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033
〒113-0033 東京都文京区本郷1-4-11 岡野ビル B1F
Discover more alternative and cultural spots in Tokyo with our city guide Indie Guides Tokyo.