Koenji, known as a kind of bohemian neighbourhood in which to buy used clothes, visit strange cafés and view the Awa Odori festival once a year, has a long history as one of Tokyo’s focal points for punk, psychedelic and otherwise odd rock. Live venues in Koenji come in all shapes and sizes, from the (relatively) upscale Koenji High, where (relatively) famous bands are known to play a show or two, to Enban, a record store/live house that could cram in about ten people if it really tried. If you’re feeling the itch to visit Koenji, the following venues are not to be missed.
Also see: Best clubs in Tokyo by music genre
Located near the Seiyu supermarket on the south side of Koenji Station, Knock is housed in the underground space previously occupied by club One—in fact, years after taking over, they still haven't gotten around to changing the signboard outside. That's a clue to the general vibe of the venue: hosting events with names like ‘Laid Back Thursday Lounge’, Knock is a chilled-out space where DJs spin vaporwave, dub, house and other slow tunes, with occasional live acts kicking up the tempo a notch. Knock is generally known as reliable and reasonably-priced place to grab some after-work drinks and discover leftfield electronic music.
This quirky space on the north side of Koenji Station has been steadily gaining attention since it opened back in 2016. Known first and foremost as a hotel with rooms designed by local artists (BnA stands for ‘Bed and Art’), BnA also hosts frequent music events. The front deck/bar on the first floor is equipped with turntables, where local DJs, artists and other Koenjiites can regularly be spotted spinning tunes – while surrounded by local art projects. The basement, meanwhile, is home to another tiny gallery space that somehow manages to squeeze in live bands on the regular. Talk about up close and personal.
The Tokyo branch of a group of music-centric cafés in Indonesia, SUBstore's brand of Southeast Asian cool found the perfect home in Koenji when it opened up in 2016. Located in a building just off the promenade under the rails, SUBstore is a blend of everything you come to Koenji for in the first place: it's a record store, bookstore, coffee shop, bar and live venue all rolled into one. Oh, and don't forget the authentic Indonesian cuisine courtesy of co-owner Andhika Faisal. The space hosts both DJ nights and live acts from within and outside Japan, and, along with BnA, has quickly become one of the prime spots in Koenji for tourists and other expats to mingle with music-loving locals.
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