Best Tokyo area jazz joints

Not sure where to get your groove on in Tokyo and surrounds? Let James Catchpole show you the way
Jazz Spot Intro | Time Out Tokyo
Getting groovy at Intro
By Time Out Tokyo Editors |
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The jazz scene spread throughout the Tokyo metropolitan area (Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokohama, Chiba, Saitama and the various satellite cities) is diverse and exciting, but can be intimidating to the uninitiated and often hard to navigate. There are easily over 50 jazz gigs on any given night, while great vinyl is played at hundreds of other jazz bars across the city. Knowing where to go to find what you are looking for takes a bit of investigating. Below is a small sample of six unique, must-visit jazz spots that provide a bit of everything for the dedicated fan.

Superb jazz joints

Music

Jazz Spot Intro

icon-location-pin Takadanobaba

Intro is narrow and cramped, even by Tokyo standards where almost every bar is small and ‘intimate’. A basement jazz bar just minutes from Takadanobaba Station on busy Waseda-dori, Intro is a perfect neighbourhood hangout that always welcomes newcomers. There is live music three to four nights a week, but it’s more of a casual ‘drop in and play’ affair than a polished gig experience...

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Eigakan

icon-location-pin Hakusan

One of the most distinctive jazz spots in the Tokyo metro area, ‘Eigakan’ means movie theatre in Japanese. The owner Yoshida-san has a background in documentary films and originally rented the space so he and his pals had a spot to project films in. Over time it slowly transformed into the beautifully cluttered jazz bar it is today...

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Pit Inn

icon-location-pin Shinjuku-Nichome

Pit Inn in Shinjuku is a must-visit for any jazz fan in Tokyo. It has history, ambience and a consistently excellent lineup of the best domestic and foreign jazz musicians nightly. Unlike some bigger-name jazz clubs around the world, Pit Inn maintains a focus on the music. All seats face the stage, menus are minimal and the reverential atmosphere is not conducive to business talk or idle chitchat...

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Meg

icon-location-pin Kichijoji

Jazz kissaten (cafés) used to be everywhere in Japan when vinyl was expensive and the ritual was to spend a few hours in a café listening to the latest releases while nursing a coffee or tea. Many of these great cafés have long gone, but Meg continues the tradition; sipping a coffee while listening to jazz come out of Meg’s famous, incredible-sounding red speakers, is a uniquely Japanese jazz experience...

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DownBeat

icon-location-pin Yokohama

DownBeat opened in 1956 and maintains its old port-side, dark and edgy jazz vibe. DB is hard to find – look out for the red awning – but once you are in you’ll be greeted with a bar counter that hooks around in an L shape; facing the door is a small booth with turntables and loads of neatly stacked vinyl, and to the left a larger rectangular space with booths facing two speakers. The music spun covers the entire history of jazz so be prepared for anything...

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About the author

James Catchpole runs Tokyo Jazz Site, a comprehensive guide to the city's jazz joints, as well as the weekly OK Jazz podcast.

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