Meet Sumiko Iwamuro, the eternal DJ

Mari Hiratsuka
Written by
Mari Hiratsuka

'I'd be perfectly happy to die in the DJ booth – or the kitchen,' says 82-year-old Sumiko Iwamuro, aka DJ Sumirock, the oldest active DJ in the world. A born-and-bred Tokyoite, Iwamuro spends her days cooking at Gyozaso Muro, a traditional Takadanobaba dumpling eatery opened by her father in the early postwar years, but occasionally heads for the clubs after dark.

Iwamuro got into DJing after getting to know Frenchman Adrian le Danois, the organiser of club nights including Tokyo Decadance, who was renting a room at her place. After checking out a few events together with Le Danois, she rapidly developed an interest in spinning and started practicing at home.

With music already in her blood – her father was a jazz man in his day – Iwamuro decided to hone her craft further at the IDPS DJ school, and now plays at one or two Tokyo clubs every month.

Being from Takadanobaba, a neighbourhood forever associated with manga legend Osamu Tezuka, Iwamuro always takes the booth to the theme from Tezuka’s classic 'Astro Boy'.

Known for powerful, age-defying sets that see her juggling everything from orthodox techno to EDM, Sumirock is tirelessly aiming for even greater heights. 'Mixing is still difficult for me, so I’m trying to get better at it,' she says.

Already quite the celebrity in Tokyo club circles – the last time we saw her play, scores of fans gathered to hug her and one eager admirer even had a Sumirock photo plastered on their trousers – Iwamuro is now set to go global.

Having made her international debut in New Zealand earlier this year, she is aiming for an even bigger stage: 'My dream going forward is to DJ in New York,' she smiles. Sounds like gyoza-making is going to have to take a back seat for now.

Catch Sumirock at Tokyo Decadance and other events across Tokyo, or visit her at: Gyozaso Muro. 1-33-2 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku (Takadanobaba Station). 03 3209 1856. 5pm-10pm, closed Sun.

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