Over the last few years, Tokyo’s club scene has been hampered by the nation’s fueiho laws, or anti-dancing rules. Although the capital wasn’t hit as hard by these restrictions—which required nightclubs to close down by midnight—as other Japanese cities, Tokyo’s nightlife did suffer. Police clamped down on a variety of venues, many catering to fans of music. Yet earlier this year, those laws were revised so clubs could stay open later and continue to play music without fear of a visit from law enforcement. Those fond of all-nighters, rejoice.
Coincidentally (or not), 2016 has seen several new music-centric venues open up across Tokyo. Spurred on by a boom in live music, these new spots have helped expand the city’s nightlife options, each one offering its own character and highlighting a mix of styles to clubgoers living in or visiting the metropolis. Here are some of the more notable entries to emerge in the city over the past 12 months.
Operated by the same company previously in charge of Shibuya club Air, Contact caters to the same underground techno and house clientele that used to be regulars at the old hotspot. Since opening this past spring, the basement venue has attracted some of the more buzzed-about names in the electronic dance community, including Floating Points and Black Coffee. The organizers behind the space hope those that come can get lost in the music, to the point that they forget about snapping pictures or checking messages on their phone. Recommended for serious dance fans, 20 years and older.
Noteworthy December Show: Fumiya Tanaka and Cabanne, Dec 22
Speaking of Air…the recently opened Sankeys TYO occupies the exact same subterranean spot, with the upstairs cafe now housing the Cuban-fusion restaurant Cafe Habana. The name comes from long-running Manchester club Sankeys, but the actual lineups they put together skew pretty closely to what Air used to do, with a variety of house and techno acts playing all night in the Daikanyama neighborhood. Sankeys TYO also occasionally puts on live shows earlier in the evening, but it’s the night time programming that should get you out. www.sankeystokyo.info
Noteworthy December Show: Julian Perez, Satoshi Otsuki and more, Dec 17
Shibuya’s WWW has become one of the top spots for rock and electronic music over the last few years. This fall, the venue expanded by opening WWW X on the fourth floor of the same building, complete with a cozy lounge area and bar space. The main floor space features ample room to watch artists on stage and dance around, whether you are checking out a rock group, a DJ or even an idol group doing their thing. WWW X has its finger on the pulse of the city’s music scene. www-shibuya.jp/schedule/#wwwx
Noteworthy December Show: Shugo Tokumaru, Dec 11
Circus Osaka has been one of Kansai’s best spots for electronic music over the last few years, and late last year a Tokyo branch opened in Shibuya (which, if you can’t tell from this list, is where this new boom is unfolding). Like its forefather in the west, Circus Tokyo is a relatively intimate space, which makes it great for indie-leaning artists. The spot primarily hosts techno acts, though it’s also a hotspot for wonkier bass artists and other performers who have come to attention in the age of SoundCloud. But certain days might also see Circus hosting a J-pop show, an evening of Chicago juke or even an idol concert. circus-tokyo.jp/en
Noteworthy December Show: FaltyDL, Dec 9