Finding Tokyo’s Soul Scene

Aug 31, 2019

Japanese artistic culture is distinct and amazing; the origins, evolutions and genres that exist here could take a lifetime to explore. One amazing aspect here is how western arts are given homage to, and aggrandize here in Japan. It is an uniquely Japanese esthetic.  Funk and Flow can be found in the many Soul Cafes all throughout Tokyo. These places are miniature monuments to Motown, R&B, Ska, and  Soul music. However these places are not museums where R&B is placed on a shelf, is dusted off,  fawned over for a while, then put back, but more then that ; I found scenes that were new and engaging with a mixture of sounds, scenery, and artistry that were both retro and completely brand new. One of the first things one notices is how no two places look or feel the same. From the displays of albums covers, band posters, paintings and art works from the 60’s and 70’s; one can be visually and sensationally time warped into a different area and a different frame of mind.  The music played in these venues give the listener an opportunity to shed off the syncopated repetition of the home to work, to home again pattern of the day in day out, weekly, monthly, structure of the professional grind.  The music amassed  in these audio athenaeums reflect each bar’s passion and the staff’s prolific musical knowledge create a phonic fun house where one can feel the highest of joy, laughter and love; to  humbling of sorrows, redemption and struggles of the blues, or the political philosophy and social story telling of verse and rhyme that were of the rhythm of soul music and R & B of yesteryear; but that also all too reflective and meaningful in today’s world. 
These venues are very much like local Izakiyas (small Mom and Pop drinking holes), hidden snuggly in off the street coves, with entrances winding down under street level; or out of view overhead looking down on the unknowing streets below.  But unlike some of the smaller local drinking holes, the Soul Cafes are always foreigner friendly, no matter your Japanese level, you will be greeted with a warmth and hospitality that Japan and the Soul scene are both famous for.  

Bar Soul Stream 
Pres Jazz Bar 
soul music bar OHIO
Soul music bar BUM