Alive and Rocking – See Local Music at Nagoya’s Great Live Houses

ByBert Wishart
Feb 26, 2021

Alive and Rocking – See Local Music at Nagoya’s Great Live Houses

By way of a cursory look on Japanese television, you would be forgiven for believing that Japan’s music industry was an endless parade of identikit Johnny’s boy bands or sprawling AKB-48 affiliated girl groups. There is nothing wrong with this homogenous J-Pop, per se, but there has to be more to it than that.

And of course, there is, but you tend not to find it on TV or the stadium tour scene. Instead, you can find up-and coming-bands, aspiring independent artists, and veteran acts plying their trade in Japan’s rich and thriving live house scene.

In Japanese, the word ライブ [raibu, live] is a noun for what we might call a concert, show or gig – for example, one might say ‘I saw Tame Impala’s live yesterday,’ as opposed to ‘I saw Tame Impala’s live show, yesterday’ – and as such, a live house is similar to the club or gig circuit that artists might play in the US, UK or Australia.

Nagoya, in particular, has a thriving live house scene, with some fantastic venues at which to watch local bands, touring national artists, and even a fair few international acts. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and find your new favorite artist!

KD Japon

Hidden under the train tracks near Tsurumai Koen. KD Japon is probably my favorite live house, simply because of the quality of artists that you get there and the eclectic nature; you’re as likely to see a punk band as you are noodly folkies or psychedelic rockers, often all on the same bill.

It’s a tiny little place – so much so that you virtually have to cross the stage to get to the toilet – but that leads to real intimacy, as I once discovered when the lead singer of Otoboke Beaver wandered into the crowd and serenaded me, virtually nose-to-nose.

Where: 5 Chome-12-7 Chiyoda, Naka Ward, Nagoya (map)

Club Rock and Roll

Dark, dingy, and rough around the edges, Club Rock and Roll very much lives up to its name in the aesthetic respects. Also, living up to the name, it primarily showcases up-and-coming rock bands from the area, but you also get some national-level groups coming by.

Ceilings are low, so it can get a bit smokey, and while for me that adds to the authentic atmosphere, if you feel that you want to escape that, you can grab a seat at the bar and watch the acts from the TV before getting back to the throng.

Where: 1 Chome-8-12 Shinsakae, Naka Ward, Nagoya (map)

Huck Finn

The area around Imaike and Chikusa is very much live house territory, and Huck Finn is probably the scene’s central location. This year Huck Finn will be celebrating its 40th anniversary, and its longevity brings acts from all over the country, with some artists returning year after year.

Very much focusing on the rock world, Huck Finn draws some international acts and legendary Japanese bands. If you like your music loud and raucous, Huck Finn is the place for you.

Where: Nagoya, Chikusa Ward, Imaike, 5 Chome−19−7 Ishii Building (map)


However, if you are after a more sedate evening, Tokuzo – also in Imaike – could be more your scene. With a motto of ‘good booze, cheap food, and hip music,’ Tokuzo showcases more artists aimed at an older crowd than at Club Rock and Roll or Huck Finn.

Part of this is that there are tables and chairs from which you can order food and drinks rather than standing room only. Admittedly the food isn’t anything to write home about, but it is definitely a more relaxing way to watch music. Also, as there is a good chance that you’ll have to share a table, it’s a great way to meet new people with whom to share your appreciation for music.

Where: Nagoya, Chikusa Ward, Imaike, 1 Chome−6−8 Imaike Star Building 2F (map)

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About the author

Bert Wishart editor

Novelist, copywriter and graduate from the most prestigious university in Sunderland, Bert whiles away his precious time on this Earth by writing about popular culture, travel, food and pretty much anything else that is likely to win him the Pulitzer he desperately craves.

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