New Connections Between Music and Lifestyle

Many people consider Shimokitazawa to be Tokyo’s “Music Town”. More than fifteen live houses (venues for live music) can be found within ten minutes walk from the station, while the offices of influential recording labels and major music media are also located in the area. Going back to the ‘90s, the opening of Kitazawa Town Hall saw the launch of World Music Festival in Shimokitazawa (now known as Shimokitazawa Music Festival), which remains a popular event today. Meanwhile, the local label Highline Records (1997-2008) helped launch groups such as Bump of Chicken, which led to the rise of the Shimokita-kei genre. Since the early ‘10s multi-venue events such as Shimokitazawa Indie Fanclub and Shimokitazawa Sound Cruising have gained popularity as the area continues to give rise to new music culture.

The large number of theatres has also seen Shimokitazawa labelled as “Theatre Town”, while the area is also known for its many vintage and secondhand clothing shops. However the sinking of the Odakyu train line in 2013 and subsequent redevelopment of the station precinct has contributed to soaring land prices. The area continues to undergo changes, with last year seeing the closure of a number of longstanding, well-loved venues including the 25 year old live house Shimokitazawa Yaneura; the kissaten Boofoowoo; and the famous takoyaki shop Osaka-ya. In the wake of these closures, the increasing number of chain shores has left many people with a sense of loneliness.

Having worked as the manager of Shelter, the well-established live house with a history second only to Yaneura, and with an increased sense of purpose upon entering his 30s, Hitoshi Nishimura opened Fever in was March 2009. The area he chose was Shindaita, one stop down the Keio Inokashira Line from Shimokitazawa. With the exception of the ramen shops that line Kannana Dori, it is more residential neighbourhood than tourist destination. In fact, when Fever opened, the train station was second only to Inokashira-koen as the least utilised station on the Inokashira Line. And so why did Nishimura decide to set up in Shindaita?

A live house where people of all ages can spend the day. A record shop-cum-standing bar where musicians – even those represented by major labels – can simply enjoy the company of their friends.

The signs of change in Shindaita are reflective of a new relationship between music and lifestyle in Japan. In the past, the dream of becoming a professional was the driving force for musicians to keep going, but time has brought about change. It’s now becoming more possible for music-lovers – listeners included – to pursue music for many years. So while Shimokitazawa is likely to remain the so-called “Music Town” for many years to come, Shindaita may increasingly become an alternate destination, just one stop down the Inokashira Line.

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