The concept of Music Day Japan was borrowed from Fe^te de la Musique, a vast free music festival held in France on the summer solstice. Founding the festival in 1982, the French cultural ministry has made sure that the wide range of music on offer consistently crosses generational boundaries.
Music Day 2006, now in its ninth year here, features around 250 bands performing in eight cities across Japan, including at about 30 venues in Tokyo — from in-store performances at Shimokitazawa’s High Line Records to bigger venues like Shibuya Ax. The Japanese event is not formally affiliated with the French one (although there was an official Osaka Fe^te de la Musique in 2004), and differs in that most of the performances take place on May 4 and aren’t free. Nevertheless, it follows the same basic structure of numerous live shows that showcase pretty much every kind of music Japan has to offer, with an emphasis on little-known bands.
While the events are concentrated in and around Tokyo, there are also shows happening in Nagoya, Osaka and Okinawa. Lovers of Tokyo’s experimental underground scene should check out the avant-garde postpunk duo Kirihito at Shibuya O-Nest or instrumental funk punkers 54-71 at Shibuya Eggman. Those whose tastes run a bit closer to the mainstream will be interested in an affiliated event, Arabaki Music Festival in Miyagi Prefecture, where the likes of rock veteran Kiyoshiro Iwamano, the long-running indie band Acidman and the ever-popular Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra will be playing April 29-30.
Music Day has an environmental theme, so it will also include an outdoor show at Komazawa Olympic Park from midday on May 4, where no doubt people with flowers in their hair and wistful expressions on their faces will play acoustic music to the trees and make “peace” signs.