For those not into the usual Japanese holiday traditions of eating Christmas cake, watching the “Kohaku” music show on TV, and quiet nights with the family, luckily Japan’s rockers aren’t taking time off. December is filled with must-see gigs.
The party starts early with London-based rockers Bo Ningen returning to their homeland to promote a new EP and nationwide tour in 2012. The band will host a “Bo Nenkai” at Shibuya’s Echo (Dec. 16; 11 p.m.; ¥1,500), which is a pun on the word bōnenkai, the Japanese word for end-of-the-year party. The four band members will split into two separate duos to perform at the gig. Guest DJs will include Twee Grrrls Club DJ Sumire and members from the band Lillies and Remains. If that all-night affair is too late for you, Bo Ningen will also do an in-store performance at Tower Records (Dec. 17; 7 p.m.), as long as the boys don’t have hangovers.
Another show to watch will be Cuz Me Pain’s Jesse Ruins show at Shibuya Lush (Dec. 23; 11 p.m.; ¥1,500). The Tokyo-based Jesse Ruins recently signed with U.S. label Captured Tracks, and this will be his band’s first live performance. As a bedroom producer who generates his tracks on a computer, it’ll be interesting to see how (and if) he performs them on stage. Guest DJs include The Beauty .
For those into Japanese rock, “Live DI:GA Judgement 2011″ takes place at various venues in Tokyo, but the one to watch will be at Club Quattro (Dec. 30-31; 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.; ¥3,000 [for day one], ¥3,500 [for day two] in advance). A great collection of bands are on the bill including Sebastian X and White Ash on the first day, and Man with a Mission, 0.8 Byou to Shogeki and Owarikara on the second day. Man with a Mission did especially well this year, releasing their eponymous debut album on Crown Records. Word of warning: Their wolf masks will have you thinking it’s still Halloween.
Bangyaru (girls into Visual-kei bands) face a tough choice as both “Stylish Wave Count Down” at the LaForet Museum in Roppongi (Dec. 31; 3:30 p.m.; ¥5,250) and “Over the Edge ’11″ at Shibuya’s Shibuko (Dec. 31; 2 p.m.; ¥12,000 in advance) both feature solid lineups. “Stylish Wave” boasts Vistlip, v(NEU) and R Shitei. “Over the Edge” has nabbed Mucc, Girugamesh and Merry. In the end, it might be price that ends up being the deciding factor.
Rockers in Kansai won’t be stuck at home either. Radio station FM802 hosts its third “New Year’s Radio Crazy” event at Intex Osaka (Dec. 29-30; 12 noon; ¥7,800 [one-day pass], ¥14,500 [two-day pass]). Well-known acts such as Tamio Okuda, Kaela Kimura, The Hiatus and The Bawdies will share the stage with up-and-comers such as andymori and Sekai no Owari presenting a good chance to discover new artists. If the ticket price is too expensive for you, check out Hotel Mexico and Moscow Club at Club Nuooh (Dec. 29; 6 p.m.; ¥2,000 in advance). Nuooh is becoming somewhat of an indie-music hub in Osaka, so expect the accompanying DJs to spin Pitchfork-approved favorites from 2011.
If you’ve gone up north with the hopes of a white Christmas, check out Kinoko Hotel at Sound Lab mole (Dec. 25; 7 p.m.; ¥2,800) in Sapporo.
Finally, punk fans in Fukuoka can catch J-punk heavyweights Laughin’ Nose as part of their “Dead Rock Day Tour” at Fukuoka CB (Dec. 23; 6 p.m.; ¥2,800 in advance). It’ll be a good chance to check out some true punk pioneers.