Explore one of Tokyo’s most indie neighborhoods at Shimokitazawa Sound Cruising

by Ian Martin

Special To The Japan Times

Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa neighborhood is one of the most important places for indie music in the city. A lively suburb at the nexus between the Inokashira and Odakyu train lines, it’s just distant enough from the big urban hubs of Shinjuku and Shibuya to avoid being absorbed by them, but close enough that it’s relatively easy to access from pretty much anywhere. However, like much of the Tokyo indie scene, knowing where to go and what to see can be perplexing.

Enter Shimokitazawa Sound Cruising, with more than 100 artists playing all day and all night in 15 venues around the neighborhood, curious fans can afford to dip their toes into many parts of the indie scene, all for the price of one ticket. Quirky punk-pop trio Shonen Knife are one of the better-known bands performing, but if you want your off-kilter punk a little more intense, Tadzio overlap them just a couple of minutes down the road, or if you want something more candy-coated, idol group Dempagumi.inc are also playing nearby. Chiina provide a more sophisticated brand of pop, with their exuberant melodies and complex, progressive arrangements, while prog-rock instrumentalists Lagitagida provide some of the most excessive and intense, free-wheeling guitar acrobatics you’ll ever see.

The nighttime section of the event is biased toward electronic and dance acts, although Mitsume’s imaginative new wave-influenced indie is a must-see for all fans of offbeat pop. Fans of something a bit noisier would be well advised to check out Wrench. It’s dance music that rules the night though, with the breezy, tropical technopop of De De Mouse and the electropop of 80Kidz sure to be among the biggest draws, and Kyoto’s Second Royal Records providing Halfby and Handsomeboy Technique, as well as electro rockers Ana to the lineup.

It’s a pretty hefty walk from venues like Three and Basement bar at one end of the neighborhood and Fever over on the other side, but plan well and there’s such a variety on offer at Shimokitazawa Sound Cruising that you’ll be sure to find something.

Shimokitazawa Sound Cruising Vol. 2 takes place in two parts, day and night, on May 25. Starting times vary. An all-day pass costs ¥6,000, daytime passes cost ¥3,800 in advance, and nighttime passes cost ¥3,500 in advance (passes cost ¥500 extra on the day). For more information, visit www.soundcruising.jp.