While 3 million people stream through Meiji Jingu Shrine Dec. 31, a smaller number of devotees will be worshipping in their own musical way at Tokyo’s jazz meccas. In an event that’s become something of a tradition now, New Year’s Eve means all night jams in Tokyo’s many jazz clubs. Starting around 7 p.m. and ending after dawn, waves of musicians cram onstage to ring out and ring in with great live music.

This one evening is always a treat because most musicians, whose schedules are often tight through the year, get a chance at last to jam with old bandmates, as well as longtime associates. There’s an atmosphere reminiscent of those areas of U.S. cities where musicians could once check out each other during breaks by just walking down the street. And fans could always be assured of catching a series of great players every night out.

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