Finding music in Japan can be a nightmare, and the live-music scene in particular is notoriously difficult to penetrate. Tucked away in the basements and upper floors of anonymous buildings, often in seedy parts of town, where the neighbors will be less likely to raise complaints against noise and loitering, with websites that update schedules only a few days before the actual events and that rarely link to any of the artists performing, live venues are like a hidden world open only to those who know the secret handshake.
Leaving this weekend's Punkspring to the kids, Japan's actual punk scene is a hidden world within a hidden world. Events often hop from venue to venue depending on where organizers can get the best deals, or they take place in cramped, sweaty rehearsal studios. However, punks can also be extremely loyal once they find a place they feel at home, and most towns in Japan have one or two venues — the walls plastered with black and white photocopied posters, the smell of beer, sweat and years of dust soaked into the walls and floor — that can be relied on to have regular punk shows.
In Tokyo, there are plenty of excellent punk venues, such as Moon Step in Nakano, but Shinjuku is the undisputed core of the scene. It was at Shinjuku Loft in the late 1970s that punk kicked off in Japan in earnest, and while Loft has now changed its location and diversified its sound, venues such as Antiknock, Urga, EarthDom in neighboring Shin-Okubo and Wall in nearby Hatsudai are regularly throbbing to the lowlife sounds of the current generation of Tokyo rockers.