It's no secret that the Japanese music industry has a hollowing-out problem; you are either a pop act on a major label with high levels of exposure or an obscure underground act for whom not losing money on a show is a major success. Guitarist Nobukata Kawai of hardcore band Envy knows the latter reality well.

"It's a shame there's no middle ground, because bands quit," he tells The Japan Times. "They're asked when they're going to be on TV and if they don't know they're encouraged to give up. My friends and I aren't reaching for TV."

Unlike in other countries, many Japanese cities lack the infrastructure for independent touring musicians to pull in the size of audience that is needed to guarantee a living wage.