After a day of seeing the sights around Tokyo, it’s time to sit back and relax—sipping on drinks and listening to some great music. The city has a vivid nightlife scene, with an array of nightclubs catering to most any taste, but something the casual visitor might not know is that Tokyo sports a solid variety of jazz clubs and bars, many of which serve up a healthy menu of live music in addition to unique cocktails, coffees and other drinks! Here are three laid-back venues in the Shibuya area you’re sure to enjoy.
Blue Note Tokyo: Tokyo’s Premier Spot for Live Jazz Performances
Established 30 years ago, Blue Note Tokyo has been described by locals and guests alike as one of Tokyo’s premier places to enjoy live jazz. Conveniently located within a 10-minute walk from Omotesando Station, the venue’s chic façade blends in with the surrounding fashion boutiques. Inside, its style goes just as deep, with deep-colored wood walls and floor, comfortable leather furniture, and detailed trim marrying with the subdued lighting – all together creating a relaxed, sophisticated atmosphere. You’ll be so glad you dressed smartly.
Despite having seating room for close to 300, the stunning open main space itself somehow retains an intimate quality to it, and thanks to the superb sound engineering, wherever you are seated, you feel close both to the live music and to those performing on stage.
With daily live performances, Blue Note Tokyo is the perfect place to come, relax, and enjoy the kind of classy evening to cap your Tokyo stay. The venue attracts a variety of international artists, such as Herbie Hancock, Vanessa Williams and Eric Benét, with a new guest appearing every week—roughly a dozen or so each month. Although many of the audience members may be big fans of the artist on stage that evening, naturally each performance is an enjoyable experience for all. Performances are typically offered at two time slots each evening, and given Blue Note Tokyo’s popularity, reservations (which can be made online or via phone) are strongly advised.
Signature cocktails, such as the Lalah Hathaway-inspired Pink Cloud (￥1,400) are designed by the resident mixologist and imbued with the personalities of present and past musicians. Or if wine is more in your swing, one of the six sommeliers will recommend your new favorite glass from their extensive wine selection, a splash of delectable sake – or perhaps a bit of bubbly from their champagne menu. Attentive English-speaking staff ensure you are properly pampered.
Many guests opt to enjoy the live music over dinner, savoring French-inspired entrées like the Lobster and Turnip Millefeuille with Raspberry and Sherry Vinegar Sauce (￥2,800) and the delectable Fish of the Day (from ￥2,900) before snacking on the ever-popular “Swingin' Potato” French Fries (￥850) or other fun plates. Of course, you may decide on dinner course options (starting at ￥5,000) in advance when making your reservation.
Website & Tickets information: http://www.bluenote.co.jp
*In addition to all the prices 10% service charge and tax will be charged. Prices and menu items are as of May 25, 2018.
Shibuya Swing: Experience Japan’s Amazing Jazz Café Culture
Shibuya is known as Tokyo’s center of youth culture with iconic spots such as Hachiko and SHIBUYA109. The really hip crowd, however, leaves the hustle and bustle around the station to take a 15-minute walk to an area called Oku-Shibuya, “backside Shibuya.” It’s the town of jazz cafés called jazu kissa, an intriguing and unique facet of Japanese culture that few people know about. Shibuya Swing is one of the most iconic of such cafés, inviting you to relax with a hot cup of coffee and the soulful tunes of jazz records. A jazz café’s unique atmosphere can’t be compared to anything else, the most powerful part of a Japanese subculture that took roots even before the war.
Suzuki-san is the master of Shibuya Swing, in love with jazz since a very young age. He noticed that traditional jazz cafés were slowly disappearing from Shibuya and to preserve this unique jazu kissa style, he opened Shibuya Swing three years ago. The records and stereos lined up on the wall are his proud, personal collection.
Shibuya Swing’s coffee (500 yen) is made by siphon brewing, boasting a full-fledged taste. Of course, some like their jazz with a proper drink in hand and if you’re one of those people, we recommend the highball (700 yen) – it’s rather strong. Shibuya Swing even tickles your taste buds with its roasted spices black curry (800 yen), or the retro yellow curry (800 yen) that seems to come straight out of an eatery from Shōwa-era Japan. The café’s guests range from young Tokyoites in their 20s to jazz veteran in their 80s, a testimony to the warm, welcoming atmosphere of the place. No matter who you are, there’s a chair and a cup of coffee for you at Shibuya Swing. While Tokyo boasts a large variety of live music venues and clubs, nowhere can jazz be savored as relaxedly and calmly as at a jazz café. You know those days – you want to go out and enjoy the night, but at your own pace, slowly, without masses of people and noise. If you’re in that particular mood the next time, do head over to Shibuya Swing.
Notes: No cover charge, but one drink order per person is required.
- Address 4B, 16-4, Kamiyamacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0047, Japan
- Phone Number 03-5790-9544
Hours: 12:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. / 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. (Sundays, national holidays)
Closed: Thursdays, second and fourth Sunday
Praça Onze: Authentic Tunes from Brazil
Walk along Aoyama-dōri Street in glitzy Omotesando, passing by various luxury brand stores and eager shoppers. After 5 minutes, you’ll happen upon a live venue called Praça Onze, tucked away in the basement floor of a building. This iconic spot looks back on a history of more than 30 years, serving authentic tunes from Brazil to both locals and tourists. There’s no one in Tokyo who calls themselves a fan of Brazilian music who does not know Praça Onze. It’s an iconic classic.
Artists who have performed at Praça Onze have left their marks all over the walls of the cozy space, alongside tasteful decorations that evoke the spirit of a night in Brazil. “We host live performances of all genres, but our main focus is on Brazilian music. Most are seasoned artists, having played their tunes for a long time, so we really only host people who’re amazing at what they’re doing,” explains Claudia Asada with a bright smile, the owner of Praça Onze. Indeed, the level of live music you get to enjoy here is outstanding.
Praça Onze doesn’t just serve authentic Brazilian music, however, it also treats you to amazing Brazilian dishes and drinks. We urge you to try the Caipirinha (830 yen) made with a heavenly delicious cachaça directly from Brazil. If you’re feeling peckish, go for the linguiça (930 yen), a smoke cured pork sausage, seasoned with garlic and paprika – it’s a favorite snack at bars in Brazil and among Praça Onze’s regulars.
Tickets for the live shows, usually ranging between 2,000 and 3,500 yen, can be booked by calling the place directly. Before you flinch, both Portuguese and English will get you a ticket without issues! This iconic live venue truly is a must-see spot for everyone who wants to savor some samba, soul, or bossa nova tunes.
Admission: ticket price for the live performance (varies by artist)
※Visiting for food or drinks only is not possible.
※Check the schedule via the official website: http://www.praca11.net/
- Address 3-5-2-B1, Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-0061, Japan
- Phone Number 03-3405-8015
Hours: 6:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. (weekdays), 6:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. (Sundays and national holidays)
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