UPDATE: Found out just yesterday that the lovely Matsuura-san passed away just about two years ago in May 2021. The shop is still there sitting empty, with a closed notice from May two years ago still on the door. A very sad loss, this was a special joint for me, which I mentioned in the opening essay to the upcoming Tokyo Jazz Joints photo book. Sorry I never got to say goodbye..
I was walking through the back alleys of Kagurazaka, the “little Kyoto” area of Tokyo, and saw the magic word (jazz) on a sign. Unfortunately it was only 3pm so I had to come back at night to investigate further, but the Corner Pocket was worth the return trip. It’s a small hole in the wall which can’t hold more than 15-20 people but has a real warm vibe. The owner Matsura-san is incredibly friendly; within 30 seconds of me sitting down we got into a conversation about jazz and his little bar.
Matsura-san plays the trumpet, and opened the Corner Pocket in 1982. He spent some time in NYC soaking up the scene then came back to work as an “event producer”. He’s a huge swing fan but his collection of over 4000 records covers all genres, though you’ll often walk in to find him watching some concert DVD on his TV.
Amazingly for such a small place, Saturdays frequently have jam sessions with Matsura-san and a revolving cast of players. Matsura-san said on jam nights he clears out the two or three tables that are in the place and has people stand; with most of his customers regulars no one seems to mind and the atmosphere is always welcoming. I spent about half-an-hour just chatting with him and before leaving (but after using the “meditation room”, i.e. bathroom) promised I would come back soon for one of the jam sessions. Corner Pocket is no frills and don’t head there expecting a varied drinks menu or formal service; instead it’s a warm, cluttered, unpretentious joint where you’ll immediately be treated like a friend. Three cheers for Matsura-san!
Recent pics now up at tokyojazzjoints.com
Station: Iidabashi -JR Chuo&Sobu/Tozai,Nanboku,Yurakucho Subway Lines
Distance from station: 2 minutes
Although very close to Iidabashi station, the Corner Pocket is easy to miss. Come out of exit B3 from the Iidabashi subway station. Turn right, and then immediately turn right again down the first alleyway. Walk for a minute until you see a large overhanging sign on the right Go under the sign to the end, and on the right you’ll see the Corner Pocket.