The Curse Of Fame? The Situation with JBS in Shibuya..

Friend of the site Graeme mailed me last week about the wonderful bar JBS in Shibuya, forwarding this link from Reddit:

A further quick search online revealed many similar comments on rude/dismissive service and a noticeable frostiness towards visiting foreign customers.  I had an inkling things had changed there but wasn’t aware it was THIS bad..

Thinking about it though the signs were there. Philip and I stopped by once or twice last year to take some pics for our Tokyo Jazz Joints project and couldn’t even get in, the place was packed with young Western customers both times. Then, a couple of months ago I called Kobayashi-san asking him if he’d allow a US-based website to film a short interview with him inside JBS..before I could even finish the question he very abruptly said  ‘お断りします、すみません’ (‘I’m sorry but no, I refuse’). His manner was really surprising,I’ve been visiting JBS for ten years and have spent many wonderful afternoons with Kobayashi-san, listening to him explain softly about this or that record. His tone surprised me, even if he wanted to decline..

I asked through the grapevine and a friend of a friend (Japanese) who is tight with Kobayashi-san said in the last few years he’s felt overwhelmed by the increase in attention and constant stream of loud tourists. I think we need to remember, people don’t open jazz/music bars out of any desire to make a lot of money (well duh..) and these places are an extension of their homes. I’ve had many, many cafe & bar owners say they are perfectly happy not growing their customer base. I’m speculating of course, but for someone like Kobayashi-san, a shy, gentle man who is more than content to spin records all day for a handful of customers, listening quietly to his great sound system..the huge influx of visitors must be a kind of hell. (Do a search online for JBS; must be mentioned on several dozen blogs and travel sites in English alone).

So what does it all mean? Music fans from around the world are, rightfully, drawn to his phenomenal collection. Kobayashi-san is rightfully, a bit freaked out about the whole thing. Perhaps a better sign outside the bar, in English, explaining a bit about the situation and that he prefers guests to be a little quieter and less intrusive..maybe this would work?

I’m going to stop by soon and propose it to him..if I can get in and grab a seat. 🙁

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Mr. OK Jazz is a 20+ year resident of Japan and spends all his free time wandering the Kanto area looking for jazz cafes, bars, clubs and record stores. For two years he hosted the OK Jazz radio show on InterFM Radio, currently the OK Jazz podcast. You can reach him at *protected email*