2021 News & Notes


Since the Covid pandemic hit Japan in early 2020 it’s been necessary to limit if not stop entirely any new jazz joint explorations, but there is still some news to catch up on! The entire food & drink industry has been affected by the numerous ‘Emergencies’ in Japan, that limit opening hours and, as of today, curtail the sale of alcohol.

Jazz joints have struggled in particular as many usually open only at night, meaning that many have had to revert back to a classic ‘jazz kissa’ daytime style with only coffee and soft drinks. Owners are doing the best they can to keep things safe, limiting customer entry, enforcing non-smoking and providing some long needed ventilation improvements, yet it’s still a delicate situation for many businesses with customer foot traffic way down and mounting bills. We’ve been spared a wave of closures so far, but another six months of reduced income could be too much for many places to withstand.

Some well established jazz spots like Eagle in Yotsuya and Downbeat in Yokohama have raised a bit of money by selling t-shirts and branded goods online, while others have even set up various ways to accept donations. If you’re a Japanese jazz joint lover like me, be sure to give some support any way you can. Understanding that for many people, sitting in a cramped jazz joint right now may be extremely uncomfortable (at best), but just 20 minutes and a couple thousand yen for two drinks can really help out our dear friends who operate these temples to the music.

Live gigs are on at some clubs but with shorter sets ending by 8pm, and afternoon starts on the weekends. I’ve personally refrained from hitting any of these but I was told they are limiting the number of entrants to keep people distanced..believe what you will about how this works in the average small jazz club.

Over the next six months or the so I’m going to go through the entire Tokyo Jazz Site jazz spot directory to update all the information on closures (we sadly lost Kissa Sakaiki in Shinjuku, one of my favorite ever spots), changes in business hours, even one or two relocations, such as Noise in Machida. And hopefully get a few new profiles up for newly opened joints like Bar Slight in Kanda, the 10-year old Bar Meiju in Iidabashi (how did Philip and I miss that in our Tokyo Jazz Joints adventures??) and also a lengthy profile of the reopened Masako in Shimo-Kitazawa.

In the meantime, be sure to check out my current project, the new K.O.L. Radio website and catch up on the year’s worth of podcasts about the TJJ photo project experience.

Stay tuned, and keep swinging!

James (Mr. OK Jazz)