Rock, punk and alternative music bars in Tokyo

There are a few places I’m absolutely KICKING to get back to in Tokyo. Some I discovered myself, some were shown to me by friends, and some I even found from a guidebook (what’s the odds o’ that?)

I’m into alternative indie music, so anything that plays punk, ska, mod, grunge, britpop, madchester, industrial, goth, metal, or nu-metal gets my vote. So…

1. HOD Punk Bar
This stands for Hair of the Dogs (sic) – but you have to crane your head up to the (very red!) ceiling to see this. I found this one wandering around the Golden Gai area of Kabukicho (map here). My heart started beating wildly when I saw the Ramones poster on the door:

I’d heard that some of the bars in the Golden Gai area don’t welcome foreigners, and so it was with some slight trepidation that I opened the door. But surely punk conquers all, doesn’t it? Indeed it does, my friends!! I was immediately taken with the smiling behawked owner, Tohru, and amused by his pet turtle De Niro.

Before long, even with my extremely limited Japanese, I had sat down, been given a cold beer and a book containing multitudes of punk and ska songs to pick and choose from. UK Subs, Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, The Specials, Bad Manners – even the aussie band the Porkers! I was in my element, and spent far too many yen on far too many beers, stumbling out the door as dawn approached.

Yes, the bars in the Golden Gai often stay open til 4am or so. Bliss for pissheads! Luckily for me, my hotel was right nearby, and as I’d earlier seen the GG area from a window near my hotel lift, even when drunk I could negotiate my way home.

I have been back quite a few times since, and ALWAYS have a great time there. Other people drop in, Japanese and western, and you have to shuffle around cos it’s like 6 metres square or something, but it’s all a part of the fun really. Even if I’m on my own, I never feel lonely in the city while I can drop in here.

2. Bar Mother
This one is also in Shinjuku, Kabukicho, 2 streets before you get to the Golden Gai area (map here). Some Spanish guys I met in HOD showed me this one.

This really ties with HOD for my fave place. I like that it plays a lot of different alternative music – Faith No More, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Blur, Madness, Rob Zombie, Prodigy, Marilyn Manson, The Damned, The Cult, Nick Cave and even softer stuff like Goldfrapp. It’s slightly longer than HOD but pretty narrow, and decorated with skeletons hanging from the ceiling.

…and has skulls and spooky Day of the Dead stuff all round the joint…

When the Prodigy’s new song “Omen” came on back in March, the place WENT OFF!!!

3. GODZ metal bar
This one is around the corner from Bar Mother, and plays metal. REALLY LOUDLY! If you ask for the right ones with picture discs, you get to see the video on-screen (like I did when I requested AC/DC). A Japanese friend showed me this one – although her requests of Slayer and Swedish death metal were far more heavy metal than my taste. But hey, if metal floats yer boat, you’re gonna LOVE this place.

4. Garageland
Here’s one in Shibuya, just for something different, although it is a punk bar. Well, it also plays ska, new wave, mod and goth – the barman heard my friend and I talking and put on the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, then Sisters of Mercy! Same deal, you get a book and pick what you want to hear. However, it is a bit bigger than the ones in Shinjuku; it can seat maybe a dozen people and have a few more standing. It’s up a few floors, and we only stumbled upon this one by the poster downstairs,

which upon closer inspection made me laugh:

It says “I heart big dumps”!!

That’s probably enough for one post, but there are several other places worthy of a visit that I’ll share in the near future. What are your fave places to listen to alternative music in Tokyo?

Footnote: for more on Golden Gai, go to www.goldengai.net
It’s in Japanese, but Google translate is your friend :)

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