Japanese punk and ska music. Cherry Cokes, Junior

When you think of music in japan, what comes to mind? Sickly sweet pop? J-rock? Visual kei with boys dressed as beautiful dolls? Rockabilly Elvises?

How about Irish Punk?

The best fun I had outside of the goth clubs in Tokyo was the Saturday we went to Shibuya to an all day Paddy punk gig.

Held the week after St Patricks Day, it featured artists playing in the Irish (or Boston Irish) punk genre – bands sounding like the Pogues, Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys. No bad thing right?

Yeah. Dead right 🙂

I’d researched before I hit Tokyo back in March to acquaint myself with the scene. And boy, did I get a shock! There are sooo many bands playing punk and ska that you could pretty much go to a gig any night of the week.

The bands that first prompted my interest were the Cherry Cokes, and Royal Shamrock, and ska band Oi Skall Mates, which I’d found on MySpace. I liked what I heard, and lucky for me, they had gigs when I was going to be in Tokyo – woohoo!

And so it was that, on little sleep and hungover to hell from goth club Theatic Alamode the night before, we trained it to Shibuya on 22nd March for the Wild Rover 5th Anniversary paddy punk festival day.

We weren’t really sure where we were going, and hadn’t been to club Asia before. Deciding to eat before we hit the bottle again, we stopped off at a 7-11, hoping to also get directions. We were just ingesting our sushi outside when a couple of western guys started talking to us, one Irish, one English.

They’d been to the gig and had seen the first band, but had come back to the 7-11 to eat and grab a few cheap beers. It just so happened they were friends with the organisers, and volunteered to not only show us the way, but get us in for half price! Wahey!!

We didn’t get half-price, but a good solid discount, and as soon as we got in, they introduced us around to their Japanese friends. Before long, one new mate was plying us with booze from a bottle he’d smuggled in his coat, and we were forgetting that we felt like shite. Just as well, cos the list of bands was as long as yer arm, and they were playing til late that night.

The vibe when we went into the first gig was out of this world.

Being amongst kids going nuts brought our energy levels right up, and the quality of the bands well surpassed expectations. We were told to watch a band called Junior – and they were a fantastic old school punk band. Others we saw ranged from irish folk, through to ska and the paddy punk we’d expected.


There were numerous bands playing bagpipes like native celts, and Japanese Irish dancers. They really embraced all aspects of the culture. There were even covers in punk or ska style of English songs we knew, so we could sing along. Like Junior before them, The Cherry Cokes were absolutely superb (and cute to boot!)

We did stay til the end, and it turned out to be the best day we had. I highly recommend getting yourself to a gig or if you can, an all day festival. I know I’ll be going back for more.

A fab article on this music genre is on the blog Shite n onions, here.

Bands to check out:

The Cherry Cokes
Radiots – Hiro from Cherry Cokes is guitarist
Sorry For a Frog
Stompin Bird

Ska/punk/new wave
The Autocratics
The Fatness (and band website)
The Japonicans
Moody Rudy
Plastic Gangsters
Redemption 97
The Skabays
The Spyzz
Spiderz – psychobilly

Other useful sites:

Time Bomb Records
Tokyo Skazine – this has a huge lists of bands and venues where you can catch cool music
Punk Rock Confidential Japan – lists upcoming gigs
Punkafoolic – regular festival – upcoming gigs
Japan Live blog – alternative music generally in Tokyo
Rock of Japan blog

There are also heaps of bands within the psychobilly, deathrock, electro, indie, metal and other genres – just google search and look in MySpace to find bands you might like.

If you’re visiting Japan soon and love punk and ska, don’t just visit temples – discover the heart of the people by getting on down where they do! Go to a live gig and I guarantee you’ll have a amaaaaazing time.

(For those who need a fashi
on fix, some punk looks from Tokyo New Tribe are here and here.)

13th Moon

The last time I was in Tokyo I caught quite a few really good bands.

One of these was the deathrock band 13th Moon. I was at Tokyo Dark Castle on April 4th and spotted a dude with a groovy bihawk in the audience – one side was lime green, the other purple. So when I got the chance I told him how great his hair was.

I was a bit dumbfounded when 13th Moon began, and the guy I’d spoken to was the band’s singer, Nao! Here’s links to a couple of clips of the performance: Blood or Love and Roses are Dead.

They really are in the old-school deathrock mould but with a character all their own. I really dig their music AND their outfits, I have to say. Nao, especially, wears really Tim Burtonesque type gear with lots of black and white stripes.

I had a chat with him after the club as we stood in the street in Shinjuku.

Here’s a video of our silly conversation (I was a bit drunk after 6 hours of the club). Nao was kind enough to give me a copy of their CD, and not just any copy, but number 13!! As he says to me in the vid “Lucky, unlucky!” Hehe, he’s a funny lad.

I also have a quick chat with Sisen (more on him in future posts), and Miki and U-tarou from Baal (another great industrial heavy rock band that I will feature shortly)

Anyway, if you’re ever in Tokyo, look them up. You’ll have a great night!