My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.
This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.
A Slightly Different Approach in My Thumbnail Guide for Japan
I have decided to make Japan one of the exceptions on in my Worldwide Thumbnail Guide of open mics in that I will not focus only on one city, and I will name this after the country itself. I did the same with Monaco, when you think about it – and added Nice to that one – and I also did the same with Bahrain, as I only spoke of open mics in Manama, the capital city, but called it after the country. The point in Japan is that I have no single city with a wealth of open mics and open jams to list here, but I do have experience with three different cities in Japan, and they happen to be the three biggest cities: Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. It seems to me, therefore, that it will serve the reader much better if I do a guide with my findings for all of these cities, rather than just listing Nagoya, which is where I have spent the most time. So it is that I am going to list my findings in the three biggest cities in Japan, and hope that makes the page worthwhile for travelers to Japan.
UPDATE, 30 OCT. 2013: I noticed that unlike all my other open mic guides, the Japan guide was not receiving much traffic, and so I decided that I had made an error to change the system, and I have now today made three separate guides for Japan: a Thumbnail Open Mic Guide to Osaka, Thumbnail Open Mic Guide to Tokyo, Thumbnail Open Mic Guide to Nagoya. People search by city, not by country. So that is the end of that experiment – and please note the link at the beginning and end of this page will not work, as I got rid of the country guide all together.
Japan’s Open Mic Scene is Focused Around the So-Called “Live House”
The first thing to keep in mind when coming to Japan and looking for places to play music, is that while there are such things called open mics, there is another phenomenon that you must know about, and that is the ubiquitous “Live House.” Live Houses come in various forms, but generally what they are are bars with live music, or music venues that people can rent out by the time clock for a fee and then invite people to come and hear…and pay back the rental fee in their spendings. But Live Houses can also be places that hold open mics and open jams of the kind I focus on with my list. So aside from my limited list, the place to start looking for places to play in Japan is a Live House. Just find one, then see how they operate. They may have an open mic or an open jam – or you may want to rent the room for your half hour or so slot.
Worldwide Open Mic Guide Philosophy
The only guide I am really in a good position to update regularly is that of Paris, since I live there. But I decided to do guides to all the other 20 and more cities on my worldwide open mic tour in order to give the knowledge I have personally of each city’s open mics. The guide has links to sites I know of local guides that may be more up-to-date, but I have chosen to list the open mics or jam sessions that I have played in myself. There may be others that I know of, but if I have not played there, I will not include it on the list. That way, the user learns a little of my own impressions. But I cannot be as certain that the guide is up-to-date – so check before you go.
I have rarely been as busy with travel and work as in the last week, and that is why there have been no posts for so long on this blog. I am STILL under pressure. But I did manage to force myself out to do an open mic last night in Nagoya, Japan, where I arrived the day before. And man am I ever glad I did it. It was at the R&B Melrose bar in downtown Nagoya, where they hold an open mic until quite late at night every Thursday. I had an amazingly warm time amongst only Japanese musicians and spectators with little English, but with the universal language of our music, that did not matter.
I got to play on three occasions, and on two of those I got to play with some of the other musicians in the room, who had spontaneously begun playing while I played. One man did harmonica, a woman took to the drums. Later, another guy took to the drums. I got great recordings of me playing with these musicians, with my own particular favorite being on my own song, “Crazy Lady,” on which I had the harmonica player and the drummer woman.
And their music was gentle and occasionally very emotional, as you can see from the videos. A super, super, super cool night, and once again I was able to fulfill my personal objective of playing and recording me playing with local musician in every country I go to this year. I would put up Crazy Lady here but it requires editing out of the other songs I recorded, and again I am under pressure – this time for an interview in my journalist job, followed by a return trip of more than an hour to Nagoya where I am the feature act in another open mic tonight – at the Plastic Factory venue. More on that tomorrow.
PS, almost forgot! Before I went to the R&B Melrose, I dropped off at the San Jose bar to see if a musician I met there three years ago was still the orchestra leader. And there was David and his two women singers, still there after all these years! So I did a video of them, David being from England, the woman being Japanese. Check that out too!