While I have been both shouted and clapped out of a Japanese bar and told a bar was closed when it was clearly open (both immediately upon walking in, presumably because of my gaijin appearance), I’ve never had a negative experience in a jazz bar in Japan. If it’s your intent to quietly enjoy a drink and maybe some salty bar snacks, you will be treated with a low-key hospitality I’d describe as ‘genteel’ - it’s now a quality I look for in bars here in America because it is totally my speed.
One bar owner in Sasebo, Kyushu (JAZZ SPOT EASEL) said that, despite getting very few customers, he continues to open each evening because he "really doesn't want a patron to come and be disappointed to find this place closed". What a sentiment. He talked about how young people are leaving smaller cities for better opportunities, causing them to hollow out. After closing, he brought me to an amazing, tiny (5 or 6-seater), hidden 50-year-old bar in a cave-like bomb shelter run by an even older man, who had his own stories to share.
For these people, it's a passion that has become their daily life. An era is fading as they retire or pass on, without younger people to take up the mantles. As visitors, we'll get to experience it for a decade or two more at most, I think. Definitely worth experiencing if you travel Japan, easy to find with just Google Maps, and even better if you can speak some Japanese.
I think this part is fantantastic. Stay until closing and the proprietor will happily take you to go to some other place that is still open (not all of course, but it’s happened more than once), even 1 o’clock at night.
I don’t think these places are disappearing though, they’re just changing. The current generation just does not bond over jazz. I’m thinking of a small Star Wars themed bar that has a similar feel but has a decidedly young proprietor.
Experienced this outside of York, more country side.
I hate spoons. It's the worst of the corporate world (race to the bottom, conformity, lies, undercutting family businesses) sold as "what the working-classes really want". It's the McDonalds of alcohol and tabloid-culture, with a Scrooge-like owner to match.
Here's a thread on Reddit discussing the former in Edinburgh:
And here she is at a much later age covering Megalith by T-Square
This is amazing! I had no idea this was the same person. I love Casiopea.
One of my favorite jazz playlist on Spotify is The Rhythm of Japan https://open.spotify.com/user/rowanaboat96/playlist/7ciqeUtO...
Also worth exploring the World Jazz playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/1231409117/playlist/5lgPIUHnf1...
I lived in Japan for a couple of years. A Japanese friend treated me to a Jazz Bar a couple of times. It was long ago... I only remember requesting a Billie Holiday song, Stars Fell On Alabama, I think. It was the perfect antidote for the relentless energy of Tokyo’s public life.
Throw on Basie’s “Jive at Five” or Ory’s “Savoy Blues” and you can get an idea of the genres (swing / nola jazz).
It is home to some incredibly important participants in the free and avant-garde jazz scenes.
I came across an episode of "Japanology" on Youtube about cafes (which is a surprisingly interesting series produced by NHK -- each episode has a generally heart-warming or touching twist to the general theme it covers). And the ending is exactly about a jazz cafe that closed but was brought back for 2 weeks by its loyal fans some years later. I imagine some of the ones described here are in the same boat.
I lived in Tokyo for a year and passed JLPT N3 with a breeze.
Bars are private and intimate, if you know how to speak Japanese, a world really opens in front of you and you easily make friends. Especially if you enjoy Japanese music.
Try it! Especially w/ some of your favorite Japanese songs. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll pick it up!
I think you're underselling the difficulty a bit considering that Japanese is in the hardest class of languages as ranked by FSI . Granted this probably includes literacy as well; if you only want to learn the spoken aspects it's probably not much harder than the category III languages.
Good for you, but this doesn't quite match the experience of the average person trying to learn the language (like me) ;-)
I passed N1 many years ago and am now very fluent, but the difficultly of transitioning to "real life" Japanese, even after passing N2, was very real. It took me around 5 years to pass N2 (without living in Japan, just studying and practising with whoever I found find).
Even after passing N1, I still found it super tough to forge real friendships for quite some time after, since I would often struggle to say what I wanted to. I don't mean "haha, the weather is nice", but the actual interesting conversations you might want to have (for me this was mainly about software, for example).
This pace of progression is probably not unusual. Learning a language is hard.
To anyone else trying to learn Japanese who might be struggling, you can do it! I never experienced the "you'll pick it up", "it'll just click" moment - I just sucked for a long time, then progressively sucked less. I think the key is to accept you suck and put yourself out there anyway, and keep speaking and learning as much as you can. Oddly enough, I knew I was pretty fluent when people stop complementing or been impressed by your fluency.
To the first line your comment, though, I definitely agree - without knowing the local language in most countries (especially somewhere like Japan with a very low level of English literacy) it is difficult to really experience culture.
As many sibling posts have already pointed out, passing JLPT is not trivial for many people. Also N3 level is (IMHO at best) intermediate proficiency and still quite far from fluency. Here's an example of "random" Japanese grade schoolers solving JLPT N3 questions with ease.
That said, just like any subject, language acquisition talents vary from person to person, and no doubt OP is among the more gifted.
tl; dr: do not introduce yourself in Japanese with "waga na wa [name]".
With N3 you might be able to introduce yourself and have a very basic conversation. I think different people have very working definitions of fluency.
For what it's worth, I've been to Japan twice now for a total of one month of time, don't know any Japanese beyond your typical easy phrases/words, and got by fine with Google Translate. I also was able to make several friends, many of whom can't really speak much English (probably on the same level as my incredibly basic phrase/wordset of Japanese). Not only that, but once I made those friends they took me to places/restaurants that tourists wouldn't know of/go to and only locals would.
Of course on the other hand there were some areas where I would be by myself and it was clear that unless I could speak Japanese I wouldn't really be welcome- and that's alright too.
But my main point is that it is certainly possible to not know Japanese and still see quite a lot of Japan; I suppose it just takes some effort and outgoingness to try communicating with the locals.
Golden Gai is another story, and I've heard about places in the deep countryside being a little more hostile, but those are exceptions.
And yea it's a takeoff on Golden Gai.