- Music Capital of the World?"
(Above: Bunkamura Orchard Hall) If you're a music lover, then Tokyo could be the right place to be! There are ardent music fans throughout the greater Tokyo area and an amazing number of concert halls and auditoriums (approximately 150!), with countless performances per year. If you but have the time, you can experience virtually everything the world has to offer in the way of live music, as nearly all musicians - both domestic and from overseas - find themselves in Tokyo sooner or later for a live performance. While competition for tickets to the most famous performances can be fierce, there are many excellent performances of not so well known musicians where tickets can be bought even a mere hour before the last cough and shuffling of feet, not to mention the many free concerts easily found once you know your way around the city. I'll only be exploring the tip of the musical iceberg on this page, so if you're a music fan living in Tokyo (or another major city in Japan), by all means, after reading this article, start exploring the music world in your mega-city - you won't be disappointed!
Bunkamura Orchard Hall (six photos above) - located in Shibuya just up the road from the 109 Building - is in a complex that includes movie theaters, shops and restaurants. Shibuya is generally considered to be the center of the current youth movement in Japan. A slight detour on your way back to the station will take you through ground zero.
03-3477-9999 www.bunkamura.co.jp/english/index.html (E&J)
Suntory Hall - with excellent acoustics, rooftop gardens and surrounded by restaurants, shops, office towers and landscaped gardens - is quite cosmopolitan. The hall focuses specifically on classical music and has a concert there virtually every evening. Among the many concert halls in Tokyo, few have quite the volume of performances as Suntory Hall.
03-3584-9999 www.suntory.co.jp/suntoryhall (E&J)
Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall
Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall - part of bayside Minato Mirai (a short walk from Sakuragicho or Minato Mirai stations), consisting of Landmark Tower, classy hotels, the Pacifico Yokohama convention center, the Nippon Maru four-mast sailing ship and a very large Ferris wheel at Yokohama Cosmo World amusement park - is a busy hall with a steady stream of nearly daily concerts.
www.city.yokohama.jp/me/mmhall/index-e.html 045-682-2000 (J&E)
Kioi Hall - situated next to the New Otani Hotel - is a pleasant three-minute walk from Yotsuya Station between the rampart of an old moat with cherry blossom trees on top, and Sophia University. Their website includes a map (in Japanese), as well as information (with photos) about upcoming events, all in the Japanese language (there is an English page - seemingly a static one simply explaining the basic details of the hall), but if you don't read Japanese, you can still get a general idea of upcoming events if you dive far enough into the site via links to where they have photos of upcoming musicians and performers.
03-3237-0061 www.kioi-hall.or.jp/index.html (J/E)
Tokyo International Forum
Tokyo International Forum - just a one-minute walk from Yurakucho Station - is an ultra-modern facility (designed by Rafael Vinoly) which opened in 1997. The design is fascinating, impressive, and complex. Seen from the air, it consists of an eye-shaped building with a huge glass atrium on the side towards the Yamanote Line tracks, which is connected via walkways to four buildings housing several concert halls and exhibition spaces on the other side. Between the glass atrium and the group of four buildings is a ground level area that is somewhat like a park - with trees, and open to pedestrians on both ends. Historically fashionable Ginza is only a ten-minute walk away.
03-5221-9000 www.t-i-forum.co.jp/english/ (E&J)
Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall
Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall - most easily accessed via Hatsudai Station on the Keio Shin-sen (New Line), but within walking distance of Shinjuku as well. Opera City has one of the better English language websites, with access information, instructions on how to order tickets by phone, calendars for upcoming concerts, and detailed information about individual concerts. Nearby Shinjuku is famous for many things - the Tokyo Metropolitan Government towers, nightlife, cameras, shopping in general, movie theaters, and the busiest train station in the entire country. Or... just take an elevator up to either the 53rd or 54th floor for dinner with a view....
03-5353-9999 www.operacity.jp/en/index2.html (E&J)
Nerima Bunka Center
Middle school and high school bands often have concerts that are either free or very cheap. The event photographed above was a competition between middle school bands. The problem with the competitions is that the bands nearly always go for rousing, exciting numbers, and while a few of them are great to hear, all rousing and exciting tunes can be tiresome to hear too much of. In any case, even the middle school bands are often quite good, so if you have a concert hall in your area, when there is such an event, it might be worthwhile going to listen to. When just one high school is giving a concert, it's usually quite good.
www.city.nerima.tokyo.jp/bunkacenter/ 03-3993-3311 (J)
Iino Hall [Former]
The larger concert halls look like concert halls inside and out to some extent, but there are also some smaller concert halls within office buildings - one example was (it's since been torn down) the former Iino Hall which was in the middle of the former Iino Building (recently demolished). You walked into a standard-looking office building, took a standard elevator to the floor of the concert hall, and once off the elevator, you finally saw evidence of something other than office building!
[former] www.iino.co.jp/hall/ 03-3506-3251 (J)
Kasumigaseki Building Free Concert
In 2003, when I was working near the Kasumigaseki Building, they used to have a free outdoor concert every Tuesday at lunch. The concerts were pretty good and it was quite a nice break from the office to eat lunch under the trees listening to live music.
Tokyo Bunka Kaikan
Tokyo Bunka Kaikan - in Ueno next to Ueno Station and Ueno Park, was formerly the premiere venue for classical music, opera and ballet, but has become eclipsed somewhat by several new concert halls of excellent design and acoustics.
www.t-bunka.jp 03-5815-5452 (J)
Another couple of halls (out of many-many more) are:
Hamarikyu Asahi Concert Hall Located between the new Shiodome high-rises (formerly a freight rail yard), and Tsukiji - the largest fish market in the world. Their website has a map (in Japanese), seating charts, and instruction on how to get there both in English and Japanese. The nearest station is Tsukiji-shijo on the Oedo Line (Exit A2).
www.asahi.com/asahihall/hamarikyu/ 03-3267-9990 (J)
Sumida Triphony Hall Located near Kinshicho Station on the (JR) Sobu and Yokosuka lines, as well as the Hanzomon subway line.
www.triphony.com/ 03-5608-1212 (J)
In addition to directly contacting the concert halls, there are also ticket service companies, the most well known being Ticket PIA. Some of the people you will contact will speak better English than others - if you don't speak Japanese and must use English, just remember to speak slowly, clearly, and compose your sentences to have the maximum meaning with the fewest number and least complexity of words.
Ticket Pia: t.pia.co.jp/ 0570-02-9999 (J)
And... there is so much more! The Internet is one source for additional information, but (strangely) there are not many sites that give a comprehensive listing of what's out there, and some halls don't maintain a website at all. Asking around may well be the best way to fill in the gaps. Give the CD's a rest and enjoy listening to live music for a change!
Copyright 2005 by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass, Tokyo