A recap of Soul Time in Tokyo: Beams, a-bridge, Diskunion and more

You know how two weeks of vacation hits you once its over and you’ve got all these to-do’s piled up just waiting there at the door for your return home? …That’s what happened after our 15-day stay in Tokyo last month. That’s why I’m writing this recap a little late. It’s almost July now. Apologies to those of you who’ve been waiting for more details about our first Soul Time party in Japan. I can easily say, it definitely won’t be the last!

Japan is so much fun. It has so much to offer. We could easily talk about how many record stores there are in every pocket of the city. Even in Mitaka there’s a shop, パレード (Parade). The next station east, Kichijoji, recently welcomed the opening of a new Diskunion and an HMV, from what I’ve heard. We only had enough time to check out Rare Records in Kichijoji.

By serendipity, I got to meet DJ Muro in person at the Diskunion Shimokitazawa store (!). It was pure luck — or fate! My good friend DJ Notoya introduced me to the store’s manager, Kim, who invited me to spin some records in-store on a Thursday afternoon. I had just wrapped up my 90-minute set when I look up and see none other than Muro san walking out the door with a fresh batch of records. He saw me and said, “Roger!”. Haha! It was like old friends meeting after a long time, even though it was our first time. We took a bunch of photos together and chatted for a bit. He asked how our daytrip to Mt. Takao was (refreshing and rejuvenating!). Our schedules didn’t match up to allow us a chance to spin together or just grab a drink this time around. That’s okay — we’ll be back soon.

I realized at Diskunion, to my slight embarrassment, that a good number of my Hawaiian records needed a deep clean before the Soul Time in Tokyo gig — which was the very next day, so there wasn’t much time to clean 50 or so LPs and 45s. As it turns out, the first part of Soul Time In Tokyo was taking place at Tokyo Cultuart by Beams, located on the third floor of Beams’ flagship store in Harajuku. Surrounding Beams were a number of specialty Beams stores (they run the block, you could say), including Beams Records, a boutique record shop carrying titles from quality labels like Music From Memory, Rush Hour, and RVNG Intl. I popped in just a few hours before Soul Time and picked up some made-in-Denmark record cleaning solution. It worked wonders on my records. Next time I’ll have to buy some wax, too. I think my bag was at max capacity by this point of the trip.

Tokyo Cultuart by Beams is a unique gallery space that provides a place for collaborative, interactive works and events from independent, underground, and well-known artists from Japan and other parts of the globe. Shuji Nagai, Yoshi Ogawa, and the staff at Tokyo Cultuart by Beams made us feel right at home from the moment we stepped into the space.

On display were 15 of our photographs. Collaborating with Beams on our very first art show is a huge honor. We called the series of photos “Central Pacific Time”. They were on display in Tokyo Cultuart from May 26 – May 31, 2017. We also worked with Beams to create limited, exclusive merch by Beams x Aloha Got Soul. Those goods are available in select Beams stores and on their website.

We couldn’t have done this without the generous help from Jun “JxJx” Saito and Taku Takemura. Their involvement made all the difference.  For months Jun and I would LINE each other at odd hours, the massive time difference between Japan and Hawaii making it difficult for us to get any lengthy conversations going for very long. Scattered email exchanges between the three of us pushed the planning of Soul Time in Tokyo along. We were doing this out of passion, in the belief that bringing Aloha Got Soul to Japan will allow us to connect more deeply with some of our most devoted fans — and just as importantly, allow new collaborations and opportunities to arise.

Soul Time in Tokyo was split into two events in one evening: an opening party at Tokyo Cultuart by Beams, followed by an all-nighter after party at a-bridge.

Tachi Noriyuki, a-bridge’s proprietor, was all smiles all evening, shouting “nice party! nice party!” while kanpai-ing with our practically bottomless lemon sours. This rooftop gem is located in Sangenjaya, with the best view of the so-called Sankaku Chitai yokocho alleyways below.

At Tokyo Cultuart, DJ Notoya opened the night with a Japanese tropical vinyl set. Damn it was good. The free beer from Kona Brewing Company’s Japan branch made the transition into the first half of the evening a mellow one. Everyone was feeling happy and a little buzzed. Some more than others 🙂

Following Notoya’s set was a first-ever (to my knowledge) collab performance between Kakubarhythm labelmates Jun “JxJx” Saito, Izumi Matsui, and VIDEOTAPEMUSIC. I’ve never seen anyone perform with video samples like that before. VTM is the man! I’ve also never heard a tropical/reggae version of Babadu’s “We’re Not To Blame” until that evening. So smooth.

Hideki Yamamoto and I wrapped up the remaining 90 minutes of the Tokyo Cultuart party with an all-Hawaiian vinyl set for the audience. I started us off with “Anything You Wanna Do Kind Of Day” by New Experience. I think we decided to spin two records each. It worked out nicely, and was a pre-cursor to our three-each set at a-bridge later that evening.

We closed out this part of the evening with a huge kanpai with everyone in attendance. The picture I took from behind the DJ booth turned out great.Apparently “free beer” is a rarity in Japan. Cheers to Kona Brewing for the liquid aloha!

Then it was off to Sangenjaya by taxi. Hiroshi Kawanabe directed the driver to our destination, a-bridge, while we caught up with his wife, Noriko, in the back seat. I hadn’t seen them since their trip to Hawaii last year. They stopped by Surfjack during one of our Soul Time in Waikiki gigs, which we brought to a close at the end of 2016. Once out of the car, Hiroshi walked us through the yokocho alleyways on a short “tour” of one of his favorite locales to hang. We’ll have to return again soon to explore more, for it was off (or up?) to a-bridge where the rooftop lounge is the best in the area.

Shohei Takagi opened the a-bridge party with Software’s “Island Sunrise”. It reminded me of Solson’s set on KTUH’s Swinging Bananas show last year. (Unfortunately we didn’t record Shohei’s set! But we did manage to get the rest of the 8 hours or so. Up on Soundcloud soon.) Shohei guided us effortlessly in into the second half of the night, which would go until 5am the next morning.

DJ Yama spun a nearly all Hawaiian set next, real mellow stuff that got everyone in the right mood. DJ Notoya propelled the party forward with his all-Japanese set not unlike the stuff he spun at Soul Time In Hawaii a while back. Both of these guys mix flawlessly, their selections always intuitive.

All the way from Honolulu, it was Aloha Got Soul next. Hideki and I took turns spinning three records each, all local stuff, and a variety, too. From Vic Malo to Eddie Suzuki to Harry Sonoda to The Sweet Marie, at some point I played “A Million Stars” and people shouted with excitement. I love that song, too 🙂 We do this regularly with our buddy Oliver Seguin back home, but bringing this kind of set to Japan was a whole ‘nother experience. We got to play what we love and the people reacted in such a positive way. It’s reassuring to know this is what we’re supposed to be doing.

Hiroshi Kawanabe followed our set with some crowd-pleasing melodies, even Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Sparkle”! Plus lots of lovely Brazilian tunes. Jun followed next in a steady disco mode, even dropping Bart Bascone’s “Blue Hawaii Disco” for extra flavor! I never expected to hear that song outside of Hawaii. It sounded so proper in Jun’s set.

It must’ve been 2am by that point. Some people stole a quick nap somewhere in the venue before reemerging on the still-full dancefloor. All of us DJs kept going, this time by spinning one record each. This was probably my favorite of the night. But it’s hard to choose, really. We welcomed the sunrise with Lemuria‘s “Hunk of Heaven”, followed by Your Song Is Good‘s “Waves”, finally closing with Jah G‘s “Packratting”. There were still at least dozen people with us when 5am arrived. Soul Time in Tokyo, we made it.

Seeing so many people enjoying the music, meeting so many fans in Japan, it was a pretty surreal experience for our small record label based in the middle-of-the-Pacific-Ocean. We only want to continue growing the label and, of course, return to Japan as often as possible. If you joined us at any point in the evening, whether at Tokyo Cultuart or a-bridge, thank you for coming out! We’ll see you again soon.

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