Derrick May’s favorite places in TokyoMusic
Every month, Mixmag Japan and NOCTIVE focus in on one city in Japan and explore its nightlife. From nightclubs to long-standing shops and hidden gems, these are some of the most interesting places to go in Tokyo.
This month, we walked the city with DJ Derrick May, who has long been the leading force in Detroit’s techno scene. Derrick visited Japan for the first time in 1991. He was invited by an organizer called Coney E and toured across the islands of Japan, and has been visiting regularly ever since. At one point, he lived in Tokyo for three months to create the sound system for a large nightclub. “The only time I do long sets - like 10 hours - is when I'm in Japan,” says the Japanese nightclub-loving heavyweight techno DJ.
We asked Derrick, who played his first DJ set of 2019 at Shibuya Club Vision and kicked-off the new year in Japan, about some of his favorite spots in Tokyo.
“Fantastic club. Contact carries on the heritage of the underground scene. The owner and the staff are always working hard.” (Derrick May) The owner, Daizo Murata, has previously run some of the most prominent nightclubs in Tokyo, such as YELLOW and AIR. Derrick has played at each of these clubs during his frequent visits to Japan. Major DJs from Japan and around the world perform at these carefully curated parties. Sound quality is a top priority at Contact, which features an audio system by the Japanese company Ray Audio.
2. SOUND MUSEUM VISION
“I played here for the New Year’s Day party and it was fantastic. VISION incorporates hip hop and dance music and is really a club with diversity. The Ray Audio system used in the main area (GAIA) is truly exceptional.” (Derrick) Featuring a variety of genres and fluctuating between live shows and DJ sets, you never know what you’ll see next at VISION. The crowd consists of a wide range of people from authentic music-loving clubbers to fashion-conscious street kids. The four different floors allow you to club-hop within the venue as well, making VISION an extra exciting destination.
3. Aoyama, Nakameguro and the backstreets of Aoyama
“There is an enormous number of bars and restaurants in the districts that tourists from abroad frequently visit in Tokyo: Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza, Akasaka and the like. I like the slightly calmer districts of Aoyama, Nakameguro, Yoyogi-Uehara, and Shimokitazawa. I would walk the backstreets and if I found something interesting, I would walk in.” (Derrick) Derrick says he walks the cities when he has a day off during his tours of Japan. Visiting a certain district in order to get to a specific store is fine, but wandering the streets of different districts without a set destination is truly extraordinary. Explore, be spontaneous, or you could miss out on the variety Tokyo has to offer.
4. FRAMES Nakameguro
“This place is great because it’s open late. I stop by when I want to chill out. It used to be on the ground level of Club AIR that used to be in Daikanyama and I visited there quite frequently.” (Derrick) Featuring daily specials that come with free drinks at lunchtime and seasonal dinner dishes in the evening, FRAMES Nakameguro is the best place to stop on your way to and back from the club. Feel-good dance music is playing in the spacious restaurant that is open till 3 a.m. on weekdays and 5 a.m. on weekends. They even have a smoking section!
“This is an Italian restaurant I visited for a new year’s celebration. It’s kind of hidden, and it’s really comfortable and quiet.” (Derrick) The restaurant is located in Yoyogi-Uehara. Some popular items are Italian dishes arranged from seasonal Japanese ingredients, and other “Yoshoku”, which are Japanesque-modified western dishes. Be sure to make a reservation at this intimate restaurant as they can only seat 24 patrons at one time. Don’t forget to check out their wine list!
6. DJ BAR Bridge
“More foreign visitors come to Tokyo than ever before, but Shibuya and Shinjuku have become really commercial tourist areas. While you enjoy the music at DJ Bar Bridge you can take in a beautiful view of the city of Shibuya.” (Derrick) The DJ bar is located on the 10th floor of a building that is just a 3-minute walk from Shibuya station. Behind the decks are mostly renowned Japanese DJs, both up-and-coming and veteran. The top-notch sound system, tasty drinks, and affordable entrance fees all contribute to its popularity. Although it’s recommended as a place to stop by on your way to the club, chances are you’ll end up spending the whole night there.
photo: Reiji Yamazaki (People)
text: Kana Yoshioka