experiencesuginami_koenji-walk-map_v3

SUBCULTURE ROCK WALK (Koenji)

Aside from being the director of this very website, Greg is an artist, musician, teacher and translator living in Ogikubo, Tokyo. His infatuations with Japanese things such as origami, video games, and martial arts eventually led him to Japan. Another big part of his life being music (particularly that of the rock variety), naturally Koenji is his favorite place to hang out for going to record stores as well as both playing shows and seeing shows at small clubs (called “live houses” in Japan).

This Koenji walk can easily take the better part of a day if you add meals and a live show to your plan, but you could also leave out lunch/dinner and just do a tour of Koenji record stores in a much shorter time. Modify the walk as you see fit– more record stores, music venues, and eating options are included on the walking map so you can modify your route– or keep to Greg’s route if the content all seems good for you.

1_substore

S.U.B. STORE & CAFE

This place is fairly new but it is it great for so many things: eating and drinking, listening to music, record or book shopping, and even live music. Right away I noticed the logo was influenced by Sub Pop records and knew it would be my kind of place. I bought some DVDs this time (including the Sub Pop band documentary "Hype!") and looked at a book about classic album covers. The owners are a really cool young international couple named Kumi and Andhika who speak both English and Japanese. Andhika is from Indonesia, so he also speaks Indonesian and makes some great Indonesian food, like the appetizers Gado Gado and Sambal Matah which I enjoyed as a pre-lunch snack!

Price:
Gado Gado ¥500, Sambal Matah ¥100
Address:
3 Chome-1-12 Koenjikita, Suginami, Tokyo (Miyao Building 2nd floor)
Distance from Station:
3 minutes from JR Koenji Station
Phone:
080-3496-3883 (Japanese/English/Indonesian)
Open:
12:00pm noon - 11:00pm, Closed Tuesdays
Website:
http://substore.jimdo.com/
Communication:
Japanese, English, Indonesian
  • no-smoking
  • no-credit-card
2_cubegame

CUBE GAME STUDIO

After hanging out at S.U.B. Store I decided to visit the local Koenji arcade (or "game center", as the Japanese call them). This one called "Cube" is my favorite one in Suginami, the main reason because they have a lot of nostalgic games. I usually use the machine that lets you choose among a thousand or so classic games, my favorite being Street Fighter II. I always have a great time playing my favorite games here-- I could never get sick of them. It's a shame the number of arcades is decreasing, but at least there are still a lot around, unlike in the U.S.

Price:
¥100 per game
Address:
4 Chome-26-12 Koenjiminami, Suginami, Tokyo (basement level)
Distance from Station:
1 minute from JR Koenji Station, South Exit
Open:
10:00am - 1:00am
Website:
http://mobile.twitter.com/cube2006
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese only
3_domstudio

SOUND STUDIO DOM

In Japan musician's cannot practice in their homes because there are no basements, and houses have thin walls and neighbors are in very close proximity, not too mention a higher level of concern with not bothering them. Because of this musicians in Tokyo, including myself, use rehearsal studios to practice. The great thing is drums and amps are provided, and usually there is a rental fee for guitars but at DOM it's free unless you break a string, in which case you have to buy that string. Great system! Today I went to play drums-- a great release and always fun. Thanks DOM!

Price:
¥500/hour for 1 person (¥700 for 2) plus one-time membership fee ¥100
Address:
4 Chome-25-7 Koenjiminami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
2 minutes from JR Koenji Station
Phone:
03-3318-3569 (English OK)
Open:
10:00am - 6:00am (Subject to earlier closing times)
Website:
www.soundstudiodom.web.fc2.com
Communication:
Some staff speak English
4_meunota

MEU NOTA

An hour of drumming surely works up an appetite, so I decided to continue down Pal Street, then make a right at Etoile-Dori to visit my favorite vegan cafe in the area. Meu Nota has a fantastic lunch and "tea time" menu (by time I got there it was already tea time, which starts at 2:30pm): vegan curry, taco rice, or "vegan meals" plate, which I got-- all kinds of assorted delicious items. You don't have to be vegan to enjoy this amazing food. Try it and you'll love it. I surely do. The atmosphere is also great so I love just taking a break here.

Price:
around ¥1000
Address:
3 Chome-45-11 Koenjiminami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
5 minutes from JR Koenji Station, South Exit
Phone:
03-5929-9422 (Japanese only)
Open:
Wed. 6:00pm-11:30pm, Thur.- Sun. 12:00pm - 11:30pm, Closed Mondays & Tuesdays
Website:
http://meunota.com/
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese only
  • no-smoking
  • no-credit-card
5_baserecords

RECORD SHOP BASE

There are so many great record stores in Koenji, and each has their own unique vibes. Base is great because it is filled exclusively with punk related music (you can find some metal and experimental as well). I love all music, but this is really up my alley. I bought CD's and records from some favorite overseas bands as well as a 7" by Corrupted, an intense Japanese band that sings in Spanish!

Address:
4 Chome-23-5 Koenjiminami, Suginami, Tokyo (ACP Building, 3F)
Distance from Station:
2 minutes from JR Koenji Station, South Exit
Phone:
03-3318-6145 (Japanese only)
Open:
12:00pm - 9:00pm
Website:
http://recordshopbase.com/
Communication:
Some staff can speak a little English.
  • no-smoking
6_comicscollectors

COMICS COLLECTORS

Of course there are plenty of stores that sell Japanese manga and anime, but what about American Comics? Well, this just might be the only place! The Japanese owner lived in the U.S. and speaks fluent English, and also owns a comics store in Los Angeles. The huge selection of comics and figures are all from the U.S., but the great thing is they are all from his personal collection and he doesn't sell based on how rare something is etc., prices are only based on the type of items. I could spend hours here. Interestingly enough, apparently 95% of his customers are women!

Address:
4 Chome-21-6 Koenjiminami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
4 minutes from JR Koenji Station, South Exit
Phone:
050-8552-9089 (English OK)
Open:
12:00pm - 8:30pm, Closed Mondays
Website:
http://comics-collectors.net/
Communication:
Owner speaks fluent English.
  • no-smoking
7_losapson

LOS APSON?

This is probably my favorite store in Koenji (and thus Tokyo)-- and I only just found out it had moved to Koenji! I had been to the Shinjuku location years ago, and then Los Apson moved to another location in Tokyo, but now it's in Koenji. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I found out. This is the place for experimental music. I bought a large stack of CD's I had been searching for for ages of my favorite Japanese noise artist, Merzbow. And I'll be back for more soon!

Address:
4 Chome-3-2 Koenjiminami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
6 minutes from JR Koenji Station, South Exit
Phone:
03-6337-1595 (Japanese only)
Open:
3:00pm - 8:00pm, Closed Wednesdays
Website:
http://www.losapson.net/
Communication:
Owner speaks Japanese and limited English.
  • no-smoking
8_ufoclub

U.F.O. CLUB

The perfect way to end my Koenji adventure, at one of the prime spots to experience live music, Koenji-style. Amazingly after buying more than 10 Merzbow releases at Los Apson, the live show tonight at U.F.O. Club was also Merzbow (it wasn't a coincidence, rather I planned it this way). It was perfect! As expected his noise brought the walk and the day to a perfect conclusion in the psychedelic atmosphere of U.F.O. Club.

What an awesome day. I hope rock and underground music fans will try this walk or at least use it as inspiration to map out a rock walk of your own around Koenji.

Price:
usually ¥1500 - ¥3000 + drink
Address:
1 Chome-11-6 Koenjiminami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
4 minutes from Tokyo Metro Higashi-Koenji Station, 14 minutes from JR Koenji Station, South Exit
Phone:
03-5306-0240 (English Available)
Open:
6:00pm - 11:00pm; Shows start at 7:00pm.
Website:
http://www.ufoclub.jp/
Communication:
Staff can speak English
  • no-credit-card