While travel restrictions remain in place for many countries around the globe, we’re still putting together our dream list of musically relevant vacation destinations for when borders — and club doors — finally reopen.
Near the top of that list is Tokyo, an electronic music nexus and the home base of progressive house wizard Shingo Nakamura, whose third album, Glow, dropped last Friday (June 11) via Monstercat subsidiary brand Monstercat Silk. (Japan is currently closed to tourists from the United States. Tokyo clubs have reopened, some fully and some on a limited basis.) Originally hailing from the Ibaraki Prefecture north of Tokyo, Nakamura is known for expansive, consistently anthemic and often cathartic productions that blend classical piano with the genre’s soaring emotional punch.
It took Nakamura nearly five years to complete Glow, an altogether gorgeous 11-track collection which also includes nine extended versions. The songs, Nakamura says, “are designed to gently illuminate and encourage the listener” in the same way they illuminated and encouraged him, particularly amidst the stress and existential malaise of the pandemic.
Now 10 years into his career, Nakamura has gotten support from progressive and trance titans like Armin van Buuren, Ilan Bluestone and BT, with his two Best Of Shingo Nakamura YouTube compilations aggregating more than 10 million views and myriad shows at revered Tokyo club WOMB drawing thousands of fans. Here, in his own words, Nakamura offers a guide to Tokyo’s key electronic-related attractions, artists and trends.
Key Producers In the Local Scene: “Masayoshi Iimori, Pharien. They have been actively releasing music for a long time, but in recent years, they have been signed to big labels like Monstercat (Masayoshi) and Spinnin’ (Pharien). They are very young artists, and their future success is greatly anticipated.”
Recent Tokyo-Made Dance Tracks You Should Listen To Right Now Are: “Shadw’s ‘Power‘ and Canta Bille’s ‘High Road.’ I found both of them on the internet. Shadw has been invited to perform at my events. The quality of their music is high and they are active as DJs.”
Best Club for Mainstream Dance Music (Public Health Permitting): “WOMB. It’s one of the most famous venues in Tokyo that ranks among DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs. Many famous DJs from a wide range of genres such as Dannic, Pendulum, and John Digweed have performed here. It’s a dream for local artists to perform at this club, so the DJs who perform there are both talented and popular.”
Best Club For Underground Dance Music (Public Health Permitting): “CONTACT is a relatively new club in Tokyo, with many events focusing on house and techno. Music lovers gather here, and it has an underground atmosphere. Famous international DJs also perform there, so it’s one of the clubs you must check out when you come to Tokyo.”
Best After Hours Party Spot (Public Health Permitting): “HACHI is open almost every Sunday morning for after-hours house and techno events. Although it is located away from the many clubs in Shibuya, music lovers gather here from there.”
Best Local Festival (Public Health Permitting): “Harukaze. There are very few large outdoor parties in Tokyo and Harukaze is a free party held at Yoyogi Park — a big park in Shibuya.”
One Thing I Want People In the U.S. to Understand About the Tokyo Scene: “There are a lot of good local DJs and artists in Tokyo, so you should pay attention to them. The ‘Electropilis‘ playlist on Spotify is one of the best ways to find them. Tokyo also has famous clubs and producers, but compared to Sapporo where I used to live, or Osaka where I occasionally DJ, I don’t think there is much of a difference. In each region, the clubs and artists are active with passion.”
The Things That Make the Tokyo Scene Distinct: “I think it’s the enthusiasm of the club managers. It’s tough as a business, but thanks to them, the Tokyo scene is thriving. When you come to Tokyo, I want you to visit not only the big and famous clubs, but also the underground clubs. Compared to other countries, I think playing in clubs is something special for Japanese people. There are many highly motivated customers who have various goals in mind such as enjoying music or seeking encounters, and DJs from overseas are sometimes surprised by their energy.”
A Style of Music Happening Only In Tokyo: “Although it’s not limited to Tokyo, ‘Vocaloid’ music such as ‘Hatsune Miku’ is unique to Japan. Since the machine sings, there are many interesting songs, such as fast tempo and fast-talking songs.”
One More Thing I’d Like To Add: “When you come to Tokyo as a tourist, please visit the clubs at night to watch the local DJs! Hopefully I will have a release party soon for my new album, Glow.”