Fantastic Earplugs!

Got these amazing earplugs from a gacha machine on my last trip to Japan! Sadly I didn’t have time to get the whole series (there are 6 variations in total)…

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Lightening up the Subway

In the Stockholm subway it’s common to see older men stepping on to the train playing instruments and sometimes even singing. It’s like a street musician on board. Usually they get on at one stop, play a song and then step off at the next station either to move to another train or another wagon.

It looks like they have a rather short repertoire but the level of expertise with which they deliver the songs they know is pretty impressive. Usually they are completely ignored by the passengers but the other day I saw a fantastic little scene play out.

This older guy with a harmonica got on at Fridhelmsplan and performed the usual ninja routine of walking down the moving coach while at the same time masterfully improvising and never loosing a beat or his balance.

At first the passengers played their role perfectly and treated him as pure air, but then an old man suddenly got up to give the musician some cash. Nothing too far from the ordinary, but the donor whispered something and they suddenly burst out in laughter. The notes that started flowing out of the harmonica next were easily recognised as the old russian tune ‘Kalinka’. On top of this the man that gave the cash started singing the words in russian with a clear and strong voice.

By now the other passengers looked pretty uncomfortable, but staying true to Swedish nature no one pretended to notice the scene taking place in front of them. It was clear though that the two older guys were having an awesome time, lost in the music and totally ignorant of the stiff looks from the people around them.

Another thing these walking musicians are really good at is wrapping up just in time to get of the train as it pulls into a station, so as the we started slowing down for the stop at Odenplan the song came to a stop. Laughing loudly the two said goodbye and the musician stepped off.

Awesome way to to start an afternoon at the town :).

The Instrument Village of Tokyo

The sprawling district of Shibuya in Tokyo is home to some of the most interesting vintage synthesizer stores in the country (if not the world) and a Mecca for music lovers and up and coming artists.

Walking around its streets and alleys on any given day at any time (even the wee small hours of the morning) I guarantee you wont have to go far before you stumble on a bar or club that invites you with music you’ve never heard before. Shibuya is known for being one of the most important testing grounds for new genres and artists in Japan.

IkebeGakkiMura14I’ve written before about some of the off-the-track stores in the area (here and here), but today I’m going to show you some pictures of the largest and perhaps most mainstream or commercial collection of instrument stores in this part of Tokyo.

If you are looking for a new Tuba or Trumpet, a built to order exclusive guitar, a gold-plated Moog or simple new strings for your Bass, this is where you’ll want to go, but make sure you bring a map or otherwise orient yourself before heading out, the area is a bit chaotic.

Exit the Shibuya train station on the western side towards the bus terminals and you’ll soon find yourself facing a large network of pedestrian overpasses (the purple / grey parts in the picture below). Cross over this overpass and you will soon arrive at the ‘entrance the the Ikebe Gakki Mura (イケベ楽器村). The ‘instrument village’ is really a collection of stores situated close to each other making up a complex neighborhood of specialty shops.

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Here’s a stylized map showing the locations of some of the major stores in the area.

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When you see these signs you are on the right way.

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Inside some of the shops in the ‘DJ’ tower (Power Rec is a great one).

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One of the keyboard / synthesizer specialty stores.

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Lots of Nord gear.

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A golden Moog (17/30 if I remember right).

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And a signed one.

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Yep I miss my Prophet 12…

IkebeGakkiMura13Check out these links to the official Ikebe page where you can find detailed information on the various stores, the opening hours and locations.

http://www.ikebe-gakki.com/

http://www.ikebe-gakki.com/realshop/

http://www.ikebe-gakki.com/web-ikebe/shibuya-ikebe_gakkimura/

Echigoya, another synth power-spot in Tokyo

In January this year I presented the FiveG store in Harajuku, Tokyo, but the city is home to many other fantastic gems for synth heads. Today I’ll post some pictures from the Echigoya Music (えちごやミュージック) store in Shibuya.

Along with FiveG, I would list Echigoya as probably one of the best spots in Tokyo to go searching for vintage or just used synthesizers and other studio gear. It’s a small shop but filled floor to ceiling with some really fantastic gear. Prices are reasonable too, and the manager is more than happy to assist with shipping to just about any region of the world.

To get to this store you get off at the Shibuya station and walk towards Harajuku along the JR (Yamanote) line tracks. You’ll bump into Tower Records on your right side.

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Echigoya will be across the street.

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You have to take the elevator up to the 9th floor.

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Inside you’ll find keyboards, synth modules, rack gear, accessories and tons of other gear.

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Look at that, a used Korg Volca Beats makes a surprise appearance. I would have bought it but my mind is set on a Elektron Machinedrum now…

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Lots and lots of gear.

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If I had the means I would have picked up a SEM or two…

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Lot’s of MPC goodness. With some custom skins too…

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On a side note, when I was walking back to Harajuku I spotted this charming sign near the Yoyogi park:

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It basically says that all unauthorized live music performances using amps are forbidden in the park. The background is most likely that this has traditionally been one of the most popular spots for amateur bands and performers to do impromptu shows. Thus, today the area was entirely devoid of any music and mostly desolated. Sad to see such a nice ‘tradition’ go, but I’m sure they will find other spots across the city.

Check out the Echigoya Music website here!

FiveG, the Vintage and Used Synth Mecca in Tokyo

This post could also be called Day 19 in Japan, but on this day I had a very specific goal so I’ll talk mostly about that.

Since I was heading out to Tokyo, I decided to check online if there were any particularly interesting stores or other spots that a synth head should check out while in the city. I have lived in Tokyo for many years but when I did I wasn’t very interested in synthesizers or electronica beyond listening to it.

A quick search turned up a place called FiveG, close to Harajuku station on the Yamanote line. Online reviews talked about it as a place where you might find interesting used synths, and it looked like they had a selection on used Doepfer modules for sale too.

At this day, my friends Adam and Frederic were also arriving in Tokyo for the same business reasons as I, and since Adam is as much of a synth nerd as I am I decided to invite them to come with me.

fiveg1FiveG is located on the fourth floor of an anonymous looking building just outside Harajuku station. You have to walk in to the back of the entrance were you’ll find a dress up store for Japanese maid costumes. Next to this store is an elevator, which you ride to the fourth floor. Once there, you have to look around the corner of a very narrow hallway and you’ll find the store entrance.

Inside though the store is actually quite big, and stuffed from floor to ceiling, in multiple rows, with the most amazing vintage and used synths and other hardware you could ever imagine. At the time they had everything from Memory Moogs to the keyboard version of the Elektron Monomachine and several Korg MS 10, 20, and vocoders. I even spotted a used Elektron Analog 4!?

On the modular side they had hundreds of Eurorack modules and a whole section dedicated to Moog modular gear. I can’t even begin to list them all, but you can’t help but asking yourself where all that gear came from…

fiveg2The prices were reasonable too. And they offered to ship anything back to the states as well if needed. If you are in Tokyo looking for some interesting, unusual gear, and you have some space in your bags, I highly recommend checking out this store. Even if you can’t afford some of the more esoteric instruments and accessories its still a great way to spend time in the company of some of the most famous electronic instruments ever. I do recommend that you bring a friend who can speak Japanese since that makes the visit even better!

Check out the photos and the link below if you want to know more.

FiveG, Harajuku – Tokyo

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