Jazz Kissa – Unique Japanese Style Of Jazz Cafe

Funky in Kichijoji now

Funky in Kichijoji, Tokyo

Pioneer of Jazz music, Jazz Kissa in Japan by Takashi

I sometimes talked about - Jazz Kissa - before.
It is a Japanese style Jazz cafe and if you look at the history of Jazz Kissa, it goes back to 1929!

This 1st Jazz Kissa is called "Blackbird" and it was located in central Tokyo. The founder was Mr. Seiichi Noguchi, a legendary Jazz Kissa Owner. Mr.Noguchi initially wanted to become a professional dancer but while practicing, he had a serious injury in one of his legs and gave up pursuing his dream. He then decided to open the Blackbird. Later he said that he borrowed the money from his father.

The Blackbird became popular in a short period of time and Mr.Noguchi gave the borrowed money back to his father within 3 months from the opening! He was playing songs like Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong and so on all of which were 10 inch SP disks.

What makes Jazz Kissa unique and Japanese is the way they played the Jazz. At that time, SP disks, later vinyl LPs were really expensive and ordinary people were not able afford to buy. In addition, The record players also were hard to come by. So, the owners of Jazz Kissa spent their own money to buy SP disks and LPs and played them attracting customers. The customers would come to LISTEN TO THE JAZZ MUSIC NOT DRINKING COFFEE OR EATING LUNCH. They had to buy a cup of coffee though, with one cup of coffee, they would spend hours just to listen to the Jazz they like. 

When the World War 2 began, anything related to the US (western) was banned by the military government, Jazz music and Jazz Kissa included. Mr. Noguchi recalled at that time saying in one of the interviews in 1972,
Man, I just tried to hide my records as much as I could. But all of my efforts were in vain, they found them and took them away, thousands of Jazz records. Young people nowadays would never know how lucky they are to be able to listen to Jazz anytime, anywhere freely. After they took all of my Jazz records, I was nothing, just cried out loud all night long.
After the painful days of war time, Mr. Noguchi opened some new Jazz Kissa in Tokyo area, one of them is called, "Funky" in Kichijoji Tokyo founded in 1958. With this new shop, he made a new approach, installing a famous giant JBL speaker, "Paragon". That approach attracted many Jazz lovers from all over Japan. 
Mr.Noguchi's bold approach ignited many other Jazz Kissa owners and Jazz Kissa movement erupted in the 60's to 70's and many new Jazz Kissa were born.

This Jazz Kissa movement and culture played a big part to spread the Jazz music to the entire Japan very quickly and deeply. All Japanese Jazz pioneers, like Toshiko Akiyoshi, and all TBM musicians were old boys and girls of Jazz Kissa.

I used to go to "Funky" when I was in my university to listen to the sound of "Paragon". "Funky" still opens even now, more than 60 years! Although their style has become modern and is more like Jazz bar, their "Paragon" still soothes your ears with great Jazz music.
I really thank and salute Mr.Noguchi and his family to make the foundation of Jazz culture in Japan! by Takashi

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    1. Mathias, thanks for your comment! Funky is located in Kichijoji Tokyo. Here is their address. 1-7-3 Honmachi Kichijoji Musashino-shi Tokyo Tel 0422-21-1464.
      As I wrote in the article, their style was changed and modernized. But still, they have the Paragon, and I guess, Altec A-7. By the way, this small town Kichijoji is one of the best spots in music in Tokyo. We have another town, called Shimokitazawa in Tokyo. I used to go there almost every week hunting vinyl records, haha!

  1. Hi Takashi,
    Thanks for writing about the Jazz Kissa. I first heard mention of these places in the liner notes to Cool Struttin’ Volume 2 -K18P 9279 but there wasn’t much said about them beyond their mere mention. This gives a little better explanation.

    1. Peter, thanks for your great comment! So you ca read Japanese! right? I will give more of Jazz Kissa story from time to time.

  2. Another great insight into Jazz Kissaten…..absoluetly fascinating culture and sad to hear that many are now closing. Hopefully a younger generation can keep them going. I’ve always enjoyed tokyojazzjoints photos and stories on the subject.

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