One of the reasons I decided to settle in Japan rather than Vancouver (my hometown), was because of the music scene in Tokyo.
I didn’t know any Japanese musicians personally.
But surely, I thought, in a city with more than 12 million people (which is around 1/3 the entire population of Canada), there must be a lot of opportunities for musicians.
Eager to connect with local players but having no idea where to start, I turned to good ol’ Internet.
I looked up websites for jam sessions and made a list of places to visit.
The first thing that I realized was that, compared to what I was used to, many of the jam sessions were on the pricey side.
Of course the meaning of “expensive” just depends on what the local norm is, but I was used to going to jam sessions for free.
But some of the more well-known jams in Tokyo charge anywhere between 1000-3000 yen for entry.
I haven’t been to jam sessions in cities other than Vancouver and Tokyo/Yokohama, so I can’t really compare either of these places to what’s typical around the world. There probably isn’t one standard business model anyway.
But comparing Vancouver and Tokyo jams, the one clear difference is the target audience.
In Vancouver, it was good for the venues to get musicians who were willing to play for free (even students) because that meant these places could draw in customers who just enjoyed having a meal with live background music.
I remember a jam session that even served a free plate of fries or pint of beer to all the players.
For the players, it was a good chance to meet others and to play in a stress-free environment.
In Tokyo/Yokohama, jam sessions are typically where amateur musicians go to practice music with others and improve.
Depending on the jam, you might see a lot of beginners or players with a lot of experiences.
I think one of the reasons why people go to these jams is because for many, practicing at home isn’t really an option (although the biggest upside, of course, is to mingle with other regulars).
Naturally, the players are the main customers of these jams, and there’s often a cover charge in addition to minimum order.
I feel that regular restaurants (as opposed to dedicated jam spaces) could benefit from hosting jams, but I haven’t found one yet.
Anyway, it’s been really great meeting people at these jams over the years.
They came from all sorts of different backgrounds and some of them became close friends.
I hope to continue finding more good jams in the future…!
In the meantime, if you know a good place, please feel free to leave a comment…