Entering the Inner Sanctum: Japanese Jazz Kissaten as Sacred Spaces

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The Japanese word ‘ kissaten’ (喫茶店) translates directly as ‘ tea-drinking shop’. There are approximately 600 jazz kissaten spread across the five main islands of Japan, and while jazz kissaten truly emerged as audio-listening bars in the post-war years, they peaked in ubiquity in the late 1960s/ early 1970s, during which times they were often a hub for counter-culture movements in bohemian areas like Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.

Tokyo Jazz Joints (www.tokyojazzjoints.com) is an ongoing research project, photographed by Philip Arneill, which has documented this rapidly vanishing culture since 2015, and to date has created an audiovisual chronicle of over 160 of these kissaten. Drawing on the idea of Foucault’s heterotopia, and using a selection of images from Tokyo Jazz Joints, this paper will present the unique environment of the Japanese jazz kissaten as a pseudo-religious sacred space, replete with its own rituals, protocols, iconography and clergy.

These unique, sacred spaces are a product of the cultural environment which created them, while simultaneously existing in direct cultural contestation with that same environment. Their very existence is a result of their owners’ decision to step outside of Japanese mainstream culture, and depends on their continued fervour and commitment to keep the faith in an era of changing tastes, digitisation and relentless urban gentrification.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 26 Jun 2021
EventDocumenting Jazz 2021 - Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Jun 202126 Jun 2021


ConferenceDocumenting Jazz 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Jazz
  • Japan
  • music
  • culture
  • sacred space
  • heterotopia
  • Japanese
  • kissaten


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