Photo Essay: Tokyo Jazz Joints, Vol.2 - 'Dedication'

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Writer Sakamaki Sachiko describes Japan as a country ”where conformity is everything and no stigma weighs heavier than the curse of being different.”*
Jazu kissa owners are different. They are rebels.

In choosing a life dedicated to a foreign music historically seen as a threat to societal norms, and working long unsociable hours in cramped, smoky spaces with loud music, jazu kissa owners have made a conscious choice to step (and remain) outside of the Japanese mainstream, membership of which is seen by the majority as proper, desirable, and free of stigma. Even during the most cursory visit to a jazu kissa, one will quickly become aware of how much the personality of the owner pervades the joint itself. These masutā and mama-san are the beating hearts of the cafes and bars they manage. It is their dedication and passionate enthusiasm for the preservation of jazz in Japan that keeps jazu kissa culture alive today.
If the unique environment of the Japanese jazu kissa is a pseudo-religious sacred space, the owners are its clergy. The very existence of these hallowed spaces is a result of their decision to forge less conventional paths in a society where ”fitting in” is deemed a virtue. The future of jazu kissa depends on the owners’ continued fervour and commitment to keeping the faith in an era of changing tastes, digitisation and relentless urban gentrification.”


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