Tokyo Jazz Joints: A Visual Document of a Hidden, Vanishing World of Jazz

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Jazz has been a part of the Japanese musical landscape since before World War II, brought initially through imported 78 records in the early 20s, and by visiting American and Filipino jazz bands on military leave. Following Art Blakey’s tour of the country in 1961, the floodgates opened for jazz to enter the mainstream, with the widespread emergence of jazz bars and kissaten (coffee houses). These unique venues peaked in popularity and ubiquity in the late 60s/early 70s and many remain today.

This paper will introduce Tokyo Jazz Joints (, a documentary project founded by photographer Philip Arneill and writer/broadcaster James Catchpole in 2015. The project is a photographic record of Japan’s hidden world of jazz bars and kissaten, many of which are rapidly vanishing in the face of changing trends, ageing customers, rising rents and gentrification. Starting with Tokyo's jazz bars and cafes, the project has since expanded to cover the whole of Japan; it has documented over 160 jazz bars and kissaten to date, and has been featured in print and online media worldwide, including The Times, Süddeutsche Zeitung,The Japan Times, All About Jazz, The Vinyl Factory and Wax Poetics.

A visual chronicle of a unique culture, the paper presents an overview of the history of the project and its aims, looking in close detail at various images of jazz joints. The photographs focus on their architecture, design and place in the urban/rural landscape, the resilience of their owners, and priceless jazz memorabilia.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 17 Jan 2020
EventDocumenting Jazz Conference 2020: Ways Of Documenting - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 16 Jan 202018 Jan 2020


ConferenceDocumenting Jazz Conference 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Japan
  • Jazz
  • kissaten
  • Japanese
  • Photography
  • documentary


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