Tokyo Jazz Joints: A visual document of the past, present and future of Japanese jazu kissa

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Jazz has been a part of the Japanese musical landscape since long before 1945, brought through imported records and visiting military American and Filipino bands on leave. Following Art Blakey’s tour in 1961, the floodgates opened for jazz to enter the Japanese mainstream, with the widespread emergence of jazu kissa (jazz ‘listening’ coffee houses). These unique venues peaked in ubiquity in the early 1970s, although many still remain today. This paper explores the visual themes in Tokyo Jazz Joints, an audio-visual documentary project founded by photographer Philip Arneill and writer/broadcaster James Catchpole in 2015. In response to critical reflections upon the role of jazz photography (Brown et al., 2014; Pinson, 2019), which reveal how images have informed the mythologies connected to national or cultural forms of jazz heritage, this project aims to expand this critical work with a primary photographic record of Japan’s hidden world of jazu kissa, as they rapidly vanish in the face of changing tastes, an ageing population, and gentrification. Beginning in Tokyo, the project has since expanded to cover all of Japan, receiving widespread critical attention in print and online media worldwide. Visually chronicling a unique culture, this paper presents an overview of the project and, through image analysis, focuses on the tension of nostalgia and modernity within these sacred spaces, the incredible historical jazz archive these Japanese jazu kissa constitute, and asks what the eventual future of these spaces might be.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 26 Aug 2022
EventRhythm Changes Conference: Jazz, Then and Now - Conservatorium van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 26 Aug 202228 Aug 2022


ConferenceRhythm Changes Conference: Jazz, Then and Now
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