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Tokyo’s “New Classic”: Shibuya’s Bar Music Sets the Standard for Music Bars

2023.12.14

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A Legacy Uninterrupted: Notable Establishments and Their Pivotal Role in “Japanese BGM

In 1999, DJ and music selector Toru Hashimoto quietly built Café Après-midi on the 5th floor of a building* on Shibuya Park Avenue, and it was one of Tokyo’s most prominent cultural spots in the 2000s. After the “Free Soul” series of compilation CDs of danceable party music, Mr. Hashimoto created his own café and had great success with the “Café Après-midi” series, which presented a selection of music that was more in tune with the atmosphere of the café and more in tune with everyday life. The music selections created a template for “café music,” and since 2001, in the form of “usen for Café Après-midi” for cable broadcasting, the music has been used as background music in restaurants and commercial facilities throughout Japan. The activities of Mr. Hashimoto based at Café Après-midi went far beyond “music selection” and had a major impact on “background music in Japan” in the years to come. Mr. Nakamura, the current owner of Bar Music, was the leader and manager of Café Après-midi from the time of its opening, and actually stood in the store and selected records for the customers.

He is now at a new location on the Fire Street.

In the book “Music no iru fukei (Landscape with Music),” there is a text contributed by Mr. Nakamura titled “BGM Selection with Apremidi’s Characteristics. In the text, Mr. Nakamura describes various episodes in his typically understated style, such as how Mr. Hashimoto approached Mr. Nakamura when he launched Café Après-midi, and how the atmosphere of the room where he was living alone as a student at the time was one of the inspirations for his decision.

There is a reason why I have written such a long preface. In my mind, Café Après-midi when it was located on Park Avenue was Toru Hashimoto and Tomoaki Nakamura, and I always had the impression that Bar Music was a place where the Nakamura aspect of Café Après-midi was extracted. So I asked him, “Is there any difference in the music selection between Café Après-midi and Bar Music?” Nakamura answered, “We have changed from a café to a bar, but what we have always done is the same,” and then he showed me a copy of his book, “A Landscape with Music,” to which I had contributed an essay about an episode at Café Après-midi.

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