On a recent series of work trips to Tokyo, a Japanese colleague introduced me to the magical world of jazz vinyl listening bars in Tokyo. Its customary for patrons to subtly ask the bartender to play various records with minimal discussion that allows those present to focus on simply listening to the music while smoking and sipping coffee or whiskey.

Jazz vinyl bars in Tokyo proliferated after WWII where residents could listen to the latest records from the U.S. without having to purchase them. At the height of the phenomena areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku had dozens of the cafes and bars.

There are still likely over a hundred of these establishments left, down from a peak of 250 or so in the 1970s. They are places to experience vintage music in low-key social setting that contrasts with the more popular ways music is typically experienced through digital streaming.

The visits kicked off a new tradition in the frog SF studio called Timesheeto. On Friday afternoons the mezzanine of the studio was turned into a small version of one of these establishments as a way to wind up the week over drinks and jazz and one may be reminded to fill out their timesheet before heading home.

Vinyl jazz listening bars have been a Tokyo staple since the end of WWII.
What some of these vinyl bars look like on the inside.
A vinyl jazz establishment bartender serving drinks and taking requests.
My colleague Kaz inside Narcissus, a jazz bar in Shinjuku that has remained unchanged since the 1950s.
Another shot of Narcissus with Sonny Rollins playing.
Narcissus speakers and working payphone.
Vinyl jazz bars have begun to gain popularity in the US as well.