Nightlife in Shibuya

“The nightlife is defined by Japanese more what by what it does than by where is exists”, says Anne Allison in her book about Tokyo clubs and bars (Nightwork 1994, p. 33). Accordingly, Sonic Japan features sounds made in various places in the public and private spheres. Sounds heard in streets are often loud and multilayered including traffic, footsteps, advertising from shop keepers and large digital screens, which are heard in addition to the leaking noises emanating from restaurants and bars. These latter sounds offer a more private invitation to enjoy Tokyo’s nightlife within a restaurant, bar or club.  Allison suggest that such places allow a person to step outside their normal habits and social routines, displacing you from the normal “mundane world” (ibid).


In this recording, I am in a bar and restaurant at the top of Dogenzaka Hill in Shibuya. Dogenzaka is famous for its bars, clubs and rent-by-the-hour “love hotels”.  This restaurant is very famous for its spectacular views and high class restaurant. Couples frequent this restaurant to have a special meal and then a drink by the glowing quartz filled bar looking out over Shibuya from the 15th floor. The music and conversations intermingle, producing a tapestry of talk. Each couple is immersed in their own conversations, intimacy within the hubbub of voices over the music. I leave the bar and walk to the rest rooms, where by comparison I am cocooned in silence. The tiled environment reverberates with any sound I make from the splashing of water to the sounds of footsteps. This sonic environment envelopes me, the bar suddenly feels a long way away, and the sounds of people fade to a distant murmur. This quietness produces self-consciousness. The contrast to the bar is so evident that while I gain a sense of reprieve from escaping the sounds of the bar, I am also uncomfortable here. I felt protected by the talk and music sounds and now in this silent echoed environment I feel disoriented, made aware of my own presence. The sounds of people perhaps reminds of us our humanity, of our connection to others.

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