Shibuya- the area that continuously births exciting culture. block.fm’s new series “Exploring Shibuya’s Music Bars” will take you through the Shibuya area while introducing you to the music bars that are the reason behind the excitement. The first bar we’ll stop at is Shibuya OIRAN, where we met up with owner Yuki Kawamura who shared with us about the bar’s specialties!
ーWhen was the bar opened?
Yuki Kawamura: The pre-opening was May 2010 and our grand opening was the following June.
ーSo this year marks the 11th anniversary. How have the past 11 years been?
Yuki Kawamura: Even on rough days, every day has been really fun. Because of this bar, I feel as though I’ve been able to live happily.
ーWhat is the concept of this bar?
Yuki Kawamura: Shibuya’s Dogenzaka Street, where OIRAN is, is a street where many concert venues, clubs, movie theaters, and bars are located. When I went to Ibiza for the first time, I was mesmerized by the idea of the “warm-up bar” - a bar where people gathered before going out and where they could exchange information on what their plans for the night were. At that time, we didn’t have places like that in Tokyo, so I made one.
Even though I call it a “warm-up bar”, it’s not just a place for those heading out to the clubs. For example, it’s also a place where people can gather after going to a concert or after watching a movie. It’s like a meeting spot for those with different plans. It can be a place where something surprising happens or even just a place to stop by and chill out after a day at work.
I started out as a “chill-out DJ”, so I wanted to make it a relaxed environment. Not only did I want it to be a place where people could relax, but I wanted it to have an at-home vibe as well. The kind of a chill as if you’re at home just washing the dishes.
Right after I opened the bar, the 2011 earthquake happened. It was only our first year, but we wanted it to become a place where people in Tokyo could reenergize, so I’ve always had the thought to “warm up Shibuya” in the back of my mind while operating the bar.
ーBecause there’s that time to warm up, it seems like there’s an effect that can make the club or even that time right after a concert more enjoyable.
Yuki Kawamura: Exactly. I think that not everyone goes straight to the club right after work or school. I wanted to make sure that there was a place where people can exchange what their plans are for the night. It’s difficult to have conversations at the club, so it can also be a place where you meet up with a friend and catch up for an hour before heading to the club. It can also be a place where you meet someone and go to where they’ve invited you before going to the club you were planning on. These are also scenarios I’d love to happen here.
Of course, even if you have no interest in club music, you can still have a drink and enjoy your time here. Some people come by who are traveling and friends who come by before their DJ sets as well.
ーWhat’s the specialty behind the design of the bar?
Yuki Kawamura: In overseas cities such as Paris, old buildings have a lot of value even though they might be inconvenient, right? I believe that remaking old things and finding a new way of looking at them is the way to go. In my parent’s generation, there was value in breaking down the old and making something completely new but never agreed with it.
At the time of opening this bar, there were remaining buildings that couldn’t be rebuilt because of the the Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy. I saw that as a chance to renovate an old building, and this bar is what came out of it. I added a DJ booth and decided on the placement of the speakers before going into renovations. Those who come from overseas are the ones who particularly love the bar because there aren’t many like it in Shibuya.
In terms of special features, the main color of the building is a passionate, eye-opening red. It’s not just any red, but it’s a scarlette-like deep red, to make it into a space that fires up feelings.
ー I agree. In Europe, there are a lot of old stone buildings. In Japan, there are many wood buildings that make it difficult to preserve as well as the ambiance of an old house like here.
Yuki Kawamura: Exactly. The maintenance is pretty difficult, but my staff also use things with care. Back then the term “sustainable” didn’t exist. After 10 years, values have changed and the words “recycle” and “renovation” have become more popular. Even with music, there’s sampling, quoting, and paying homage to old music and making it new.
ーLike the combination of different generations.
Yuki Kawamura: Right! Even the customers that come by range from 20 to 80 years old. I often get told by customers that they have a lot of fun talking to people of different generations and go home in a great mood because of it. I think it’s wonderful that we can communicate across generations with some help from alcohol and music.
ーIt is a space where you can have fun talking to people you’ve met for the first time.
Yuki Kawamura: I've had people who’ve been booked for festivals and DJ gigs here as well. The only thing I do wish from the customers is that they come with some sense of respect and decency.
ーEven from before you’ve mentioned the importance of having fun with self-awareness.
Yuki Kawamura: I do often say it on my radio show. I’m not too sure of how well I manage this myself, but I hope I do.
ーWhat kind of music is usually playing at OIRAN?
Yuki Kawamura: Mellow electronic music (four on the floor), music to chill out to, and jazz music. Weekdays and weekends are a little different, with a mellow atmosphere on weekdays and a slightly more uptempo atmosphere on weekends. The DJs that play are usually our staff or friends. We try to emphasize the importance of community here. When it comes to booking we do put importance on quality, but we do want to keep it a more casual environment where DJs can figure out what they want to play. Depending on the day the atmosphere of the bar changes, but I like to think that we keep it well put together.
ーWhat is the best time to come by?
Yuki Kawamura: For anyone coming for the first time, anytime after 8 PM. The best time is between 8 PM to 10, 11 PM. There’s an at-home vibe and it’s the time where the day shifts into the night. Kind of like when the DJ fader switches, the mood of the people around Dogenzaka changes. I love being able to see that.
ーWhat is something on the menu you recommend?
Yuki Kawamura: Recently, I’ve been drinking gin sodas or gin with lime. For anything else, you’ll have to ask my staff yo-hey.
yo-hey: If it’s a non-alcoholic drink, the CBD-infused frozen cocktails. We make it out of the blended fruit that we freeze fresh. We can also infuse caramel-flavored CBD or even yuzu-flavored CBD into our frozen cocktails. When you want to drink something warm, our lattes are popular. If it’s something alcoholic, I recommend our mojitos. We hand crush the mint leaves, so the aroma is wonderful. I also recommend our homemade white sangria where we throw in peaches, pineapples, and no sugar.
ーIs there anything you keep in mind when putting the menu together?
yo-hey: It’s to not use any artificial flavoring. For example, if we want to use sugar then we’ll replace it with honey. Wouldn’t you rather drink something good for your body if you’re going to drink at all? There’s also wax on lemon skins, so we wash it off using baking powder before using it. We are really careful about how we prepare our menu.
ーWhat’s a special memory you’ve had here?
Yuki Kawamura: I have friends who've met and got married and friends who found their next job here as well. Nothing makes me happier knowing that there are people whose lives have changed here. Though I can’t have children myself, I do like to think that there are many kids because of me.
Though they aren’t able to come by as often anymore, it makes me so happy when they do come to visit the bar. During this pandemic, I've reflected on the importance of having a community. There are times where the pain of loneliness stings, but because of the friends I’ve met at OIRAN, knowing there are friends and families made at OIRAN, and being able to communicate through social media, I think I’ve been doing well.
ーWhat kind of experience do you wish your customers to have when coming here?
Yuki Kawamura: It’s a really hard time right now and there are a lot of difficult things going on, but I hope that coming here makes you feel a little bit warmer, happier, and possibly for something lucky comes out of it. I value “happiness” and “luck” in my life. For example, even if you are feeling down and crying, knowing there’s a little bit of happiness or luck can change your night. That’s why I hope that by coming here you can find some happiness or luck.
ーLastly, please share a music bar in Shibuya you recommend!
Yuki Kawamura: AOYAMA TUNNEL. I DJ there often and the atmosphere is great. I also love that everyone there is always up for a good time.
ーThank you so much for today!
【渋谷花魁 / Shibuya OIRAN】
150-0043 Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-22-6
※Please refer to their SNS for opening hours
▶︎ shibuya OIRAN warm up Radio：https://block.fm/radios/17
Written by Amy
Photos by Marisa