Tokyo Tower Jam Sessions

I think there’s nothing as purely enjoyable as sitting outside, even in the frosty cold of March, and playing music. Last Spring my musical friend and I used to do this quite a bit in the park next to my apartment (the beautiful Inokashira Park). We’d place ourselves on a bench (or on the ground if we had the foresight to bring a blanket) facing the pretty pond with floating swan boats, in front of the little coffee kiosk. We’d sit in the park for hours strumming and singing, and every so often I’d get up for another cup of coffee from my coffee man, who always concluded our short interchanges with a comment on the weather, in clear and simple Japanese.

Last weekend, my friend and I were both coming out of an exhausting week, so we decided to find a very lazy way to pass our Sunday afternoon. After a little “cozy cafes in Tokyo” Google searching we landed on a Le Pain Quotidien, situated in the middle of a park next to Tokyo Tower. I hadn’t been to this chain in years, but it’s all over NYC so it had a sweet and nostalgic attraction for me. It’s also hard to find a cafe in Tokyo with such an expansive menu of fresh and healthy sandwiches/salads/etc (although of course there’s absolutely no shortage of cafes in Tokyo). We passed an amazingly relaxing afternoon at Le Pain, with our hummus platter, pumpkin soup, giant mesclun salad, and a couple pots of coffee.

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Le Pain Quotidien lunch

We were sitting there for so long that the evening started to settle in on us. Just as we were finishing up, another musician friend of ours joined us and together we started to walk towards Tokyo Tower, in search of some greenery where we could sit and jam.

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Tunnel of trees next to Tokyo Tower

Actually it was harder to find a good piece of greenery than we expected. We wandered around the tower for awhile, looking around (not too expectantly) for some hot wine, and finally settled on a dark green corner of park in front of the tower. The entrance of the park sloped down along a wall of stones, giving it a kind of tomb-like appearance. But we stumbled our way down the stone path to the small clearing of benches below. After we settled in on a bench, with the backdrop of Tokyo Tower pouring in on us through the trees, and took out the two acoustic guitars, we threw a few 100-yen coins at my friend and she ran off to a nearby conbini (convenience store) to buy some beers.

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Tokyo Tower

Even with the darkness and temperature descending, until the cold was biting at my fingertips, I found myself utterly and effortlessly at peace. To be honest, I don’t really know how to “jam” is a very productive way– I can hazard some simple soloing or play my own songs, but I’m really not musical enough to improvise something impressive with another person. So at times I just listened to the beautiful harmony of my friends’ voices, sipping my beer, holding the guitar against me for warmth…maybe softly strumming around on a reasonably matching scale. There’s something so liberating about singing and strumming out into the darkness. Rather than being captured and reflected in the faces of the audience, or falling flat against the walls of my tiny apartment, the sound just emanates endlessly, vibrating through the crisp air.

So there we sat, perched on the backs of a couple wooden benches, calling out joyfully into the night. And not until our beers were finished and our hands were frozen did we pack up and head home.

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