Sunday, July 25, 2010

Music in Osaka Jo Koen (The Park that Never Sleeps)

Osaka Jo Koen (Osaka Jo Castle) is one of main symbols of Osaka which has a unique history and is almost always a stopping point for travelers visiting the city. The castle is historic, and the park enables you to get lost in nature (while being right in the city).

It is no surprise (but little known) that this is a great place for musicians to come and make noise at anytime of the night. That is the topic of this article. Musicians in Osaka Jo Koen.

Most people dont usually associate Osaka Jo Koen with being a music haven...except for the music hall and the small outdoor concert location that are within the park. After living in Morinomiya for the last few kind of get to see the ins and outs of the park. And, being a musician, I am always running into other musicians throughout the park (at the oddest hours of the night). This is why I say, this park never sleeps...because at ANY GIVEN HOUR of ANY GIVEN will find musicians in this park. In the day time, you can find festivals, concerts, performances, and full on events in the park. In the night time, you will find musicians...tapping away on drums, blowing trumpets as to sound the armies, or sitting quietly with a violin or koto under a secluded tree. The music really never stops in this park, and is why it is my favorite spot in all of Osaka to live.

Also, I know from being here a while that musicians come and go. Foreigners especially are looking for other musicians to make music with, and are always posting ads in the local classifieds looking for certain musicians. This may help you find what you are looking for. Just by walking through Osaka park at 1:30 am, you will be able to find almost any kind of musician you are looking for....and usually the hardcore kind who...well...go out to Osaka Jo at 1:30 just to make noise!

What I am going to do, is detail some of the great places in Osaka Jo where you can find music, musicians, and overall good fun!

Osaka Jo Hall

This place is not so much a place to find underground musicians, but is one the biggest venues to see concerts in Osaka. This place holds big J-Pop concerts, orchestras and bands, and even sumo and other events. will just be walking through Osaka park, and there will be thousands of girls dressed up like anime characters, or crazy Japanese fashion, because a HUGE idol group is playing at this venue. Its always a funny spectacle....and this place will look like an anthill of people.

The closest station is Osaka Jo Koen Station on Loop-line.

Osaka Jo Koen Walkway

This location is a super rad location just outside of Osaka Jo Koen station. This little walkway has musicians playing all of the time, but is especially popular on Sundays. This whole walkway will be lined with bands and medium sized speakers. Sometimes, even more popular groups will just set up here and do a raw session.

This is a great place to meet other bands and get connected in the scene. You will find some of best artists chilling around here.

Also, if come here late at night, there is a tunnel right beside the hall where there is almost always acoustic singer song writers singing at the top of their lungs. The tunnel has some great reverberation, and is a great spot for acoustic instruments. I also catch didgeridoo players, hand drummers, violinists, koto players, and other interesting musicians here. Even until 6am, you will find musicians here....especially on the weekends.

Morinomiya Station

This place is BY FAR the biggest music hub in the park. There are quite a few reasons for this. #1, its one the main stations for entering the during that day time, there are always many people here. This is good for taiko bands or other acoustic yet loud performances. #2, it is right beside the loop line train tracks, and has an empty train yard behind it (which means you can be as loud as you want)....and at night time...there are always anywhere from 10-100 different horn musicians practicing solo or in groups. It really is an amazing spectacle.

Once you exit the park exit, you will find a large walkway with a small stream up the middle. On weekends, bands will occasionally set up right here with small amps.

I have met some really talented jazz bands here.

Also, all around the exit...there are usually TAIKO bands practicing and dancing. Osaka Jo Park almost always has one of these going on somewhere...but, near the station is quite common because they can be REALLY loud.

For horn players, any night of the week, you can find them around here...or more specifically, along the road parallel with the train tracks.

If you walk into the park a little towards the will find many different hand drummers who like to practice near the small stream and around the fountain. There are tons of good jam sessions here...and when Im bored during the day time...I just take my hand drum out there and meet some new musicians to jam with.

Be sure to check the parking lot near here too because I have recently been finding full on reggae and jam bands who set up in the dark hours...and blast some loud music with a generator right in the parking lot. Police seem to look the other way (even though speakers are not really allowed here). I even found a big reggae party with DJs

Osaka Jo Outdoor Music Theater

Right beside the fountain near Morinomiya station is the outdoor music theater. On weekends, there is usually some kind of conert going on here...whether it be J-pop, reggae, orchestras, radio promotions, etc. It is really hidden below a steep cliff...and sometimes, a big concert will be going on there but you would never even know it. Sometimes, big artist even come and play here...and it can get really busy. Sometimes, they hold practices for big ensembles, which is a nice treat to listen to on the overlooking cliff above it. 

East Moatside Walkway

If you continue into the park from Morinomiya station, you will come across the outer moat walkway. This is one of my favorite places to find drummers. 

This little walkway always seems to have hand drummers jamming in the evenings...alone, and in groups. It is a good place to make a new friend and rock out some funky beats. I would say 90% of the time on weekday evenings, you can find a drummer here. On weekends, its goes without saying. There are also tons of singer songwriters here practicing because it is a really peaceful spot...and is a backup plan when the tunnel is occupied.

Osaka Jo Castle (Southside)
This part of the park is one of the main tourist spots in the park. It is the part that leads into the castle, and commonly has music and artists playing up here. This is where you can see all the traditional taiko drummers, koto artists, dancers, performers, etc. During holidays, there is always something going on. 

There are not many solo artists during the daytime, but in the evenings, I find people taking up corners near the inner moat cliffs singing alone or playing horns. 

 Osaka Jo Castle (Northside)

On the north side of the castle...there is another super chill location that musicians like to practice in. When you cross the 2nd moat, you can enter up into the north side of the castle. This is where Osaka Improv Jam Group has their monthly OSAKA JO FULL MOON DRUM CIRCLE. Every full moon, on either the Saturday or Sunday, there is a big drum circle held here. Sometimes, its in a different location depending on the moon...but usually it is here. More info -

 The Orchard

 Another great location to find solo musicians and drum circles is in the plum & peach gardens (The Orchard). This place has had a reputation of putting on good DJ parties (before the police busted them all up). I, however, still catch the occasional party here. Young kids like to bring speakers and DJ equipment, and party here. It still happens, just not as much. I always seem to meet other flute players, drummers, and soloists it is very quiet and has amazing views overlooking the first moat.
Osaka Jo Koen (West Side)
The west side of the park, even being close to the big buildings near Tanimachi 4-chome, still has a bunch of musicians who like to set up here. This is a lot closer for people carrying BIG drums as there is parking on this there tends to be BIG taiko sessions here. This is also the side with the big park that cost a couple hundred yen to get into...but is a great place to have a chill session with 1 or 2 other musicians. The pay-park is beautiful. Also, just outside the west entrance is where the 50's greasers like to dance.

 There are many other locations in the park where musicians like to hide and make noise...but these are just some of the few common locations to find musicians and music. Some of the best locations will stay they are the few gems that we have in the park. If you are musician and want to find other musicians....a Friday night stroll is all it takes to find anyone you are looking for. In the evening on weekends, you will find multiple bands playing. On holidays, you will find HUGE performances. Osaka Jo Koen is really a great, unappreciated spot in Osaka when it comes to music. I am glad to live right here...because any night of the week...and I can just take an instrument out to Osaka Jo....and get away from the city lights, pollution, and people. It is where many of the unknown talented artists like to be heard by the heavens, and no one else.


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