Japan Venues Shut Down

Space Lab Yellow, one of Tokyo’s most popular late-night dance clubs, will close its doors after a final party June 21.

The 800-capacity space, located in the trendy Nishi Azabu district, opened in 1993 and has since garnered a reputation for innovation and progressiveness, attracting some of the world’s top DJs over the years, including DJ Premier, Laurent Garnier, Mad Professor, Lee Perry and Carl Cox on a regular basis.

In addition, visiting musicians with DJ ambitions often show up at the club when they come by while on tour.

According to the management, the club’s lease is up this summer and the owners have decided to tear the building down and jump into the city’s construction boom. No plan to relocate the club was in the works at press time.

Another Tokyo landmark slated to close is the older, better-known Koma Theatre in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho entertainment district. The Koma opened in 1956 when Japan was still rebuilding from the devastation of World War II. It quickly became a prime venue for popular singers, which in those days mostly sang what is now referred to as "enka" (Japanese ballads).

Hibari Misora, one of the most beloved singers of the postwar era, was a regular headliner, and current pop elders like Saburo Kitajima and Aki Yashiro got their starts at Koma. Most recently, the 2,088-seat theatre with the circular stage hosted the long-running musical "We Will Rock You," featuring foreign performers singing Queen songs.

The Koma will close on New Year’s Eve with a special show broadcast live on TV. After that the entire block that contains the Koma as well as a smaller play theatre, a cinema complex, a bowling alley and restaurants will be torn down. The theatre’s management company has said it will work with Toei movie studios, which owns the land, to develop the site starting next year.

And lastly, Osaka’s original classical music venue, Festival Hall, will close in the fall. The theatre, which is home to the Osaka Philharmonic, opened in 1958, seats 2,709, and has hosted pop, jazz and rock concerts (Led Zeppelin played there in 1971).

The loss of Festival Hall means that the city of Osaka will lack a venue with the facilities to stage full-scale opera productions.

The owner of the building that houses the hall wants to tear it down and build a skyscraper in its place. However, it has announced that Festival Hall will be "reconstructed" in the same location as part of the skyscraper, which will be completed in 2010 or thereafter.