90 Years Of Hibiya Yaon

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the opening of Hibiya Yaon, the open-air amphitheater in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park that is considered one of the seminal venues in the development of the live pop music scene in Japan.

Hibiya Park is located right in the middle of Tokyo’s main business district, a few blocks from the fashionable Ginza shopping area and right next to the Imperial Palace. In the 1960s and ’70s, Hibiya Yaon was practically the only concert venue in the city where rock artists could perform, and many of Japan’s most important folk and rock singers got their start there.

A committee has been formed by pop music historian Reiko Yugawa to commemorate the anniversary with a year’s worth of concerts and special events. Among the committee’s members are some of the most important people in Japan’s music biz, as well asĀ Yoko Ono.

The biggest problem facing the committee is the lack of historical documentation. The management, which is mostly under the Tokyo government, has scant records regarding the venue’s past, so Yugawa is asking the public to donate anything related to Hibiya Yaon such as ticket stubs, programs, pamphlets and photos.

Everything the committee collects will be displayed in an exhibition this July. Yugawa and former rockabilly star Mickey Yoshino will also collaborate on a theme song for the year, and so far at least 20 special concerts have been planned for the commemoration starting in July, including a tribute to women performers, a “recreation” of the early days of Japanese rock featuring “legendary” musicians who will “jam” onstage, and even some J-pop idol shows to satisfy the kids.

Hibiya Yaon has been the main venue for the Japan Blues Carnival, the country’s oldest international music festival, ever since it started in 1986.