You’ve just finished unpacking your belongings and spot your instrument patiently waiting in the corner. You joyfully approach, eager to play. But not so fast! Bright, shimmering strings, airy flute melodies and even gentle humming can travel through these thin walls, reaching your neighbors’ ears.
Many Japanese apartments are constructed with wood or light steel, which is less than ideal for soundproofing. Although they can absorb intense shaking from earthquakes, they can’t absorb the sweet-sounding vibrations of your instrument. But don’t worry, you won’t have to give up music when you move to Japan.
If you’ve “forgotten” to tell your landlord that you are a musician, look closely at the terms of your lease. Requirements for playing an instrument may be outlined in these documents. If, for some reason, music is strictly forbidden, there is still hope.
If you’re determined to make Tokyo your long-term musical home, consider seeking musician-friendly or gakkika (楽器可, musical instruments allowed) housing. These apartments are tailored to musicians and often come with soundproofing solutions. In addition to having concrete walls, they may feature double doors and windows. Look for housing in neighborhoods near music conservatories or universities with music departments.
Being transparent about your musical endeavors with your agent can improve your chances of finding a living space that suits your needs. Prepare to discuss the type of instrument you play, your intended playing schedule, and any other relevant details. You may be rewarded with a musician-friendly apartment and find yourself within an exciting community of fellow creatives.
Soundproofing Your Apartment
For musicians living in regular apartments, there are ways to optimize your space for creativity. Soundproofing’s the name of the game, but remember that the state of your apartment should be close to immaculate when moving out. Be a virtuoso, not a vandal. Unless you want to spend money on soundproof booths designed for apartments, these tips may only partially drown out your melodic riffs. Still, they can help minimize noise:
- Corner Apartment: Choose a corner apartment with one less neighbor, giving you a free wall to play by.
- Acoustic Panels: Place high-quality acoustic panels against your walls. Cheap egg crate foam panels won’t stop your sound from traveling.
- Close Windows: When practicing, close windows and cover them with soundproof curtains.
- Thick Carpets: Lay down thick carpet or rubber floor mats where you practice.
- Mute Your Voice: Try singing into a plastic cup for vocal warmups. You’ll be amazed at how it muffles high notes and loud belts.
- Use Headphones: If you have an electric instrument, plug it into an amp or audio interface and play the night away!
Practice Rooms and Rehearsal Studios
Japan offers musicians practice rooms and rehearsal studios, complete with PA systems, keyboards, and drum sets, starting at ¥500 per hour. Costs vary based on location, size, and required gear. While most instruments are included in the price, some equipment might have extra fees. If you have excess gear, consider studio storage options.
Seeking a well-equipped space? Some popular studios are:
Alternatively, karaoke booths can be a convenient and budget-friendly option for solo musicians. However, you must inquire if your instrument is allowed inside.
From Home to Center Stage
Tokyo has a live music scene with open mic nights and jam sessions if you’re itching to take your music beyond apartment walls. Many creative spaces welcome seasoned and aspiring songwriters or musicians, including:
- Infinity Books & Event Space
- Bar Gari Gari
- Ruby Room
- Jazz Spot Intro
- Time Out Cafe & Diner
- What the Dickens
- Naru Jazz House
Stay updated with their event calendars for upcoming opportunities to showcase your talent. If you prefer the great outdoors, head over to the park. Play during the day, avoid residential areas, and you might just find the perfect spot for your music.
Are you a musician living in Tokyo? Let us know in the comments!