I kicked myself, hard in the ass, when I realised that Zazen Boys had come to Sapporo last autumn and I missed them. As always bears restating, they are not only one of the best bands in Japan, but in the world, because no-one else in the world sounds like them. And when I saw them at Rising Sun last year they were awesome. Then I noticed they were playing some dates in Hokkaido this May... but not playing Sapporo. Nuts. Then Yuki, who was an instant convert at Rising Sun, said... well we both have a day off on Sunday why don't we just go to Tomakomai? And she offered to drive coz she's awesome. So as kind of a last minutish thing - we did.
It was pissing down with rain all day, a two and a half hour drive to Tomakomai on the South coast of Hokkaido and I had to do some very dodgy Japanese A-Z reading, but we got there. And when we got there, what a there it was:
I'm not sure if that photo adequately conveys the sheer "middle-of-nowhere" backwater-ness of the venue. There was no parking anywhere, we just left the car in a video store parking lot and hoped it wouldn't get clamped or towed. It was way out of central Tomakomai (which I didn't see, but if the rest of Tomakomai is anything to go on, I'm in no rush to check out, sorry Tomakomaians) and basically a kind of live/rehearsal space above a guitar shop. Zazen Boys are a pretty big band, it was awesome so see them in a venue about the size of the ones I used to play in.
Close enough for the bassist to spend a long time staring at me really hard in a really strange way. They were incredible, even though they ended their set on an actual free-form jam (ugh) and the timing and interplay live makes them one of the best live acts I've ever seen. I'm still harboring a secret hope that they'll be added to the Rising Sun bill this year, but if not, well, I'm glad we hit "Toma" as Mukai Shutoku called it.