The Oldest Jazz Café In Japan Will Become A Jazz Museum

The location will reopen in its new function in 2023

Time Out reports that what is thought to be Japan’s longest-running jazz café will only be open for a little while longer. It will cease operating as a jazz café on April 10, 2022, but will again be available to jazz lovers in 2023. That is when it will reopen as a jazz museum.

Chigusa, as it is now called was founded in Yokohama back in 1933, and it was forced to close twice over its long history, but has always bounced back. Now, loyal patrons and music lovers are preserving it as a place to honor jazz culture in Japan.

As Time Out notes, Chigusa was established almost 90 years ago by a young man called Mamoru Yoshida. Yoshida, who was 20 years old at the time, wanted his café to be a place for musicians and music lovers to revel in Japan’s budding jazz culture over coffee. When World War II began, the government promptly banned jazz, along with any other music that belonged to the nation’s enemies, but Yoshida wouldn’t give up his livelihood. Instead, the café owner resorted to hiding his vast collection of 6,000 jazz records in his attic. During an air raid in 1945, however, Yoshida’s café was burned to the ground along with his beloved collection.

Three years later during the Allied Occupation of Japan, Yoshida reopened Chigusa near the American military base in the city as he worked to rebuild his collection. With a combination of donated vinyl records from his regulars as well as a number of V-discs (records distributed to American military personnel on deployment), Yoshida was able to rebuild his vast collection.

After Yoshida passed away in 1994, his sister Takako took over the business where loyal regulars continued to stop by for coffee and classic jazz. Takako was eventually forced to sell the café to land developers in 2007, but by then, Chigusa had a steadfast fanbase who were determined to see the shop survive. Together with the Yokohama Jazz Association, Chigusa’s regulars applied for a government subsidy to reopen the café, which they were successfully able to do in 2012.

As Chigusa nears the 90th anniversary of its founding, the café is set to become a museum and live music venue. The space will exhibit vintage V-discs and rare vinyl records as well as the same tables, chairs, and posters that were used for decades in the café.

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