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Tokyo Knights At Japan’s Newest Superclub ::

Reported by Olly @ Trackitdown on December 4, 2006

Five years after bilingual Japanese clubbing portal Higher-Frequency first launched, the independent website has firmly established itself as Japan’s most credible and successful dance website, both as a bridge between Eastern and Western club cultures and  as a window on electronic music, both in Japan and overseas.

Specialising in covering underground, alternative, cutting edge dance music, the Anglo/ Oz/ Japanese team also recently launched a spin-off site, dedicated to downloads, and tonight they’re officially launching it at Tokyo’s biggest and best new superclub Ageha. All is not exactly good, however, as headline performer Luke Slater, despite the fact his face is plastered across posters everywhere, is a no-show: visa problems, it appears, have scuppered his chances, so entertainment is left to Dominic Euhlberg and local heroes Ryukyu Disco, Hitoshi Ohishi, and Dr.Shingo.

Slater’s absence is a blow for the crew but they’re determined to make the best of the party, as are the 1,500 or so clubbers who’ve still made the trip outside Toyko’s immediate central zone, to what’s nowadays the city’s biggest superclub. Amongst the 1,500, and dancing with vigour is local techno star Toby Izui, the DJ and promoter who first brought German stars Sven Vath, Dr Motte, Thomas Schumacher and Mijk van Dijk to Japan in the early 90s after he experienced an epiphany at Berlin’s Love Parade. Nowadays something of an elder statesman of the Japanese dance scene (though younger than most of the internationals) Toby explains that he’s celebrating his birthday rather than working and is unflustered by Luke Slater’s no-show.

“I have been to these ‘Clash’ events at Ageha many times and sometimes the club gets really packed with up to 4,000 people,” he explains, “Because Luke couldn't show up means there are less people than expected, but you’ve still got 1,500 dedicated techno lovers supporting the local DJs, it’s really comfortable to be here.”

Elsewhere in the club, strikingly sexy Japanese girls, many dressed in fetish style thigh length boots and shorter than short mini-skirts, strut their stuff before equally well turned out Japanese guys, effortlessly eclipsing most of the markedly scruffier expat foreigners, split between those clutching beers and ogling and the rest dancing like no-one’s watching (even though in reality many are).

Ageha itself is a gargantuan space, part film studio, part super-mega-club, with facilities including a swimming pool and outdoor terrace (closed tonight as winter draws in) plus a Jacuzzi in the VVIP room (hinting at scandalous shenanigans for those in the loop). Upstairs from the cavernous main room is a regular VIP room, where hours later Toby is holding court, and is happy to chat again, about Tokyo and clubbing here in 2006.

“The club scene in Tokyo is stable, we have many different style of events here and we’re always eager to consume latest music. For instance, minimal techno is very popular and selling good amounts of records at shops, as is house and trance still; we continue to have a really big market for 12inch vinyl for all genres and many of us remain vinyl junkies,” he explains, proffering a slice of birthday cake.

“You might be surprised that we have many small clubs here in Tokyo, and just a few big ones like Ageha,” he continues. “And though it’s not so easy these days for newcomers to make it, there are always a few doing it through their own productions or by staging events and putting in long term efforts. I always advise young DJs to produce music and release first, then they will get more DJ bookings. Or otherwise, do something for the scene or contribute to the scene like promoting a nice event, so that people recognize you,” he adds.

Over in the corner, the crew enthusiastically agree, Kei Tajima telling Skrufff their own vision is about building the site long term, with Japanese producers being as central to their plans as breaking overseas artists’ music into Japan.

“I hope the people here will be more supportive towards local DJs and producers and I hope foreign DJs stop thinking of Japan as just a place to make some money with big fees,” Toby adds.

“Bringing an international DJ is really risky because there’s expensive flights, hotels, fees and the rent for venues and so on, I have been a promoter for years and I hardly made money,” he admits.

“But if the local people support more local heroes, it can be different in future,” says Toby.

Jonty Skrufff (Jonty