British Columbia

Next Music from Tokyo tour brings Japanese indie bands to Vancouver

Steven Tanaka loves Japanese indie music. In fact, he loves it so much, he spends more than $40,000 of his own money every year, bringing unknown bands to tour Canada.

Vancouver-born doctor Steven Tanaka spends more than $40K a year bringing unknown bands to tour Canada

Steven Tanaka (centre) with representatives from the different bands performing on the Next Music from Tokyo tour. (Steven Tanaka)

Steven Tanaka may seem like an ordinary doctor, but his love for Japanese indie music — and the lengths to which he's willing to go to share it — has made him anything but.

For the last five years, the Vancouver-born anesthesiologist has made it his personal duty to bring lesser-known Japanese underground bands to Canadian audiences.

"I felt that if someday I could bring [these] bands to Canada it would be such an amazing tour and a good representation of the best music coming out of Japan," he says.

His Next Music from Tokyo tour travels across the country every year, introducing Canadian music fans to the indie influenced brand of music.

So far, the bands have performed two shows in Toronto as well as one in Montreal. They play the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver on Wednesday night.

Tour costs $40K every year

Tanaka takes on multiple roles throughout each tour, acting as the MC, DJ, and even interpreter for the artists. On top of it all, he says it's completely self-financed.

"This is an expensive hobby but I get enough out of doing this tour that it's definitely well worthwhile. You can't put a dollar amount on the amount of joy and great memories I get by doing this tour every year."

If you could put a dollar amount on each tour though, Tanaka says it costs upwards of $40,000 for total costs.

For some of the band members who perform, it's their first experience playing in front of a North American crowd.

Knowing that, Tanaka says he's very picky about which bands he brings over to Canada, noting it's more than just their musical ability that gets taken into consideration.

"They have to have a very good stage performance and not be too gimmicky. I like for them to be a band you wouldn't be able to see in Canada."

Language barrier no obstacle

Even though some of the audience members may not understand the Japanese lyrics of the groups, Tanaka says the love of good music can be appreciated across languages.

"I think that music itself is a language that communicates emotion and almost tells a story in the way a song is arranged. You don't have to understand what they're singing in order to enjoy the show."

The Next Music from Tokyo bands perform Wednesday night at the Biltmore Cabaret at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 on the door.

To hear more, listen to the audio labelled: Doctor's passion for Japanese indie music makes for unlikely music tour

With files from Elaine Chau

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