Skip to main content
A Magazine for

Doomed in Japan: Kurokuma on Tour

36 1537953720
Tishk Barzanji

The origins of my band, Kurokuma, are strongly linked to Japan. I'd been inspired by the Nebuta Festival while living in Aomori and wanted to combine heavy metal with the instruments and rhythms you might find there. Our name was taken from Aomori's Kurokuma Falls. Touring Japan felt like heading home.

We toured with Conan from Liverpool and Granule from Tokyo, but the Kurokuma trio spent ten days travelling first. It was years since I'd last been. Seeing old friends, singing karaoke, visiting hot springs for naked bonding sessions and generally being tourists was seriously fun. My Japanese started to flow again and we received the famous hospitality wherever we went.

At underground venue Club Zion in Nagoya, the opening band, Amber Vial, had huge taiko drums and wore robes on stage. I opened with a message in Japanese and it felt like the crowd were on our side, headbanging and throwing themselves into the show. We left the stage relieved and elated.

Granule took us out for food at a local izakaya before playing and the camaraderie was perfect. They also arranged accommodation at a nearby hostel. The grimy, dirty nature of the place might have been cause for complaint, but in normally spotless Japan it felt novel.

Perhaps they did get us after all

Osaka, somewhere I'd lived for six months teaching English, is one of my favourite cities, famous for its friendly population and relaxed attitudes compared to the rest of Japan. We headed for a capsule hotel, where hundreds of pods line the walls to fit the most people into the smallest space. They're pretty cheap, with public baths downstairs. We ventured out for food, hit up a local headshop, then took a pre-gig soak in the baths. Feeling relaxed, we walked round the corner to Hokage in the Shinsaibashi district, a rock bar split over three floors, mostly underground.

We played a slow and droney set. It felt like the crowd wanted to engage but didn't quite know how, maybe because they weren't used to slow shows. Either way, we warmed them up for the more accessible Conan, who instigating mosh pits. At the end of the night we ended up selling quite a lot of merch and even received gifts from fans. Perhaps they did get us after all.

Next day we were up early to ride back up to Tokyo. We arrived in Shibuya in the daytime sun and fought our way through the crowds to Earthdom, another underground venue. This sold-out event was an all-dayer, with six bands and a screening of The Doom Doc, a film we'd been a part of about the doom scene back in Sheffield. Even more bizarrely, our mates from Phatworld and Off Me Nut were also playing Tokyo that night, so they came to hang out.

Before taking the stage, we donned traditional dress we'd been given in Aomori. It was a little tongue-in-cheek, but when playing I felt like I was channelling a native energy you don't get at UK shows. It was phenomenal and, as always in Japan, the sound was exemplary. We watched Granule one last time in their hometown, mouths agape, then sat side-stage to experience Conan's visceral rumblings.

After packing up, we went to see Phatworld play a club in Shinjuku, complete with young Japanese bassline fans in Sheffield United shirts. Leaving in the early hours, we struggled to find a place to stay - our own fault - and slept in a karaoke room for a few hours, before waking up bleary-eyed for the long journey home.

Joe E Allen

Next article in issue 126

More Music

Sister Wives Fuzz bass and witch marks

The Sheffield-Welsh quartet tell us about their work and what inspires their sound – songcraft hewn from the land and offered up in ritualistic respect for creative forces of women and nature.

No Bounds 2020 Virtual 3D: five key performances

With all of us consigned to our homes again and club doors shut for the foreseeable future, we pick out five of the best live-streamed shows from last October's No Bounds festival.

More Music