Just when I was beginning to think that Japan was becoming exceptionally musical and wondering if it was peculiar to Japan, I have begun receiving e-mails from e-pals in other countries (incidentally, one pronunciation of good in Japanese is "ee", so e-pals sounds like "good pals" in Japanese), saying that they're seeing the same thing in other cities (Ikebukuro, etc.) and in other countries, so I guess it's a world-wide phenomenon. These comments are from a friend who visited Italy a couple of years ago:
Just read your story on streets musicians of Shinjuku.
That's really too bad for them. Guys on the bottom always get the lumps. However, don't blame the cops. I'm sure they had official complaints from nightclubs and businesses. Nightclubs want people to come inside and spend money, and some businesses see such things as a neighborhood problem, attracting rowdiness. Imagine trying to sleep. But, I'll bet those musicians will find another place to perform.
During my tour of Italy a couple of years ago, we witnessed unlicensed street vendors in every major city creating problems for licensed stores, and police who were constantly chasing the low-overhead vendors from one street to another.
However, in vast St Mark Square of Venus, small street orchestras (in tuxedos) were set up in front of restaurants with outdoor tables. I saw three such orchestras playing beautiful music, a delight to all but the dullest of hoodlums. The idea was to lure people to sit at tables and spend money, but mostly people would stand just close enough to be entertained, listen to one orchestra for a while and then drift over to another, listening and standing was free, while sitting at a table would cost you. Historic and romantic St. Mark Square, night time sea air, and lovely music created a wonderful memory. The street musicians in Shinjuku just haven't found the right location yet.
Regarding "Imagine trying to sleep." - This may be why Shinjuku is such a popular place for street musicians - there are no residences around the south exit side of Shinjuku Station (where most of them play) that I'm aware of, so there shouldn't be any sleep-related complaints. The idea that area nightclubs might not like the idea of free music getting in the way of their selling it hadn't occurred to me, but that seems plausible enough. After writing that the police were chasing the musicians off the street, I went back another day, and there were several bands out playing again - including several with advertisements for local clubs! They played a few songs behind boards saying that they would be playing live at such-and-such a club on such-and-such a date, and a few were selling tickets to these places in addition to the usual CD's.
"Coming into Gotanda Station on the Yamanote Line, etc. (October 2008)"
Another train video - looking out the window of the Yamanote Line. My video camera doesn't handle wind very well, so the sound is shockingly bad, but the images might be sort of interesting. The video is on YouTube here:
Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon