This Is What The SEVEN-STOREY Japan Percussion Center Looks Like
No, this is not a sponsored post. I wish!
As most of us now buy from online stores like Steve Weiss / Thomann / Amazon, dedicated brick-and-mortar percussion shops are becoming harder to find.
Yet, for almost 65 years, Komaki Music’s Japan Percussion Center (‘JPC’) in Tokyo has been considered Japan’s most popular percussion store.
Back in 2018, when Therese and I were heading to Japan to take part in the inc. percussion days festival in Sagamiko, every percussionist we met there told us that it was absolutely essential to visit JPC while we were in Tokyo.
We went last year of course, and on our most recent trip last month, Therese and I just had to go again!
JPC is located just a few blocks west of the famous Asakusa tourist area with Sensoji temple and Nakamise street. The fastest way to get there is by taking the subway to Tawaramachi Station (Ginza Line) and exiting at Exit 3.
Hint: If you have time, you can also go to the Drum Museum nearby (3 mins up the road), where you can try drums from all over the world, as well as buy some traditional Japanese instruments, gifts and real taiko sticks!
Anyway, the massive JPC building is made up of a whopping seven floors and a basement, and as a visitor you will probably find the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th floors to be most useful. The remaining floors are either recording studios, rehearsal spaces or just offices and are off limits to casual visitors.
2F, 3F, 5F and 6F all have checkouts, so you can’t just exit a floor with unpaid merchandise. If what you’re buying totals less than 5,000 yen (~$45 USD), then just pay for it on the floor you bought it from.
However, if you decide to spend BIG (trust me, you will) and end up going over 5,000 yen, ask the cashier on any floor to carry your stuff to the 5th floor. Why? Because 5,000 yen is the minimum required for a tax-free refund!
As a foreign visitor, the tax-free refund is one of the best things about shopping in Japan. Sales tax in Japan was 8% when we visited, but it has now gone up to 10% as of 1 October 2019, so you’ll essentially get 10% off your entire receipt. Note: To get your tax-free refund, they need to see your foreign passport and tourist visa - make sure you bring your passport!
Anyway, on this occasion, Therese and I took the lift straight to the 6th floor, because we are most interested in marimba. Of course…
The 6th floor is pretty well known amongst percussionists as the ‘mallet floor’ – it’s probably the only place in Japan where you can try all kinds of marimba, vibes, xylo, timpani and other orchestral mallets before you buy! On a weekend or late afternoon, you’ll probably see heaps of percussion students here trying out potential new purchases.
Of course, the best buys here are the Japanese domestic brands (Yamaha and Playwood). There is nowhere else in the world that you can try EVERY model of the Keiko Abe series in both birch and rattan… outside of maybe being a Yamaha endorsed artist in a Yamaha factory.
For Japanese brands, you won’t get better prices in any other brick-and-mortar store. For example, Keiko Abe mallets are 6,400 yen (~$60 USD) for rattan and 5,800 yen (~$54 USD) for birch. And remember, just one pair of these will get you over the 5,000 yen tax-free minimum, so you won’t need to worry about the ‘+ tax’ on the price tags.
As Therese was going to begin classes with Keiko Abe in the next couple of days and was missing the red models, she went ahead and copped a pair of Keiko Abe MKA-01s for herself, which is the two-tone model. She also bought some general use mallets for her students.
Both Therese and I bought some MKAs last year, and every time we buy them we end up being super unimpressed with the quality control of Yamaha mallets (especially the shafts, which look and feel downright awful on some batches). But that’s the biggest benefit of shopping at JPC - you can pick the good ones out of the hundreds they have in stock!
Aside from Japanese brands, you can also buy mallets from the popular European brands Resta-Jay and Elite Mallets (aka Inaki Sebastian Mallets)! This is pretty rare in stores outside of Europe (even PASIC doesn’t have a Resta-Jay presence), but it’s understandable in Japan as many players love RJ’s artist lines (i.e. Geoffroy, Kamiya and Sejourne). But of course, being a European brand, don’t expect any of them to be cheap – Momokos went for 9,500 yen (~$90 USD) and Sejournes went for 10,500 yen (~$97 USD) per pair… *insert Roblox death sound*
Needless to say, I gave those a solid pass…
Other mallet brands available include certain Encore Mallets lines (Nanae Mimura and some others), pre-Zildjian Mike Balter mallets (mostly Titaniums and Pro-Vibes), some Innovative Percussion and Marimba One lines, as well as some old Musser lines. Honestly, unless you urgently need them, I would stay away from copping any USA brand mallets at JPC, as the prices are almost 1.5x to 2x more expensive than buying from the States!
Other than keyboard mallets, we also have a wall of timpani mallets featuring the most luxe Japanese timpani mallet brand – KATO! I don’t know much about timpani, but I know that many players swear by KATO. Prices are generally around 12,000 yen (~$112 USD) a pair, which seems pretty standard for high-end timpani mallets.
If you don’t have a huge budget to splash on timp mallets, there’s also some Pearl, VF, Playwood and even JPC’s own house brand to choose from.
Other interesting non-keyboard mallets – Massimo tubular bell mallets feature here! I met Brian ‘Choppy’ Massimo at PASIC 2017 and didn’t know his mallets were this popular, but there you go.
This floor is also divided in the middle by a line of instruments that are both for trying mallets and of course actually buying! On this occasion there was a Yamaha vibraphone, a Korogi glock, a Korogi xylophone, a rosewood Yamaha 4.3 marimba, a single Yamaha timpani, and yes, a Pearl MalletStation and Alternate Mode Malletkat on display. That’s a LOT of testing instruments.
I also noticed the helpful staff helping a young child and his mother test out a brand new glock (in the background of the photo above), which they set up right in front of him. I’m happy to see more young kids taking up percussion sooner rather than later!
On the other side of this floor was a huge selection of Tama, Sonor, Ludwig and JPC-branded concert snare drums, as well as heaps of cases, drum heads and stands. I’ve never seen a lot of these concert snare models, so I assume they must be Japan exclusive.
I forgot to take a picture of it, but there’s also an orchestral snare drum stick section with tons of sticks from Vic Firth, Tama, Pearl, Zildjian and other brands that I’ve never heard of before. As you’d expect, the Japanese brands like Playwood/Tama/Lerni are around the USD $8 - $10 mark, while the US brands like VF are closer to $15 - $20.
I also really like that they have weighing machines and practice pads for you to make sure you get a perfectly matched pair of sticks. A small but much appreciated touch!
Anyway, once we’d had enough of this floor, we went down the stairs and asked the nice staff to help bring our items down to the 5th floor, so we could pay for them tax-free later.
Now for the 5th floor. Firstly, the sheet music section.
I forgot to take a better photo of the sheet music section, but it’s basically thousands of sheet music titles for all your needs, including solo, duo, ensemble, orchestral, concerto and even mixed chamber ensemble scores. For international music, I spotted many Edition Svitzer scores (although there were no Adam Tan or Robert Oetomo titles… sad day for #TeamAustralia), as well as scores from big publishers like KPP, Row-Loff, Tapspace, Honey Rock, and even independent releases from people like Ivan Trevino and of course, Casey Cangelosi and his ‘arch-nemesis’ Pius Cheung.
I love that they even have a special area reserved specifically for popular competition pieces like Merlin, The Source, Velocities, Reflections on the Nature of Water etc.
But of course, we’re at JPC! Let’s not forget JPC is also a publisher of many Japanese composers and artists – and as a result, the Japan-exclusive score collection is HUGE. Other than the usual Abe/Miyoshi/Sueyoshi/Takemitsu releases, there’s many lesser known compositions and arrangements that you literally cannot buy anywhere else. Therese recently performed one of these JPC arrangements, which was the Miki Matsushima arrangement of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’.
Best part – some of the sheet music here starts as low as 500 yen (~$5 USD)! I bought a random assortment of ensemble scores for future projects, as well as Pius’ much-lauded PASIC release of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ for marimba duo to play with Therese in our next recital. Needless to say, it’s reaaaallly hard…
Other than sheet music, there is also a CD wall featuring many Japanese and international percussion artists. I recognised old mate Pius again, as well as Fumito Nunoya, Claudio Santangelo, Eric Sammut, Ney Rosauro and more. Ironically, this is probably the only thing you can’t try in the store as all the CDs are wrapped in plastic.
Near the door, there is an assortment of stick bags, including Tama bags, Protection Racket cases, the Mike Balter barrel bag and carry-all case, the Adams Smart Pack and JPC’s own horizontal mallet bag. But as you guys know, I still love my Galaxy bag the most at the moment so I gave this a pass too.
Half of this 5th floor is taken up by the cymbal testing area, which is made up of suspended cymbals on stands and crash cymbals on wall racks. Unfortunately, I know nothing about cymbals and have no reason to buy any, but it seems like there’s a bit of everything, including Sabian, Zildjian, Paiste and some Japanese brands. My luggage space prohibits carrying such heavy items anyway…
They also have suspended cymbal mallets, bows and other cymbal accessories logically placed right next to the cymbal area. Makes so much sense!
And then we have the accessories section, which is made up of woodblocks, castanets, and the like. Expect brands like Black Swamp, Meinl, LP, Playwood, as well as Hugh Tracey kalimbas and of course, JPC house brand gear as well.
And yes, of course there's a triangle and tambourine wall! I’m sure Todd Meehan would love this.
There’s a small chimes and gong wall with some accessories and beaters next to it. Probably not that practical for travellers either.
There’s also an accessories and gifts shelf, and here you’ll find a section full of Boss, Korg and Seiko Instruments metronomes. I know everyone loves Dr. Beats, but I have a soft spot for Seiko metronomes (and watches…) because they are Japan-exclusive and have appropriately Japan-exclusive designs!
Yes, Sumikkogurashi and Rilakkuma on metronomes!!! And Korg also makes Sanrio metronomes, including Hello Kitty, Cinnamoroll and GUDETAMA!!!
But… I’m obviously a serious musician, so I only pick serious metronomes. (I really want to buy another one)
After spending our big billed yen at the tax-free checkout, we moved down to the 3rd floor, which was home to world percussion instruments like hand drums, steel pans, cajons, Latin accessories, boomwhackers and more. I think my friend Jackson would love this floor.
There’s also little fun things like Indian bells, temple bowls, finger cymbals and more if you’re looking to get some gifts for people. That being said, the prices aren’t SUPER competitive compared to more dedicated world percussion shops in the States or elsewhere. I think Hong Kong’s Harmony Music was cheaper for gongs and cymbals (thanks Matthew!).
We were pretty tired at this point, so we moved downstairs to the final floor, the 2nd floor.
This floor is mostly drum kit stuff (which I forgot to take a picture of), including drums, hardware, accessories, thrones, heads and stick bags. And of course, there’s a drum stick wall.
I’ve loved the Japanese band UVERworld for over a decade now (wow I’m old), and being a Japanese store it was awesome to see Shintaro’s (the drummer) signature sticks by the Japanese brand LERNI! Of course I had to cop a pair.
So yes, Therese and I exited JPC almost four hours later with a massive bag full of JPC goods. Even if you have the resistance of a lead dome, if you're serious about percussion it's a must visit.
Address: 1 Chome-7-1 Nishiasakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0035, Japan
Metro stop: Tawaramachi Station (Ginza Line), Exit 3
Opening hours: 11am to 8pm (Monday – Saturday) and 10:30am – 7pm (Sunday and holidays).
Have you ever been to JPC, or do you want to go? Let me know what you think down below!