If you’ve been following us on Twitch for a while, no doubt you’ve seen us promoting HOME, SWEET HOME -Tokyo’s No.1 Yuru Anime Song Party- more than a few times. It’s an event based in the Tokyo neighborhood of Koenji, an often overlooked area when it comes to people traveling to Japan but one that’s worth checking out for its rich subculture presence. The party’s claim of “No.1 Yuru Anime Song Party” lies in the nature of the event, one that is far more laid back all around, making for the perfect environment to chill out on a Saturday and enjoy some good tunes. We wanted to give everyone a look into what creates an event like HOME, SWEET HOME and let the minds behind the party and the venue express what makes it special first hand so we reached out to organizer TAICHIRO and Kappo DISCO DAIZO manager Shimomura-san to ask them about it all directly.
OTAQUEST: In regard to the party, what was your concept for starting it at this location? What was the process in setting it up.
TAICHIRO: We started the HOME, SWEET HOME event two years ago in September of 2019. Before that, I used to go to Kappo DISCO DAIZO to hang out and have fun. About three or four months before we started HOME, SWEET HOME I talked to the venue about wanting to do an event that incorporated food and we did a J-POP event where you could actually eat sushi and I had fun with that, the DJs had fun with it and the attendees were pleased with the event. That was planned to be a one-off event, but DAIZO talked to me about the concept that they wanted to do a regular monthly event with an izakaya style and they asked if I would be interested in holding a regular monthly event.
SHIMOMURA: Wasn’t that in 2018? So yeah, a little more than two years. At that time, DAIZO didn’t have any anisong events and we were kind of on the fence about how well it would do if we did it. We felt that we should do everything that we could because at the time the store had only been open for about a half of a year, so we asked him to do it and here we are three years later.
OTAQUEST: So you always wanted to be an izakaya that had music events?
SHIMOMURA: That’s right. Even leading up to this, we always had regular DJ events that were mainly house, hip-hop, R&B…genres like that.
OTAQUEST: Why did you want to be an izakaya that not only offered food and drink, but also provide music entertainment as well?
TAICHIRO: Before doing the event here, I organized various events at different clubs and places that had a different vibe than here. Here is primarily an izakaya that has food and drink but you can also sit and converse with the other customers that come to the establishment. If it’s at a club, you’re primarily standing and the sound is super loud you don’t really have the opportunity to talk to others and your friends. Personally, I have a lot of fun here when I come here and I wanted to do something in the form of an event that gave people the freedom to converse and have a good time with a good vibe. So, I did the sushi event first and then the anisong event HOME, SWEET HOME where my anisong DJ friends could perform and converse with each other in a place that had good food and good drinks.
OTAQUEST: Was that the concept behind DAIZO from the beginning?
SHIMOMURA: That’s right. At first, I was just a customer here. About three years ago, I had a different store elsewhere and then I joined this company and became the manager of this location. But just like Taichiro said, I thought it would be great to have a place where people could talk with their friends while eating food, drinking, and listening to music at an izakaya so we brought our friends in to make that happen. It’s really the same as Taichiro.
OTAQUEST: I see I see. Regarding HOME, SWEET HOME, you have an anisong event where there are regular DJs and guest DJs. Taichiro, are you the organizer of the event or a resident DJ of the event?
TAICHIRO: I am the organizer and a regular DJ. I do both.
OTAQUEST: This is a question for Taichiro. When selecting the DJs who perform for each event, what type of concept do you use when deciding who to reach out to perform?
TAICHIRO: For HOME, SWEET HOME, it’s pretty much always been regular DJs from the beginning. Each time there is a ‘sense’ and I reach out to people to see who would want to perform. Among this, for the last two and a half years the event has developed its own style and if there are people that I feel would match the event and I think they’d have fun performing at the event and rather than them being ‘regular’ DJs for the event, they ask when the next event is going to be held and I also ask on a group LINE chat if there is anyone that would want to perform, it’s pretty streamlined. There are people who take on the role of ‘Self Regular’ like Ryuichi Sumikawa, and people who have replied will participate in the next event and then we decide how many people we want to ask to perform. But personally, even though we can’t serve alcohol right now, rather than it being an anisong club event, it’s more like an anisong drinking party and it’s like ‘I’d like to drink with this person, it would be fun to do a drinking party with them’ also, rather than it being like a regular club event where everything is always high-energy songs, you can only do something like this here. There are a lot of younger people that come too who might have an interest in DJing but in a setting where it’s more laid back and they can also play songs that have that nostalgic feeling to them and that was what the mindset going into the event was.
OTAQUEST: Not only songs that are popular now, but you also hear songs that have had a massive reach across generations.
TAICHIRO: At regular club events, the DJ is right in front of you and there is a timing aspect with the patrons that are on the floor. When the DJ is performing, if they happen to play a song that doesn’t match the excitement of the event, people watching the DJ they wanted to watch perform, they will start to trickle away and the DJ can see that, even if they play nothing but bangers. Conversely here, people can eat, talk, and drink as much as they wish. Even if they’re not watching the DJ play the entire time, the DJ has the freedom to play what they want to play and if they happen to play a song that resonates with people or makes people feel nostalgic, everyone can participate in that. The pressure of pleasing the people coming to the event with their music is essentially negated here.
OTAQUEST: That might be one of the event’s drawing points. I’ve personally attended the event numerous times and there are even people who play nothing but ballad songs. I have wondered at times how many people attending the event know the song. It’s like the DJs that are performing don’t even have to consider that when choosing their songs.
TAICHIRO: Personally, I made the event because I wanted people to have an outlet to play songs that they normally couldn’t play at other events but should because it’s a good song and it would be great if the people that knew about the song talked about how good it is. That’s the main reason why I created this event. It’s not about only songs that are hits right now, but even songs that came out ten years ago or more.
OTAQUEST: Is this the type of event that resonates with the store? Of course, there is the importance of communication with the attendees, but what has been the response of the people that have come to the event that you’ve heard on the shop side?
SHIMOMURA: The event is exactly what we were looking for in an event. As well as the anime-themed food we’ll be talking about later, I first understood that we could do things here that couldn’t be done at a conventional club and I’m appreciative about that. Conversely, I don’t really know about other anisong events or anime clubs, but everyone seems to be having a great time and I think that’s great. I’m not trying to compare it to other events but I’m just looking at what we have here with this event, and I look at what we have and I’m happy that everyone is having a good time.
OTAQUEST: I think that also partly has to do with the location of the store. If you look at the venues and events in places like Okubo, Shinjuku, and Akihabara compared with the store being in Koenji on the Chuo line there isn’t that history or culture of people that are heavily into partying and getting really excited when they hear a certain song, they’d rather find new friends. That’s kind of the characteristic of the area.
TAICHIRO: Because it’s in a street-level shopping arcade rather than being in a basement level or underground I think that gives it easier access and it makes it a lot easier to have an event. The concept of the event is even in the logo which is the ‘Number One Laid-Back Anisong Party in Tokyo’. I’ve related it on Twitter previously to a party that’s held in a more rural part of a city or even like a drinking party that any normal person can go to. Koenji has a similar vibe to those with it being in the shopping arcade, it has a really laid-back vibe as it’s in an izakaya with a DJ booth.
OTAQUEST: There are people like our Editor in Chief, Eddie, who attend the event and really praise it and even wants to cover the event more and more. Do you have any conscious plans on trying to appeal more to foreigners who might be interested in an event like this?
TAICHIRO: Are you talking about HOME, SWEET HOME as a whole?
OTAQUEST: Correct, or even events that happen here.
TAICHIRO: For HOME, SWEET HOME, because we’ve been in the corona situation for at least the last year, we started talking about streaming the event on Twitch because we couldn’t host attendees at the venue. Because of this, we noticed that people from all over the world could watch so we took this into consideration into the type of music that we were playing during the event, but even with doing this, it’s not something that we intended to continue on doing and we decided to just do it how we normally do. We’re not doing this to attract international success, rather we would like to show that there are these types of events local to the area in Japan so people who are from overseas that want to experience something different can find this event and tune in. We’re not really trying to cater to anyone else’s wants rather if you find it interesting, we would be happy for you to watch.
SHIMOMURA: As a store, I don’t really think that we’re trying to appeal to foreigners. It just kind of happened by coincidence that we were able to connect with foreigners. But there are a large number of people from international that are tuning into the event on the OTAQUEST channel each time and it makes me happy that people are enjoying what we do but it’s not something that we’re doing to specifically attract foreigners.
OTAQUEST: When I think of it, this is something that is more ‘deep Japan’.
TAICHIRO: It might even be the ‘deepest Anisong Event’.
OTAQUEST: It has aspects of both underground as well as Japanese culture at the same time. It is really something that wouldn’t fall in a guidebook that you would use to find things to do but it would be great if more people knew about the event and location.
SHIMOMURA: When people from overseas can start traveling to Japan again, I would be happy if people came and checked out the izakaya. Up until now, we have had people come and check out the place without an event going on, even if they’re just here on vacation, but quite rarely. I feel that if the borders open up again, we can see better results.
OTAQUEST: Here at the shop, you have a DJ booth, but previously it was more of a stage and bands were able to perform as well. Now it’s more of a streaming setup, in regards to the stage and the concept of the izakaya itself, how did COVID-19 affect the store, and what changes did it bring?
SHIMOMURA: We actually had no real choice but to go with a streaming setup for now because we can’t really do much in the shop itself currently, so that was a start. So then we were faced with if we were going to do it, where would we do it at. The reason we made this booth is that we can use it during normal business hours as well as off business hours so it’s more of a hybrid setup. I felt that there were no places doing things like a streaming radio show during normal business hours and wanted to give it a try. But even now, we don’t see a time where we can actually have customers coming to the shop during the weekdays. Once we can get back to that sense of normality, I think we can see some results and actually do what we want to try to do, but this is the reality that we’re currently in.
OTAQUEST: So the main concept now is to hold talk shows, performances, or DJ events while customers are in the izakaya?
SHIMOMURA: For example, there might be a relationship to culture with someone who is DJing or a talk related to culture. We would be happy to just have someone come in while we have that talk show or DJ event going on. Someone might also come just because they want to see a specific DJ during HOME, SWEET HOME. This is how we would like to get customers in the izakaya, that is why we had a DJ booth and hope that it can be a catalyst to help get people together.
OTAQUEST: So you’re thinking of a specific schedule of events.
SHIMOMURA: Exactly. Currently, we’re streaming live events every day, and we’re even streaming after this interview. For example, having a famous DJ or producer, or even TAICHIRO would be good. We could possibly have an event where people listen to the event live while they’re eating at the izakaya. That’s something that we’re considering doing.
OTAQUEST: For DJs the amount of live-streamed events has grown quite a bit due to corona. But I’m sure that the DJ would like to have people in front of them, I mean it might be difficult for people from overseas to come. Taichiro, can you tell me how you feel about the balance between having fun as a DJ performing live in front of people or on a streamed event?
TAICHIRO: I have mentioned previously at other events that HOME, SWEET HOME is a sub-event that I have started for fun. The main events that I produce are much more less-laid back and more of the typical party that you would expect. Here, myself included, is a place where we come to hang out and have a good time, eat food, have drinks, and just have a good time. There is a sense of community. Realistically, where streaming is good, and people watch, I would much rather people come to the event and experience it for themselves. After corona is done, I would love to see the place packed with everyone drinking, eating, sharing stories about the songs that they liked and whatnot. This is the type of thing that I can’t do with my main events, and this is something that I feel could only be done here. It has the real feeling of a Japanese drinking party, and it is something that you can’t experience through a live stream. Did I answer your question properly?
OTAQUEST: It was great. That’s the reason why you do HOME, SWEET HOME and that’s what you are expecting for the attendees to experience.
TAICHIRO: Actually, other DJs tell me that HOME, SWEET HOME needs to be a live event. For three or four months last year, there was a point in time where we could only do streamed events. There is just something that doesn’t completely hit the spot with streamed events though. Of course, I’m really happy that people watched the stream, but here, live is the most fun.
OTAQUEST: I agree, it would be great if corona would get a bit better.
SHIMOMURA: One of the benefits of streaming though is that you’re able to connect with people that you normally wouldn’t be able to connect with in person, so I appreciate that.
TAICHIRO: During those three or four months when we were only able to stream, I think that if we didn’t stream, we would have lost the connection with people. Because people couldn’t hold drinking parties, I think that we were able to keep the circle complete by being able to stream. Plus, on top of this, we were able to connect with a completely new batch of people.
OTAQUEST: Not to mention that you can’t enjoy the anime-themed menu that you prepare for the event, right? In regards to the anime-themed menu, even Eddie said that it’s super crazy and he really enjoyed it. It’s not just limited to Ghibli, but even creations that look like they’d be tasty. Things that take the motif of the series such as key items and you turn them into a food item on the menu. When making the menu, what is your process for doing it?
SHIMOMURA: At first, Taichiro brings the ideas of the anime that is currently on air or something that is coming out next season so we can make something that is timely. Then we discuss how feasible it is and if we can actually do it. Personally, I don’t think I have the mindset to be able to search for all of this and I think it’s really impressive that he’s able to bring things like that to me.
TAICHIRO: I thought it would be great to have a food item that someone saw in a current cour or current series and turn it into a real meal, I thought it would make people happy so I took it from the series and brought it to Shimomura. I also get ideas from series like Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars) and consider if it’s something that we could make in real life and develop it from there. Also, I suggest ideas that I personally want to eat that I saw in a specific anime, and I consult with Shimomura if it’s realistically possible to make based on the logistics and if there is enough staff to do so. Another approach that I start planning is based on one ingredient which is easy to use, such as sausage, I would ask what he could make with it. Like if I wanted to add curry to the menu, I would consult with him if that was a possibility. It’s a menu that is made by someone who loves anime and a chef who loves anime.
OTAQUEST: Taichiro, do you have an anime that isn’t necessarily new but something that could be timeless that is related to food? Of course, something like Yuru Camp is pretty popular to use, perhaps something like Dungeon Meshi or Amama to Inazuma from quite some time ago. There have been a number of anime series that have been related to cooking, so maybe something along those lines.
TAICHIRO: There have been several manga such as Shokugeki no Soma and Oishinbo that have been related to gourmet which has a really grand menu but most of them are impossible to make or just way too difficult. There are a lot of menu options that we tried to bring to life from Shokugeki no Soma but when we made them, they really weren’t that good, so we decided to no use those. Yuru Camp on the other hand, doesn’t really have a difficult menu and when we made them, they’re super tasty. Things like curry, tomato sukiyaki, things that are good as a meal, or an appetizer to accompany drinks.
SHIMOMURA: We try to have a balance so there aren’t too many fried things or not too many things that are just rice dishes.
TAICHIRO: It’s not really a timeless title but if I was trying to make people laugh, I would do something like the dish from The Quintessential Quintuplets, the Yakiniku meal with no meat, or like the solo steak meal from How Heavy Are The Dumbbells You Lift. When we did the Yakiniku Meal with no meat, it was just the rice, miso soup, and pickles, so if you ordered the solo steak meal, you could have a complete set between the two. It might be fun for fans of the anime to realize that if you order both of these, you have a standard meal.
OTAQUEST: Out of everything that you have tried so far, is there anything that just turned out to be far more impossible than you had anticipated?
TAICHIRO: I’m the one that is making the requests, so I don’t really know for sure, but maybe somen? When I started this event, I wanted to have a menu that was related to anime because it’s an izakaya that has food and drinks. On the first event, it was almost the start of Summer and there is a food on Sakura Quest called Yorokobu Somen which I wanted to make but my request was shot down. I’ve been asking for this every summer, since the beginning. There is a new staff member who is a fan of the series and he made it by himself in his own free time, so I am having pretty high expectations for this summer.
SHIMOMURA: Fine. Let’s do it. What was it made with again?
TAICHIRO: It has tororo konbu, please ask that person for more details. Also, there was a time that we had Minoru Shiraishi, a voice actor from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Nichijou, and Lucky Star perform and we wanted to have yakisoba on the menu, but we weren’t able to. It’s something that only people who watch the series would know, but if you ordered yakisoba, you would actually get yakisaba (Grilled Fish) instead.
SHIMOMURA: I see I see!
TAICHIRO: It was a scene from the Nichijou anime where it was a misunderstanding and because Minoru Shiraishi was a voice actor on Nichijou, we wanted to have on the menu a disclaimer that said ‘If you don’t know this, don’t order it’ but for the people that did order it they would be shocked because they got yakisaba instead of yakisoba, but we weren’t able to do this because it was difficult to prepare grilled fish.
SHIMOMURA: I kind of want to do that the next time he comes. Right now, because we don’t have a lot of people that can come to the izakaya, it would give me a reason to try it. Before corona, we wouldn’t have been able to do this for HOME, SWEET HOME. It gets so busy when Shiraishi-san comes to the event.
TAICHIRO: It was actually kind of surprising that he performed under his real name, he was supposed to be a secret guest but he posted on his Twitter that he is about to DJ at HOME, SWEET HOME.
OTAQUEST: He has always performed under his real name, no?
TAICHIRO: He’s performed here once, I would love to have him again. But he won’t be able to until after corona has gotten better.
OTAQUEST: Kyoto Animation’s series have a lot of really good-looking foods in them.
TAICHIRO: With Ms. Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid season 2 coming out, the character Tohru will be making even more food.
OTAQUEST: It seems that you have some things that you can do.
SHIMOMURA: Like Chinjao Rosu with no meat, what was that from?
TAICHIRO: Cowboy Bebop
SHIMOMURA: I would like to do that.
TAICHIRO: The live action version is going to be airing on Netflix this coming Fall, so maybe around that time.
SHIMOMURA: I look forward to it.
TAICHIRO: I don’t know it would go over.
SHIMOMURA: You could put meat in it.
TAICHIRO: But it’s the live-action one..
SHIMOMURA: Oh, it’s like that.
TAICHIRO: I wonder if it going to have a relationship based on the popularity of the anime and we’d get more orders from fans of the series.
SHIMOMURA: I don’t really think it works like that. People usually would order something based on what pairs well with what they’re drinking or just how they’re feeling, kinda just like a regular person that orders. I do remember the tomato sukiyaki being overly popular though.
OTAQUEST: Many things that you would eat at camp tend to go pretty well with alcohol.
TAICHIRO: Even if you made it yourself, there isn’t really the feeling of camping. Not to mention there is a lot to do if you want to make it yourself. So, I’m with happy how it turned out.
SHIMOMURA: I also remember the Kaisen Bowl being quite popular too.
TAICHIRO: That’s right, the one from Yuru Camp.
SHIMOMURA: There were a lot of orders for that.
TAICHIRO: OTAQUEST even wrote an article about it.
SHIMOMURA: Yuru Camp is quite popular.
TAICHIRO: I wonder if people from overseas are interested in food based on anime series, I would love for them to come eat.
OTAQUEST: Ito-san from SHAFT draws some pretty amazing looking food in series like Gourmet Girl Graffiti and I have asked them before in an interview how they make it look so tasty, but the content didn’t really reach too well with the people overseas. The fans overseas still have the mindset that it’s a character that is taking a bite out of a giant piece of meat, but I would love to get over that. Doing things like taking meat out of dishes that were intended to have it is kind of just like playing with the ingredients. It’s half joke and half real. Rather than saying how good the meat is, they’ll be talking about how good the vegetables are.
TAICHIRO: I really wonder what type of dish would get a rise out of foreigners. I kinda want to think about it.
OTAQUEST: In Japan, they have limited-time pop-up shops where there are collaborations with anime series and SHAFT did one in Kyushu and they served food like something that you would get at Disneyland or even a family restaurant. I’ve never seen anywhere that has served anime-themed food at local restaurants or izakayas.
SHIMOMURA: There is a sense of reality to it.
OTAQUEST: That’s right, anime-themed food that is made in a regular kitchen. There is a really big family restaurant vibe to it, right?
TAICHIRO: It kinda has the image of an assembly line, doesn’t it?
SHIMOMURA: Realistically, I think it might be impossible to do a collaboration menu each month. I think we have a good separation between us and other collaboration menu concepts.
TAICHIRO: Stores that have a relation to a specific title try to make everything the exact same way as it’s portrayed in the anime, however, we’re trying to achieve a balance of how we can make it look as close to the anime as possible as well as making it taste as good as possible.
SHIMOMURA: We’ve never really thought about making it look exactly as it does in the anime.
TAICHIRO: We’re more focused on taste. The concept of a Japanese izakaya chef trying to make anime-themed food.
OTAQUEST: Lastly, do you have any comments for our readers?
TAICHIRO: In regard to Japanese anisong events, there is MOGRA who streams all the time and there are certainly other events that are fun to participate in. But we are holding our event from an izakaya in Koenji, the local part of Tokyo, not from Ikebukuro, Nakano, or Akihabara. Otaku DJs can feel at home with food and wearing what they want. There are more off-the-beaten-path people as well. We’re not trying to attract foreigners per se, rather we’re trying to do something local for the people here. The minority, not the majority might be the only ones who enjoy it. This is one of the strange events that is held in the more local parts of Japan, so I would appreciate it if you approached it with a sense of curiosity. So, if you’re watching the stream with us, grab a cold one and share the event with us, it would be great if you were able to participate with us.
SHIMOMURA: I would love for you to come visit us once COVID-19 has blown over, it’s probably the craziest anisong event that you could imagine. I think you would have a great time if you came, so please do when you can.
On any normal month HOME, SWEET HOME is the first Saturday and always takes place at Kappo DISCO DAIZO in Koenji. If you’re in Tokyo and want to check out the event, be sure to follow TAICHIRO and Kappo DISCO DAIZO on twitter for the most updated information.