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Chigusa Modern Jazz and Coffee

Posted 28th March 2012 at 07:41 AM by rjm
Updated 28th March 2012 at 07:57 AM by rjm

I was fortunate to stumble across this place on a trip to Yokohama earlier this week.


I was walking around the area near Sakuragicho Stn. after dinner, and, through the windows I could make out a back wall filled with LPs, two turntables built into the bar countertop, and a pair of giant multi-way speakers. The sign out front said "Modern Jazz and Coffee". So, naturally, I went in.

First, the history of the place as it was explained to me:

First opened in 1933. Destroyed by American bombs during the war, 6000 SP records gone, re-opened, and was in business until the owners death in 1994, then taken over and run by the owners younger sister until 2007, when, at the age of 77 (!) she gave it up. Volunteers somehow managed to preserve the records and furnishings, including the sound system, and, some 5 years later, decided to relocate and reopen at a nearby location just, if I've got this right, a couple of weeks ago.

So you have this cafe where you go to listen to jazz LPs, with a menu of three items (coffee, hi-ball, beer) run by volunteers. Only, I think, in Japan!

The turntables are Technics SP-25s. There is a control amp, and 4 stereo power amp which are either home built or custom made. No tubes on display, I'm not sure if it is tube or solid state or hybrid. The amps are shoe-box sized with little ventilation. One sort of suspects push-pull EL84s, but it might be solid state.

The speakers are 12 or perhaps 14 inch inch woofers, probably sealed cabinets, with horn midrange and horn tweeters, and a pair of tweeters or super-tweeters flank each of the horn tweeters for, I suppose, better dispersion of the high frequencies.

The speakers are placed next to each other so there is basically no stereo image as such. But then the idea is to project the sound into the room for everyone to hear, without any one single sweet spot, so to that end it works just fine.

I've heard a couple of these large multi-way horn systems now, the other being the Cafe Mozart in Kyoto. There is a commonality of sound: Too much top-end energy for my taste, and too colored by speaker resonances, but I can't deny these systems have amazing, effortless, addictive presence. The music is warm, breathing, and physically surrounding in a way that no other high-end setup quite manages.

I don't know how long Chigusa can go on existing in it's present form, it is an anachronism in so many ways. If you get the chance, you should definitely try to visit.

I'll have to post a photo of the old location, as I didn't have my camera.

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