Ryu ： The records that are lined up tightly on the rack got my attention as soon as I opened the door. About how many records do you have?
Oidon : It is about 3500 records now. It started from a little over 200 when it first opened in 1975. However, it was easy to target records freely at the time and it was not nearly impossible to find like now. I believe CDs was popular in the 90’s but I think about 3500 records were lined up on stage.
Ryu ：Are these records selected and collected by now?
Oidon : Most of them are but you know there are those classics you must have when you are involved in jazz. I intended to collect some of them and there was no such thing as hip hop at all back then and people who collected previous albums lined them up at places such as Blue Note, Standard, Prestige and River side, therefore, most albums that crossed over were produced in 1975 and I started to line up ECM records. To purchase and line up standard ones take time and cost money but I also collected fusion groups such as Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock. Those who come to bars at the time were teens and 20 somethings in the fusion era, so there were many jazz bars in Yokohama and those people were bar hopping, so it was a good time where people gathered even if you weren’t knowledgeable about it or anything.
Ryu： How was the inside of the bar when customers gathered up?
Oidon : If I left a bottle of Suntory whisky white, ice and water on a table, 4-5 people surrounded it and filled the table. It was easy to make drinks back then. If you leave a bottle on the table, it was perfect. Even when I was busy with customers and the ice box was not on the table, people could wait. It was like that in 1975.
Ryu ： It’s only recently that customers started ordering separately, isn’t it?
Oidon : Yes, it is.
Ryu ： I think groups of 4-5 people that come to jazz cafe are decreasing now and people who talk about jazz in a group are also disappearing but what else did they often talk about?
Oidon : Customers were having friendly talks with a bottle back then but I would pass a memo saying “You are being too loud” when they are having too much fun or talking too much. So it was like people would talk to a certain degree but I would control the loudness. Young people back then went out if a popular Japanese artist came for fusion and I think they were sharing information such as with Swing Journal and other monthly magazines. Now there are more people searching for a wholly atmospheric experience in considering the sound that is part of it.
Ryu ：There are some things you cannot find at home such as records you cannot listen to, speakers, and of course sounds. Many people visit, looking for the atmosphere, aren’t they?
Oidon : That’s right. And there are people who visit in their 50’s to 70’s who were in their late teens and in early 20’s back then. Young people also come though.
Ryu：Oidon looks very young yet you have seen the growth of the people.
Oidon : I was 27 when I started this bar. When I was wondering what to do after not being able to do another job, there was this person who was in the editorial department of a monthly jazz magazine when I worked at the university cooperative before and I thought “Hmm,jazz” then I started jazz.I did not have to be in jazz and it could be rock but there are many albums that reflect the moment of “now”, aren’t there? So it will be hard just to collect albums. Therefore, I picked jazz thinking it could work if I started collecting albums in 50’s, 60’s and present for jazz.
Ryu: Ok, I also understand why you chose jazz. Also, why did you start being called “Oidon”?
Oidon : I’m not talkative and my personality is as if I tend to look down but it was ok because my business can be running since I only have to take orders and say thank you when the customer leaves. I can talk more now but there was no chance of someone talking to me inside of the counter. The reason why I started to be called Oidon was because I did not want to be called a master. There was a cartoon called “Otoko oidon”by Reiji Matsumoto in which the character is short and small and wears tulip hats hiding his face and there was this girl at a ramen shop nearby and she gave him the nickname Oidon. The character of Oidon loves ramen with rice and lives in a 4 and a half tatami mat-sized room and I also would go to eat ramen with rice so I started being called Oidon.
Ryu ： So everyone calls you Oidon.
I heard many people get healed by you and I also feel so meeting you. I have an image you have to be quiet in a jazz cafe but I feel easy knowing you are a kind person.
Oidon : That is wonderful. I think it is great when artists express their feelings in one album, but I do not know if the artists really have technique or not. I understand the piano skill is great but I am no different from other people. I just listen to jazz everyday.
Ryu：That is a great part of it, isn’t it? How do you select songs?
Oidon : I really don’t think about it too hard but if there is a piano solo then I include a piano trio, tenor and trumpet. I pick songs by changing instruments little by little.
Ryu： I understand. Is that because if you picked a song totally different all of sudden, because it breaks the atmosphere of the bar?
Oidon : It means you lose a chance to change it but I have a feeling I will probably get something new out of it.
Ryu： This theme is called Woman of Jazz. I want to introduce it so that ladies can go in places like this casually. Are there any ladies who come here by themselves?
Oidon : The door is closed because it is cold now but they peep the inside of the bar when the door is opened. The door here is very heavy. I think it takes time for them to think about opening the heavy door with courage and feel comfortable. So if they enter, I think they feel comfortable but they have to muster up courage until then. So if they open the door a little bit, even other people look, and they will feel comfortable with the music protecting them. I would tell them this is not the place you can enter casually.
Ryu： So the atmosphere is made with the intent of such things.
Oidon : I think it is important that you cannot see anything from the outside. If it was a square-glassed window, people can see from the outside. But people have parts they want to keep private so these seats that cannot be seen from outside and the table seats could be memories or anniversaries, something important for people who were in their teens and 20’s back then even if it was a farewell or not, I think of keeping them.
Ryu： The feelings could be different just by sitting at the same table when they became adults while they reminisce.
Oidon : That’s right. Actually, private spaces are made with red brick and have many things like books but it has not been changed for 75 years. The chairs are made of one cutout plywood board and even they have not changed. I collected things with belief such as drawings with coal cutout photogravure of Swing Journal a day before opening day. Nothing has changed since then.
Ryu： I can see that. It is very cool. It is a bar that has not been changed, making you feel like you time slipped into the old days and this bar has made history. It is wonderful.
Ryu： What is your recommendation?
Oidon : Keeping a bottle of Johnny Walker Double Black, Four Roses and I.W. Harper are cheaper now.
Ryu： Are there also any drinks that match with jazz this season?
Oidon : Hot wine, because it is cold. It is the only one I am focusing on. For cafes, chai sells well. I pour it to the top in a mug, then I ask customers to sweeten it. Plenty of chai served with boiled milk and tea leaves with cinnamon is also popular.
Ryu： What does this bar mean to you?
Oidon : For example, it is once a week or once a year you visit here.
I am here everyday. If I do not feel comfortable, I would run away from here. So this is a place that is comfortable for me. This is the only thing I protect in which I put myself before the customers. If not I would probably not continue this business.
Ryu：I understand. What is jazz for you?
Oidon :Maybe it is everything my life is made of.
Ryu： Lastly, please send a message to female readers.
Oidon : Females take action for themselves including where they want to go. Men cannot do anything but I envy that females move around freely with their own vitality. The action pattern makes me think they do not have anything to protect. I want them to express that freely. It is best to do what you want to do now. It does not matter that finding this place took time, it is a good thing that they sit here and start from there. It is never too late or early and living this moment is happiness. The happiness is here. Happiness does not have a past or future. Please work hard to play and sing jazz.
Ryu： Thank you very much! You cheer me up.
How was “Woman of Jazz♡”Vol.5?
I visited Minton House, quietly located in a pathway in Yamashita-cho. You will be healed by music and the atmosphere if you open the door, not unlike entering a time long past. I believe you also can be relaxed if you talk to Oidon.
AreaYokohama City (excluding the Bay Area)