Despite having lived here for 19 years, Tokyo is just too vast of a city to know very well. People are constantly saying to me “You don’t know ? How can you not know ?” Well, the answer simply is “There’s just too damn much to know.”

Upstairs Records, run by the infamous Makato, previously of Broolyn’s similarly infamous “Weekend Records” opened around 2017, fairly long after my many years of Shimokita nighthawk life, and it was one of those places everyone seemed to know except for me. Those ~6 years go when it opened, my kids were kindergartners, and I’d stopped drinking, and could no longer tolerate the cigarette smoke dens of the Shimokita bars I used to love, even if only to spin some records. Had my life never changed, I could see Upstairs having eventually become a regular haunt. Maybe it will still be.

The first time I met Makoto san, he was carrying a Disk Union bag up a small flight of stairs that I assumed went up to his apartment.

“Hi There! Are those records? I noticed the DU bag. I’m a photographer and make pictures of people with their records. Got a sec?”

“Sure, come on up!” Again, assuming this was his apartment, and considering I’d never met this person before, and the fact that neither of us was 22 years old (an age unaware of the notion: “second thoughts”), I hesitated.

“We could just talk here on the street”, I said, not quite sure what I might be getting myself into.

“Naw, come on up!” Makoto insisted.

“What the hell, you only live once, let’s see where this leads…” I thought to myself, and upon venturing up the stairs behind Makoto, and entering the door on the 2nd floor, I realized that I was stepping into… “OH THIS PLACE!” …the Upstairs Records that I had heard, seen, and read about many times, and not in fact, some stranger’s flat. Having said that, after laying eyes on Makoto’s stupefyingly huge collection (I’d later find out it contained 50,000 records), his sound system and massive speakers, the …ahem… seemingly “organizationally-challenged” nature of the shop section (Upstair Records is a Bar AND a Records Shop, that opens from 9pm) and then after having read a fantastic short story written some years ago about Makoto’s Brooklyn semi-secret Bedroom/RecordStore/SpeakEasy “Weekend Records”, beloved by some of New York’s most music-loving vinyl junkies, I could tell that Makoto was not only an expert at blurring the lines of record shop/bar/bedroom, but that he was obsessively resourceful at acquiring records and deeply knowledgeable about the entire breadth of music.

I think Makoto had let me in early that day and served me up a couple of “Zero” beers. We enjoyed nice long chat about Shimokita, Brooklyn, records, photos, and about where our circles already overlapped, before any patrons appeared. By the time they did, Upstairs was bustling and I had missed the chance the photograph Makoto, who was too busy keeping the tunes and tap flowing. Luckily I would bump into Makoto again, out in the wild, at last weekend’s “All Japan Records & CD Summer Carnival” where I caught him with “Fiddling Clarence” “Tater” Tate’s “Country Favorite Waltzes” scored from the same ¥95 bin that I scored Tomita’s “The Newest Sound Of Debussy: Clair De Lune”. I believe the Tater Record is the first Bluegrass Record on TRS, so that’s pretty cool!

Hey, Great to know you, Makoto! Thanks already for the few good hangs. Hope to meet you many more times in the years ahead.

Fiddling Clarence “Tater” Tate – Country Favorite Waltzes
Label: Rural Rhythm Records – RRCT 213
Format: Vinyl, LP, Mono
Country: US
Released: 1968
Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Style: Bluegrass

Short essay about Makoto’s “Weekend Records” in Brooklyn:
“New York Stories: Hua Hsu”
A Cali transplant becomes a New Yorker with help from a Williamsburg groove merchant.

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