Tango Music in Japan Part 1 – Japan Tango Academy

After leaving Japan for almost 2 years, finally I can collect myself to write something about this mystic musical world. It is mystical because there’s hardly anybody knows about it outside Japan, and even within Japan and inside the tango dancing scene, very few really knows about it. If I was not desperately looking for a set of D’Arienzo CDs and received help from few Japanese collectors, I would probably left Japan with a deep regret of not knowing this special world.

Here I’m talking about the Japan Tango Academy (日本タンゴ・アカデミー). It’s an organization formed by tango music lovers, collectors and musicians, and has members from all parts of Japan. It organizes conferences and seminars regularly, sharing and discussing tango history, music, recordings and orchestras, like the way people do in university. The academy also publishes quarterly journal, reporting their events, publishing studies of experts and records reviews from members and collectors. Most of its members already passed their 50s, and most of them don’t dance, and you won’t see them in milongas or practicas. They are pure tango music lovers, like the way other people love about jazz or classical music. Among them many grew up with tango music, and for many Pugliese, D’Arienzo or Canaro were their Elvis or Nat King Cole. I don’t know the history of this organization, what I do know is it has a long history and has connection with the tango academy in Buenos Aries. I still remember the first time and the last time I met one of the key members of the academy (the president if I was not mistaken), it was just before I left Japan and before going to Buenos Aires. He gave me his name card and said, “the Japan Tango Academy has connection with the Tango academy in Buenos Aires, when you arrived in Buenos Aries, you should pay a visit to the tango academy. Showing them my name card, and they would welcome you.”

I would love to write more about the Japan Tango Academy here, unfortunately I really don’t know much about this organization. Just that as a foreigner, I was lucky enough to be invited by one of its committee members to attend a seminar before I left Japan, got a chance to meet many tango music experts and collectors, and joint the academy as a member for one year. And I’m always grateful I had this opportunity to get to know this special group of people. Here I’m writing about the Japan Tango Academy, because it plays a significant role in preserving and studying tango music in Japan. As an outsider, it’s hard to imagine how serious its members are to tango music and how much resources they have while they are so far away from Argentina. The seminar I attended was one of its regular gathering. For the whole afternoon, we were listening to CDs, LPs and SPs, watching private tango music videos from the speakers. Before listening, the speaker explained why he chose this piece of music, what is the significance of this recording, and what is worth listening in this particular pieces. This is something rather common if you’re into classical music and have received some classical music training, but to do it for tango, it’s my first time to do so. The room had professional audio set-up to play whatever musical media the speakers want. At that time, I thought, if one day the same thing could happen in Hong Kong, I would be really happy. At the moment, there’s still a far way to go.

Japan Tango Academy is not the only organization preserving and sharing tango music. There’s also Akihito Baba’s Club Tango Argentino (アルゼンチン・タンゴ愛好会) and Club Suiyokai (すいよう会). The later one also organizes tango dance classes.

Japan Tango Academy's tango journals.

Japan Tango Academy's tango journals.

Inside the journal, there's a discorgraphy of Roberto Maida, including information on original disc number, recording number and CD reprint.

Inside the journal, there's a discorgraphy of Roberto Maida, including information on original disc number, recording number and CD reprint.

Mr. Yoshihiro Oiwa shares his memories of a trip to Argentina in 1970 in the journal. In this photo, he was with Julio De Caro.

Mr. Yoshihiro Oiwa shares his memories of a trip to Argentina in 1970 in the journal. In this photo, he was with Julio De Caro.

6 Responses to “Tango Music in Japan Part 1 – Japan Tango Academy”

  1. Simon Says:

    Hola Royce

    A couple of weeks ago I just finished reading El Tango En Japon, by Luis Alposta. If you haven’t read it already, try it on your next trip to BsAs – it’s a pretty comprehensive history of tango in Japan up to the early 1980s (it was published in 1987). It tells how the first tango records arrived in the 1920s/30s, then how these roots were nurtured through to the 1960s and 1970s when various of the big orchestras came and did huge tours (60 dates across Japan). It has profiles of various key figures, and also talks about the groups that enthusiast formed. It’s a bit of a trainspotter book – lists all the tangos written with Japanese themes etc – but not so long, and was very good for my Spanish. It’s still easy enough to find in bookshops such as Gandhi.


  2. Royce Says:

    Thanks Simon! I will check out this book when I go to Bs.As. this December.

    I have a set of 9 Cds with the same title “Tango en Japon”. It’s a box set with recordings from key Japanese tango orchestras and singers, plus a small book introducing history of tango in Japan. All in Japanese, of course.


  3. Arief Says:

    A tango boom hit Japan around 1937 that started in the dancehalls. Japanese musicians composed new tango tunes, beginning with ‘Tango wo Odoroyo’ (Let’s Dance Tango).

  4. Carlos Says:

    Dear Sir/madame.

    I have with me an instrument ( double bass ) from the one of the most important Tango players of all times. My question if you can recommend me a collector that can be interested adding the instrument to his collection, I will appreciate your help and directions in this matter.

    Sincerely yours Carlos Diaz

    Sorry, my correct e-mail address is : Tangocero1[at]yahoo.com

  5. Royce Says:

    Dear Carlos,

    I don’t know anybody playing Double Bass, so I can’t really help you. I forwarded your message to a friend who might know a double bass player. If this person is interested, he might contact you directly.


  6. Carlos Says:

    Dear Royce. Thank you very much!!!.


Leave a Reply