I knew that Tokyo has a vibrant tango community. But I did not realize how much until I made a tango focused visit recently (October and November, 2016). In twelve days, I visited 10 different milongas taking all kinds of metro lines and climbing stairs umpteenth times (What a way to get some exercise!). But, it was all worth it for someone who is driven to experience that unique milonga feeling at every possible venue around the world.
My general impression of milongas in Tokyo, and it probably applies to other cities in Japan, is that tango is thriving by the number of milongas there are. One can go to a milonga every night for a month and still not cover all of them. Japanese are as much as addicted to milonga experience than the rest of the world tango community.
Now, couple of things stood out as I made the round of milongas. First, entrance fees are one of the highest I have encountered. Average fee is $20 – $30 with soft drink and simple snack included. There are less expensive ($7.00- $10) milongas but they tend to operate at local community center halls. One can explain away by saying that the living expenses are higher than the rest of the world. But still! Another note of distinction is that fair number of milongas have relatively young Argentine resident teachers. These teachers seem to attract young Japanese women who are enticed to learn tango. These teachers’ expenses could also add to entry fees, perhaps?
Now to the specific reviews from the milongas I have visited. Please note that these milonga venues generally cater to salon style tango dance and play traditional tango music. ———————————————-
A) Name: Vedado, City: Tokyo (Tamachi), Date: Oct./2016(Friday), Access: 4, Ambiance: 3.5, Organizer: 2.5, Floor: 4.5, Music/DJ: 3.5, Dance Quality: 3.0………………(plus +): large floor, nice sound system, well laid out tables, traditional music/tandas, low entry fee. (minus -): welcoming attitude was missing; drinks/snacks are not provided; dance level is mixed/poor navigation, gender imbalance (women>men). Recommend for all levels of dancers even with poor navigation as the floor is spacious.
B) Name –Baldosa; City -Tokyo (Ebisu)); Date- 10/2016 (Thursday); Access – 4.5; Ambiance -4.0; Organization -3.5; Floor -4.5; Music/DJ -3.0; Dance Quality -3.0…………….(plus+): close to metro, lively crowd, soft drinks included; (minus -): tight seating, static tanda music. Gender imbalance (women >men). Recommend for high energy dancers who enjoy tight space.
C) Name- RADA; City – Tokyo (Nihonbashi); Date -10/2016 (Thursday); Access -3.5; Ambiance – 4.0; Organization – 4.0; Floor -3.5; Music/DJ-3.0; Dance Quality -3.5…………………(plus +): very close to metro, friendly hosts, lively crowd; (minus-): 4th floor-no elevator, no cortina, tight dance floor . Recommend but be aware of rotating DJs and their music genre.
D) Name- Black Velvet; City – Tokyo (Ikebukuro); Date -10/2016(Sunday afternoon); Access- 4.5; Ambiance -4.0; Organization – 4.5; Floor -3.5; Music/DJ-3.5; Dance Quality -3.0…………..(plus+): Very welcoming hosts, they dance with guests, elegant dress scene; (minus-): small floor, music is sedate. Recommend for older age group (40- 70) with relaxed, comfortable demeanor. Gender=Women>Men.
E) Name- Efecto Tango; City- Tokyo (Shinjuku area); Date- 10/2016(Sunday); Access- 4.0; Ambiance- 4.5; Organization – 4.5; Floor – 4.5; Music -5.0; Dance Quality -4.5…………..(plus+): Overall excellent milonga; well organized, nice tango ambiance, strong mixed danceable music (tandas/orchestras are projected on the wall), and quality dancers in general. Recommend for tango aficionado. (minus -): not enough dancers to enjoy the milonga venue. Gender=Women>Men.
F) Name- Suiyoukai; City- Tokyo (Yotsuya); Date- 11/2016(Wednesday); Access- 4.0; Ambiance – 3.0; Organization- 3.5; Floor- 4.5; Music/DJ – 2.5; Dance Quality -2.5………………..(plus+): large floor space, low entry fee, posted tanda music, pleasant night view. (minus -): esoteric music for dancing, no set tanda or cortina, generally lower dancing level. Recommend for casual after work dance social for beginners and for practice. Gender=Women>Men.
G) Name-Salon de Tango; City-Tokyo (Asakusa); Date- 11/2016(Monday); Access- 4.0; Ambiance- 2.5; Organization -2.5; Floor -3.5; Music/DJ- 2.5; Dance Quality- 2.0………………..(plus+): low entry fee, free drinks and snack, evening milonga for after-work dancers. (minus-): spotty tango music, generally low level dancing, make-shift gym floor with limited seating. Recommend for quick after -work tango embrace to reduce stress. Gender=Women>Men.
H) Name- Asaka Tango; City- Asaka (Metro Tokyo); Date – 11/2016 (Sunday afternoon); Access – 2.5; Ambiance – 3.0; Organization- 3.5; Floor – 4.0; Music/DJ- 2.5; Dance Quality-3.0……………………(plus +): low entry fee, separate free drink/snack area, large floor, good seating arrangement; (minus-): far from Tokyo central, non-standard tanda music format, spotty danceable tango music. Recommend for Sunday afternoon activity for couples seeking afternoon delight embrace. Gender=Women>Men.
I and J) Vedado and Baldosa venues were visited second time during my visit to Tokyo. The overall reviews do not alter significantly from the first time visits. For both venues, second time visits had slightly higher music and dance quality ratings.
I am headed to Malaysia and Thailand next. I will review their milongas in few days.