Japanese Live House Owner’s Romance: Connecting Indie Music of Taiwan and Japan

If you have been to “Moon Romantic Taipei,” how would you describe the space? Is it “an exotic restaurant run by Japanese,” or “a live house where the indie music of Taiwan meets that of Japan”? Since its opening at the end of 2014, it has brought a new vibe to the Chaozhou Street of Guting area, Taipei, successfully attracting either foodies looking for special cuisine, or indie music fans chasing their favorite bands.

The owner of the multi-purpose space is Terao Budha, who chose Taipei to open the first foreign branch of Moon Romantic live house. He invited Oue Kazunari, the previous chef of the Tokyo store, to come to Taiwan with him, and supported him to create his own menu. Having the experience of working at a Spanish restaurant in Japan, Oue’s cuisine features a fusion of cooking style and ingredients from different countries.

To make authentic South Indian curry, he purchases various spices at stores which import ingredients from India and mixes them based on his unique recipe. To make Taiwan black pork roll with herbs, he uses makao, garlic, and celery for seasoning. (Tasting it along with some mustard brings another level of flavor to your mouth.) Other recommended cuisine includes Okinawa taco rice, Japanese hamburger steak, and Spanish crème brulee, which indicates the multi-cultural character of the restaurant.

As a food and music combination store, Moon Romantic Taipei naturally does not only focus on food, but also promotes indie music and holds music events. “Taiwan’s indie music is like Taiwan’s weather. It’s the sound of rain, which is good to listen to on rainy days,” said Terao, who answered our questions cautiously and with thoughtful word choice.

 

From a music-holic high school student to the ambassador of Japanese indie music

 

Originally from Ehime Prefecture, Japan, Terao started to listen to indie music from Europe and the U.S. in his high school days, when he learned to play guitar and created his own Reggae-style band. He brought his guitar with him wherever he traveled, jamming with whoever he met. While continuing to play music, he became a college student majoring in Chinese Politics, which motivated him to plan a trip to Taiwan. Back then, however, that trip didn’t truly impress him as he found too many similarities between Taiwan and Japan, which lacked cultural stimulations that he expected to gain in a foreign country.

After he graduated from college, Terao became a businessman in a small-mid company. “I am not interested in working for big companies at all.” He spent all his leisure time on music. On weekday nights, he practiced and performed with his band; on weekends, he held music events and met many people in the industry. Three years later, he was introduced to an opportunity to work for a live house. He accepted the offer and started to visit different countries to invite foreign indie bands and build connections with them. That was also when he figured out Taiwan’s indie music scene was “very interesting, and had been maturing.”

He also found that Taiwan’s music artists shared similar childhood memories with Japanese ones in terms of music. It could be pop or rock music, and could be theme songs of Japanese soap opera or animation. “I started to believe that there should be more interactions between the Taiwanese and Japanese music scenes.” The seed of this idea grew into the action of building his own business. At the age of thirty, he applied for a loan and acquired the live house, Moon Romantic, he had been working at in Tokyo, aiming at “promoting good music from Japan and Taiwan” as an entrepreneur.

Frequently flying back and forth between Japan and Taiwan, Terao finally decided to open a branch store in Taiwan. In late 2014, Moon Romantic Taipei located itself on Chaozhou Street. Terao soon held the “Chaozhou Street Music Festival” in 2015, connecting local live houses and stores to bring new stimulation to Taiwan’s music scene. In October 2016, six indie bands from Japan will join the event with their variously styled music.

Although the Taipei store shares the same name with the Tokyo store, their space design and business model are rather different. Tokyo store is a pure live house, while the Taipei store is a multi-purpose space, having a restaurant on the ground floor, and an unplugged performance space in the basement. Terao made this decision based on his observations, after flying to Taiwan for business for so many years. He explained that it is not easy to give performances everyday given Taipei’s audience base, and there are already quite a few live houses in Taipei that give performers a stage. Now Moon Romantic Taipei provides good food everyday, holds art events occasionally on weekdays, and arranges live performances mainly on weekends.

 

“Shouldn’t we learn to do what we like to do earlier, and live more like who we are?”

 

After working in the indie music industry for so many years, Terao observed that “the fluctuation in the trend of music is as rapid as fast fashion now.” To run a live house, he had to build his own radar, obtaining the latest information on the ever-changing trends, while still maintaining his unique taste to distinguish himself. “I was more cautious in the first few years to make sure that I didn’t lose my own style.” However, the Great East Japan earthquake in 2011 changed his point of view.

“The theme of music is closely related to the status quo of a society. If we face natural disasters like a severe earthquake, what we sing about will also change. After the earthquake in 2011, the atmosphere of Japanese society has changed. I think many Japanese people started to reflect on themselves, wondering if they had been suffering too much self-inflicted stress in their daily lives. Since life is so uncertain, shouldn’t we learn to live our own life, do what we like to do earlier, and live more like who we are?”

From this perspective, the Taiwanese casual lifestyle has become something that some Japanese people long for. “Japanese tend to plan for a long time before execution, and we are very detail-oriented, as you can see many Japanese bands heavily focus on polishing their musical techniques. However, some of the bands could have very advanced techniques but give super boring performances…. On the other hand, Taiwanese tend to do whatever they think of. They work fast and have more imagination. I think it will be better if we can strike the balance: being able to accommodate ourselves to the current situation like a Taiwanese, while insisting on high product quality like a Japanese.”

 

At the end of the interview, we asked Terao what he expected to see in the near future as Taiwan and Japan’s music artists have more and more interactions. He contemplated for a while and answered: The nationality of a band has become less important. The point is whether the artists feel happy about it when playing music. “Through Moon Romantic Taipei, I want to share their music with a bigger and wider audience, make them enjoy the music and feel happy about their lives. This is my ideal.”


 

About Terao Budha

Having traveled around Asia as a backpacker, Terao aims to organize various events around the world. Currently owning two live houses located in Tokyo and Taipei, he has hosted many events that connected Taiwan and Japan. In Jun 2016, he created his own record label BIG ROMANTIC RECORDS, and released an online magazine that introduces the latest music news of Taiwan and Japan in Chinese and Japanese.

 

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