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Japan Notes / Waltz adds cool to cassette tapes

The Japan News

An antique world map is printed on the cassette tape that Waltz owner Taro Tsunoda gave participants as a party gift.

By Etsuo Kono / Japan News Staff Writer The small Waltz cassette tape shop in the Nakameguro district of Tokyo was selected by Italian fashion brand Gucci as one of seven Gucci Places that best reflect the brand’s sense of aesthetics. A party to announce a line of limited Gucci collaborative products — emblazoned with cassette tape designs and logos of the shop — was held at Waltz on April 16.

Shop owner Taro Tsunoda handed out mixtapes full of tunes he selected himself as a party gift. I think many years have passed since I last received a cassette tape with someone’s favorite songs. I put the tape in the deck and pushed the play button, and several tunes flowed by that Tsunoda had compiled around the concept of traveling the world without any purpose. Among them, a track by British hip hop artist Lady Paradox appealed to me. Her melancholic voice is accompanied by a quiet piano. Several tunes made me feel just like I was traveling around the places on the world map printed on the cassette tape’s package.

Many fashion leaders and musicians came to the party, including former Pizzicato Five singer Maki Nomiya, who had a strong influence on the Japanese music scene of the 1990s. Tsunoda’s attitude toward music and love of cassette tapes are the reasons celebrities continue to flock to Waltz.

Musician Keiichiro Shibuya, who in March released new work exclusively on cassette tape, is one such celebrity. Shibuya stressed the uniqueness of cassette tapes: “Even for people who unexpectedly come across tapes today, the sound gradually changes after repeated hearings. It fades and finally is lost as years pass by. Isn’t such an experience interesting?”

The simple design of cassette tapes makes me feel inspired, not nostalgic. Even in the heyday of digital devices, I hope businesses that sell tapes will give rise to new trends.

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