CHRIS’S ROOM
2015.01.27
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BIRTH OF JAZZ IN OSAKA
South Side Jazz Band leader and clarinetist, Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, who is also an event producer, is extremely knowledgeable on the early history of jazz in Osaka and the reason why Osaka is Japan’s birthplace of jazz. One afternoon before his other regular band, Breeze of Dixieland, was to perform on the Tonbori River Jazz Boat, I had a chance to talk with him about how jazz first came to Osaka. He revealed that Japanese classical musicians who performed on passenger ships crossing the Pacific Ocean in the early 1920s first heard jazz in the United States and were shocked to see men and women in close proximity to each other dancing to the music. Such physical contact in public between persons of the opposite sex was taboo at that time in Japan. Even today, it is rather rare to see couples kissing or closely holding on to each other in public.

The musicians brought instruments, sheet music and jazz records back with them to Osaka. This soon helped to create a jazz boom in Osaka. Bands that played jazz performed live at dance halls that lined the Dotonbori Canal in southern Osaka. Patrons soon made contributions that allowed owners and musicians to try all sorts of different innovations, including all-female bands, something that was extremely rare for these times in Japan excluding Osaka.

Meanwhile, Osaka was enjoying its most prosperous times. Known as Great Osaka (Dai-Osaka), it was the economic center of Japan and boasted a population exceeding Tokyo, the capital of Japan. Jazz flourished in Osaka during these flamboyant times. However, the death of the Taisho Emperor in 1926 changed everything. In spite of the emperor’s death, a time of countrywide mourning when citizens were expected to act in a more reserved manner than usual, people in Osaka continued to dance to jazz music at the Dotonbori dance halls. This infuriated the then-governor of Osaka, a politician sent from Tokyo. As punishment, he passed a special ordinance banning jazz and dancing in Osaka. This forced the closure of the fifteen dance halls that had been operating, and out-of-work musicians had to leave to Osaka to find work in Tokyo, Kobe and other cities. Although jazz was first performed and soon flourished at dance halls in Osaka, many people think it got started in the ports of Tokyo, Kobe or Yokohama since it became more popular to the masses after musicians moved to these cities due to their shortly-lived activities were prohibited in Osaka. Although jazz may have been popularized among the masses after it was forced out of Osaka, the city still remains the birthplace of jazz in Japan. This is something of which Osakans should be proud.
大阪で生まれたジャズの入門編
サウス・サイド・ジャズ・バンドのリーダー、イベント・プロデューサー兼クラリネット奏者の吉川裕之は、大阪でのジャズ誕生や初期の歴史に詳しい。ある日、もう一つのレギュラーバンドであるブリーズ・オブ・ディシーランドがとんぼりジャズ。ボートで演奏する前、ジャズはどのように大阪で生まれたかについて、お話しできる機会があった。吉川さんが明かしたのは1920年代前半、太平洋航路の船に乗っていたクラシックを演奏するミュージシャンは、アメリカでジャズを初めて聴き、男女が体をひっつけて踊っているのを見て驚いたという。

そのミュージシャンは、楽器、譜面やレコードを日本に持ち帰ったので、大阪で大流行した。道頓堀沿いにいくつかのダンスホールがオープンし、ジャズを演奏するバンドが出演していた。色々なスポンサーが付き、女性だけで構成されたバンドなど新しいものがどんどん取り入れられた。

当時の大阪は大大阪と呼ばれ、日本の経済の中心で、東京より人口が多かった。こうした背景から、大阪でジャズが繁栄した。しかし、1926年、大正天皇の崩御で全てが変わった。この時期、大阪の人々はまだ踊っていたし、男女のチークダンスは不健全と思われた。これを知った当時の大阪府知事が激怒し、ジャズとダンスを禁止する条例をつくった。その翌年、15ヵ所あったダンスホールは全て消え、職を無くしたミュージシャンたちは東京、神戸や横浜へ行ってしまった。大阪で誕生・繁栄したジャズは大阪から追放され、ほかの都市でその後普及していった。そのため、ジャズの発祥地は神戸や横浜と思われているが、実は大阪が日本のジャズ発祥地であることを忘れてはならないし、大阪人の誇りにしたい。
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