Wednesday, April 5, 2017

カネコアヤノと古本サンカクヤマ / Kaneko Ayano and a trip to Used Books Sankakuyama in Koenji

I started listening to Ayano Kaneko (カネコアヤノ) from a friend's recommendation and the singer songwriter's second album, 恋する惑星 (Koi suru wakusei), became an instant favorite. A follow up to her debut 2015 EP 来世はアイドル (Raise wa Idol), Koi Suru Wakusei isn't another mundane singer/songwriter album. Kaneko builds upon her foundation in folk music (she cites listening to Happy End as one of the reasons she picked up the guitar) with snippets of rock, pop, reggae, and even the shoegaze-y lead number, "Ginga ni Notte" to make for a comprehensive assortment of tunes that never fall too far off the wayside.

But the additional innovation and instrumentation never overshadows Ayano's strongest feature: her voice, which stands out among the crowd of high-pitched female singers. Her sound is bold but soothing, and it adjusts perfectly to the barrage of electric guitars and pounding drums, and partners perfectly with her acoustic guitar.
She's still fairly under the radar but Ayano just played a sold-out gig with fellow Singer Songwriter Satoko Shibata, and I'd like to think that Shibata's good looks weren't the only reason for a full house.

Kaneko's latest release is an EP of acoustic tracks only available for sale at her concerts, select shops, and recently through her mail order service(only in Japan, of course). It contains two previously released songs and three new ones, plus a secret track at the end. The songs are sweet, and Ayano's voice comes through a lot more when it's at home with just an acoustic guitar, ensuring you're always focusing on her melodies. It's a perfect selection of songs, sometimes too short that you don't realize its over, and maybe its perfection is in the brevity. None of the tracks drag on into an acoustic lull.

The album also comes packaged in this DIY fabric cut sleeve with a CD-R, and some photo cards of Kaneko with the lyrics on them in place of a booklet. I love the one of her playing the Gamecube.

Ayano wasn't booked for any gigs while I was on my trip but I found out that 古本サンカクヤマ (Used Books Sankakuyama), one of the few shops selling the CD, was right by my lodgings in Koenji and decided to try and stop by.

For a shop located so close to me, Used Books Sankakuyama ended up eluding me until the last day of my trip.I planned to visit the day of my arrival, when I would be checking in to the apartment in Koenji and probably not venturing too far from the station anyways. But Sankakuyama is closed every Wednesday. When I was venturing around Koenji again I remembered to stop by...but it happened to be exactly a week later--Wednesday. I finally was able to catch them the exact day I left.

This time the shutters were halfway down on a shop with piles of books behind it where my map told me Sankakuyama was supposed to be. There was no sign, but this was definitely the place, so I decided to grab some lunch in the neighborhood to kill some time. When I returned to the same spot the shutters were raised and piles of books lining the floors and walls of the shop told me this was the place.

Sankakuyama specializes in subculture books, which means that unlike your typical Book-Off chain the books here are geared to much more specific and unique interests. One wall was full of back issues of fashion magazines, the manga selection was full of older and more obscure artists, and a wall was dedicated to books about the history of music.They also had plenty of foreign books and large coffee table sized books for architecture, photography, and art. The variety in Sankakuyama is extensive no matter how specific your taste. If you get bored browsing the seemingly endless shelves of your typical drab used book store, you're sure to find a book here you've never heard of and never knew you needed to read. 

Sankakuyama is a book store in name only, and the shop stocks a number of other curious items along the shelves. A box of records sat in the corner next to a shelf of CDs and the front of the store had a case with what looked like hand made ornaments.
Of course, I came to the store to purchase Kaneko Ayano's CD, though I didn't leave without purchasing some (comic)books as well. 


Used Books Sankakuyama is located a short walk down a shopping street from the North Exit of Koenji station on the Chuo Line. They're open from 12PM - 9PM and are, unfortunately for me, closed every Wednesday.
You can Follow them on Twitter and next time you're in the neighborhood pay them a visit by finding them through Google Maps.

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