D-Bop Jazz Club, Sapporo

As we kickoff our series on the best jazz bars in Sapporo, we get it started with D-Bop Sapporo; a little neighborhood jazz club located just in between the Nishi Ni-hachi and Maruyama Koen stations.

D-Bop is not a big place, but shapes up as a slightly funky, but nice little club.

As you arrive, you drop down a brick staircase, just inside the building into an unassuming basement that is also shared with a restaurant. The club, at the end of the hall, is impossible to miss; an awkward coat rack and a collection of “things that need to be stored”, all somewhat camouflaged by a series of framed posters and show announcements. It’s certainly not a high-end club in Tokyo or NYC, it has that “real and raw” quality shared by so many places in this, Sapporo, the greatest city in the world.

This most recent night we were there, it was sparsely-staffed. There is no box office, and if I hadn’t been here before, I might assume it is was more of a bar than a place to hear it all live…

I stepped into the space, leaned into the bar, and waited to be greeted. A woman behind the bar said hello, and explained (in simple English) about the cover charge and the one-drink minimum. The night I was there the cover charge was ¥3000 (the following night, a Saturday the cover was to be ¥4000, and on Sunday, a special performance had a ¥8000 charge per person). And the Jim Beam rocks I ordered added another ¥500 to the entrance fee.

I was happy with all that. I joked about Jim Beam being Japanese whiskey (which, surpriseingly, it technically is), and took my drink, and a tall water with no ice and sat down at the back of the room.

There are five seats crowded together at that bar. As you move into the main room, there are four more seats along the back wall. Between the back wall and the stage, there are 13 small tables, that might hold another 13 – 15 people (if everyone was seated). The room was about half full when I was there and I’d like to see the place when it’s packed. It is a great size, just big enough to feel like you’re at a party, but small enough for an intimate feel.

Speaking of intimate; The club has no storage, and no backroom. So as the night gets started, the musicians are crowded around that bar, mixed in with the customers (or maybe outside smoking, as the drummer was on this particular night).

The sound is excellent: both the live show and the amplified music that is played in between sets. Comfortable, cool, a good place to slip ito a jazz state of mind.

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