Become a star in Tokyo

Ten ways to make it big in the big city

Become a star in Tokyo

You didn’t come to the Greatest City on Earth just to be a bit player, did you? If you’ve got dreams and talent, then stardom is within your grasp – you just need a plan. To help you storm your way into the limelight, we chatted to a variety of artists in 10 different creative fields and asked them for tips on finding gigs and getting your name out there.


Photo: courtesy Sara Ben Abdallah

Acting is a ticket to stardom anywhere in the world. But before you go auditioning for the next live-action ‘Sailor Moon’, Cynthia Popper, whose blog contains an extensive guide on acting in Tokyo, recommends putting your time in on stage first: ‘I suggest getting some training or getting into school-related theatre to see if it’s something you're really passionate about. If you're doing what you love, it always shows. The spotlight finds you.’ Tokyo International Players has been around for 100 years and offers several opportunities for auditions and free workshops. Tokyo Comedy Store’s improv sessions offer opportunities to hone your comedic timing. If you want to get experimental, take a trip south to the Yokohama Theatre Group. They put on inventive performances, like an original play written around and performed entirely in one spooky house.
Tokyo International Players:
Tokyo Comedy Store:
Yokohama Theatre Group:

Artist extraordinaire

Photo: courtesy Bunny Bissoux

Artist, illustrator and stylista Bunny Bissoux has this advice for beginner artists. ‘Show your work to as many people as possible. Don't worry too much about the language problem. If you can communicate visually then you can figure everything else out later.’ But how do you get your work shown? In Tokyo this usually requires paying for space, so Bissoux suggests grouping together with other artists or asking around at cafés and shops. ‘Artists’ goods are big business in Japan too, so consider adapting your work to make something more marketable that will also promote you, like zines, pin badges or T-shirts.'
Find out more about the art scene via Tokyo Art Beat:

Dance sensation

Photo: courtesy Richard Van

Now that Japan’s Footloose-esque anti-dance law is being revised, you're free to live out the plot of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ in public. Before you start street-strutting, get involved in the local scene by joining a dance class. For more specific training, visit Ogasawara Dance School for their extensive ballroom-dance tutoring. If you’re looking to be a bit more modern, Pole Dance Tokyo has sessions on aerial silk, burlesque and ‘sexy floor movement’. Once you’ve got the moves down and are ready to get on stage, you can start securing gigs. Performance artist Bekah Bohem has this advice: ‘Go to lots of group activities or talk to people who practise at Yoyogi Park. I joined a fire group, went to burlesque events to network, and got gigs.'
Ogasawara Dance School:
Pole Dance Tokyo:


Photo: courtesy Sara Ben Abdallah

Want to photograph Tokyo when she’s looking her best? Wait for rain, says professional photographer Sara Ben-Abdallah: ‘Take your gear out in the rain. The reflected neon lights on wet asphalt is beautiful and adds a lot depth to whatever you're photographing in the city.’ Setting up a website or photoblog to display your work is as simple as starting a Tumblr, but if you’re looking for paying work, real life is the best social network: ‘The best place to connect with other photographers, I've found, is out in the street. Don't be afraid to talk to people who are out with their camera!’

Pro wrestler

Photo: courtesy Sonny Guiterrez

Think you’ve got the physical strength, mental toughness and fighting spirit of a samurai warrior? Prove it by stepping into the ring. Tokyo is home to dozens of wrestling companies and most have an open-audition policy. Stardom pro wrestling rookie Kris Wolf says trying out was the best decision she’s made: ‘I wanted a challenge and pro wrestling challenged me mentally, emotionally and spiritually.’ Most trainees don’t make it past the first day, but if you beat the odds and survive the initial screening, Wolf offers one important tip: ‘There’s a reason why you train meticulously. You have to protect yourself in every aspect of movement to avoid getting hurt.’
Stardom Pro Wrestling:
DDT Pro Wrestling:

Renowned writer

Already completed your NaNoWriMo novel on the existential dilemma brought on by eikaiwa (‘conversation schools’) work? Before you start shopping that manuscript around to New York publishing houses, you might want to run it by the Tokyo Writers Workshop. For 30 years, writers, teachers and journalists have gotten together once a month to review one another’s work. Only a ¥100 donation is asked of those who attend. Meetings are on the third Sunday of every month, but only a limited number of submissions can be read, so submit early. Poetry is welcome. And there’s often an after-party at a nearby pub.
Tokyo Writers Workshop:

Rock star

Did you come to Japan with a song in your heart, a guitar in hand and a desire to be the next Cheap Trick? Turning your dream into reality is fairly straightforward. Need a band? Advertise at your local college’s bulletin board or on Craigslist’s Tokyo musician section. Need a place to practice? The Gateway Studio chain offers affordable practice/recording space in over a dozen locations in the greater Tokyo area. Looking for a place to play your first gig? Every Tuesday, The Ruby Room hosts an open mic night. Do well and you could be offered a proper gig on one their weekend shows.
Gateway Studio:
Craigslist Tokyo musician forum:
Ruby Room:

Stand-up comedian

Photo: courtesy Mad Cows of Tokyo

Your friends think you’re hilarious, but will The Mad Cows of Tokyo? This comedy troupe organises an open mic night on the last Wednesday of every month. Wondering what gets a Tokyo audience laughing? Comedian Adam Shaw says don’t worry too much as most of the audience are Westerners so no subject is off-limits, with two exceptions: ‘Something too cultural-specific to the US, UK, etc. doesn’t work because the audience comes from all over.’ Also, ‘I would tell a new comedian to not do edgy material. You aren't Louis CK yet. Get the audience to like you first, then you can take them to hell and back.’
Mad Cows of Tokyo open mic night:


Photo: courtesy Michael Atkinson

Being a model in Tokyo is much like being a model in any big city: get headshots, get an agency, get noticed. Yamato Studio and Tokyo Photo Studio have extensive experience in building portfolios for foreign talent. For agencies, Zenith Inc has a range of models of all shapes and sizes, while Exiles specialises in the Zoolanders of the world. If you want to skip these steps and just be plucked from obscurity due to your naturally fabulous looks, Adam of Gaijin Edge says it could happen: ‘Editors and stylist assistants are always searching for people at Shibuya Crossing and in front of Harajuku at Takeshita Exit.’
Yamato Studio:
Tokyo Photo Studio:
Zenith Inc:

Superstar DJ

Once upon a time, learning to DJ meant spending hours alone playing records in your bedroom. No more! Tokyo offers not one but two big-name, state-of-the-art DJ schools. Both 3 Faiths DJ School and Tokyo DJ School feature top-tier DJ talent as instructors. Both have excellent facilities featuring a variety of DJ tools for students to learn. What separates them is focus: 3 Faiths is for those looking to make inroads into the more underground Tokyo club scene, à la Satoshi Tomiie. Tokyo DJ School is for those looking to be the next celebrity DJ à la Steve Aoki. When it’s time to buy your own equipment, check the recycle shops. They are often filled with name-brand DJ goods from those who didn’t make the cut.
3 Faiths DJ School:
Tokyo DJ School:

By Leslie Lee III
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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