The whole clich\u00e9 of being "big in Japan" is a bit of a worn-out old trope these days. In a time of music streaming and the fragmentation of the music industry, becoming a full-time professional rockstar is not really the most stable career option\u2014but, hell, if you love to party and play it\u2019s a whole lot of fun trying. We spoke with Marty Holoubek, an Aussie musician now living in Tokyo, and member of The Lagerphones, a six-piece jazz collective who are about to make their way back to Japan for their fourth tour in about as many years. Being an incredibly talented, but rather niche band, The Lagerphones have always had to be pretty savvy when it comes to traveling on the cheap and knowing where to go and how to do it right. After a few trips (and plenty of mistake) now under their belt plus a whole community of Japanese fans, they\u2019re now in a position where touring Japan is as familiar as doing the pub circuit back home. Not a lot of people are lucky enough to have done what The Lagerphones have, so with the guidance of Marty, a man who\u2019s now done it four times over, here\u2019s what you need to know, plan and do when touring Japan. Where to play After being here to play with The Lagerphones (and multiple times outside of that individually), Marty and the rest of the band have a lot in the Japan live scene intel bank. Marty\u2019s strongest piece of advice is to: \u201cPick your venues well! Depending on your genre, size of the band, level of popularity portability, or whatever other extraneous factors you may have, the venue choice is critical. If you\u2019re a band that needs backline, make sure the venue you play has backline. If you\u2019ve never been to Japan before and you don\u2019t have much of a following, maybe it\u2019s best to play smaller rooms. Can you play acoustically? There\u2019s plenty of tiny rooms to play, whether it be coffee shops or Norwegian furniture stores!\u201d Doing plenty of online homework is the best way to go about it. Trawling through pages like Tokyo Cheapo event listings as well as Tokyo Gig Guide will give you a good indicator of what type of venues host certain shows and genres. As a general rule, the neighborhoods in Tokyo with the highest density of live houses are: Shinjuku, Nakano, Shibuya, Koenji (try Sound Studio Dom Bar) and Shimokitazawa. For Osaka, Namba\/Minami and Umeda are the main nightlife areas, so start there and build up a database of venues in those neighborhoods. Booking a room: Rules and requirements So you\u2019ve picked where you want to play, have some dates penciled in your calendar and are ready to reach out to the bookers, what next? Well be prepared because the system for booking a gig at a \u2018live house\u2019 in Japan is very different to getting a gig at a bar or a pub in the UK, the US or Australia. The general protocol in Japan is for bands to essentially "rent" (in theory) venues\/live houses for their shows. This means that bands who are performing are required to pay the venue for the space, typically through selling a certain number of tickets. If there aren\u2019t enough patrons walking through the door to cover the agreed ticket number then the band have to cough up the rest. This isn\u2019t always the case, though. If you\u2019re a known band or a favourite of the venue owner, this fee may be overlooked; however if you\u2019re unknown cold emailing, then expect it to be the norm. Live show times are generally a lot earlier and far more strictly adhered to than Western contemporaries. So don\u2019t be surprised if the show kicks off at 6pm and wraps up by 10pm. Exactly why could be anyone\u2019s guess, but Japan is a punctual nation and last trains finish early. Have an on-ground helper For lack of a better term, get a \u2018fixer\u2019 if you want to ensure nothing gets too lost in terms of communication over long distances and across languages. It\u2019s good to have someone in Japan that can help you out pre-, during and post-tour. It could be a manager, promoter, a fan of the band, a friend of a friend or some hired help off Craigslist. This person may also be key for negotiating the aforementioned booking fees with venue owners. \u201cHaving a person on the ground really makes touring Japan way more achievable. We were very lucky enough to have had a contact in Tokyo when we first arrived and he helped organize a bunch of gigs and photoshoots which were very handy.\u201d Also, if you\u2019ve never been to Japan before, you soon realize how difficult the language barrier can be. Just having someone that can speak the language lowers the chances of stuff going wrong\u2014and as the old saying goes: What can go wrong, will generally go wrong.\u201d Where to stay Your choice of accommodation is going to depend on a number of factors, but the most decidedly being how big is your group and how big is the budget. Airbnb in previous times was a rather failsafe go-to but given the crackdown you may have to look a little further and get more creative. \u201cWhen we\u2019ve done this before, the band has always opted for Airbnbs, however now so they can be difficult to find! Depending on the lengths of stay, how many you\u2019re touring with or where you\u2019re gigging, there are a few options: Hostels are a great option: Especially when you\u2019re touring with a bunch of people. Securing a six or even bedroom dorm often allows ample space for gear storage and can be relatively cheap. A we recommend are are: Nui and Citan in Tokyo as well as Len in Kyoto. If you\u2019re staying in Tokyo for a while: there are a few English-speaking real estate agents that can sort you out for long-term leases (minimum one month). It can seem a bit expensive as you have to pay bills and generally have to leave a deposit a month of rent up front (which is refunded at the end of the trip), but it\u2019s worth considering\u2014www.TokyoCityApartments.net is what we\u2019ve used. If you\u2019re band doesn\u2019t have much gear at all, capsule hotels can workout to be pretty inexpensive! But you really must have not much gear.\u201d Feeding the band and crew Aside from the fans and the beer, one of the major draw cards for The Lagerphones\u2019 regular returns to Japan is the incredible (and compared to Australia) cheap food. \u201cLucky enough, eating in Japan can be ridiculously cheap! Sushi, soba and udon are all affordable options. Basically, if you\u2019re on a budget, there\u2019s a bunch of cheap food chains that make pretty tasty food, for pretty cheap. And they often have a ticket machine at the front of the restaurant that will most likely have an English menu. Keep an eye out for Matsuya, Sukiya, Coco Curry, Yoshinoya and I\u2019m sure there\u2019s a stack of others that I\u2019m forgetting!\u201d For those needing to feed an entire crew on an indie band wage, Hanamasa is an excellent budget supermarket. Typically geared towards the hospitality industry, the nationwide chain offers bulk packaged foods at wholesale prices. Beyond that, here's a comprehensive guide to a whole stack of other cheap supermarkets in Tokyo (but found throughout Japan). Getting around Similarly to planning a regular vacation in Japan, all of the country\u2019s most popular modes of transport have their varying pros and cons. Low-budget crews may consider opting for overnight buses which will connect you from city to city for often the third of what you\u2019d pay for a bullet train. But they\u2019re only for the organized and those not too worried about giving up a little comfort. For those with mid-range budgets and not too much gear, bullet trains can actually work really well. It\u2019s something The Largerphones have done a few times now. The only issue being that if you do play a number of cities it can add up quickly, so look into the JR Pass (or read here for other rail pass options). A car or van is an option, and the renting in Japan can be relatively cheap. If you have an international driver\u2019s licence and are confident behind the wheel it\u2019s an option. Do be aware that although the country is small in terms of land mass and gas prices won\u2019t be too much of a worry, high price toll roads in Japan are a ubiquitous, money hungry reality. To see whether you\u2019ll have to pay a lot in terms of toll fares, plan out your route on Google Maps which will then offer an estimate. Merch is the key to making a little extra money You will be experienced and wise enough to know that the terms \u2018DIY indie musician\u2019 and \u2018making money\u2019 are definitely not synonymous. However one generally fail-safe method to make a little coin is by creating killer merch. \u201cThe biggest way to make dollars in Japan is buy selling merch. There\u2019s a big respect for merchandise in Japan and it\u2019s one of the only places in the world where they still love to buy CDs! If you can get some t-shirts, tote bags, badges, pins or whatever made, seriously consider it.\u201d Visas Wrapping up it\u2019s time for the more serious stuff. It\u2019s probably safest to preface this with a disclaimer: We\u2019re not lawyers, and this is just a guide, so to avoid getting holed up at immigration, please check what you\u2019ll need paperwork-wise depending on your situation. If you want to do everything by the book (which you should) then it maybe be worth reaching out to an entertainment lawyer for a little advice. HG.org is a handy resource for that. If you\u2019re looking at the longer term and want to make a career out of live music then be sure to spend some time dissecting this run down of the translated version of entertainment visa requirements in Japan. As a band, touring Japan may seem like a lot of work and pre-planning and a lot of risk-juggling, but take it from The Lagerphones, it can also be one of the most rewarding and inspiring experiences any ambitious band can have (plus it\u2019s pretty impressive on the bragging rights front). So, what are you waiting for? Good luck and happy gigging!