In a recent chat with American Way, the veteran bandmates dished the dirt on exactly what goes on when Aerosmith's on tour. Okay, it wasn't exactly their most salacious backstage secrets, but they did single out one of their favorite stops and reveal where they hang out there when they're not playing to a packed house. So next time you're in Tokyo, spike up your hair, squeeze into some black leather, and see the city like a real rock star.
Steven Tyler, the rubber-lipped, limber-limbed lead singer of the supergroup Aerosmith, is spending a leisurely Sunday afternoon exploring Tokyo's scenic Yoyogi Park and its plentiful picnickers and koi-filled ponds. The scene sounds tranquil, but Yoyogi Park is also famous for the hopeful local performers, including the requisite Elvis impersonators, who often show up there to perform on makeshift stages. Given the crowd, it's not long before Tyler is recognized, first by one wannabe rocker, then by hundreds. "I was mobbed. Terrible mobbed," recalls Tyler, who had to make like the Beatles in A Hard Day's Night to escape the horde.
That surreal encounter is a testament to the venerable Boston-based band's immense success in Japan. For some 3 decades, Aerosmith has rocked the world, selling more than 100 million albums, winning every imaginable award, and touring so incessantly that the members figure they've crossed the globe more than 36 times. But Japan, especially Tokyo, where they routinely sell out the city's biggest stadiums, remains one of their strongest fan bases. And now, after recently releasing their 25th album, Honkin' on Bobo, which continues to receive strong reviews, Tyler and fellow bandmate Joe Perry are ready to rock you through Tokyo, the city where Aerosmith reigns supreme.
Where do you like to stay in town?
STEVEN TYLER: The Park Hyatt, the hotel from the movie Lost In Translation. Everything's just like you saw in the movie: the pool, the health club, the view of the city, the bar. It's like a little city, and the beds are great and the food is unbelievable. It's very expensive, but it's as good as it gets. And it's downtown.
What's not to be missed in Tokyo?
JOE PERRY: One of the most amazing things to do is to go to the Tsukiji fish market. It covers probably 3 acres. You have to go at like 6 in the morning. Chances are you're going to be jet-lagged and you'll be up at that hour anyway. Tsukiji has stuff from around the world. Tuna from Australia, cod from the mid-Atlantic. You'll see fish priced anywhere from $30 to $3,000. The workers core the fish so buyers can see the quality of the meat, and then everyone starts bidding on it. There are little sushi places all around for the people who work there, and you can get some of the best sushi you'll ever have. Don't go looking for a Philadelphia roll there. It's the classic rice and raw fish, the freshest and the best. If it lives in the sea, you're going to find it there.
What's something else you always do when you're there?
PERRY: I always bring my family, so we
do a lot of kid things. And being a guitar player, I always hit the funky guitar shops and music stores. The guitar thing in Japan is booming. It's one of the biggest markets in the world for guitars. I'm not sure what the figures are, but I think Gibson sells almost as many guitars there as it does in the U.S. Some of their high-end stuff gets bought up in Japan even quicker than it does here. The vintage market there is huge. It's on a street called Ochanomizu.
What else might you be shopping for? And where do you go?
TYLER: Full Count is a boutique where they make handmade pants and shirts. They made me a pair of coveralls that I can feed the chickens in, plus they're stylish. In Tokyo, my wife and daughters shop at LaForet, a mall that's really popular among young girls. My wife and daughters just about lost it there. It's just a hip, trendy place. Our favorite store in all of Japan, though, is Hysteric Glamour. Hysteric Glamour wanted to do some stuff with the old Aerosmith logos, so we joined forces with them and now they sell T-shirts, underwear, and other Aerosmith items in the stores. It's really good stuff.
PERRY: Japanese department stores are one of the coolest places you can go. Just imagine Bloomingdale's, only with a full-blown food court in the basement, and then on the top floor you have an array of, say, 10 restaurants, where you can get anything from fancy dining to funky noodle houses. That's true of most department stores in Japan. Our favorite one is Takashimaya. They usually have the more traditional Japanese kimonos and all that kind of stuff. There are a lot of things the designers will make just for the Japanese market. I have a wallet I love that I got there probably 8 years ago. It was, I think, a Cartier. I asked a friend of mine here in the States who owns a boutique if he could order me another one and he said, "No, they only make those and sell them in Japan." So you'll find a lot of styles, a lot of things, especially if you're into fashion at all, that are unique to Japan.
Joe, you mentioned you always take the kids along with you. Where do they like to go?
PERRY: Kiddyland, a toy store in the Harajuku. As with a lot of things in Japan, they're on the cutting edge, and you'll see some toys, especially the GameBoy kind of things, that won't make it to the U.S. for six months. Kiddyland is geared more toward younger kids. There are all kinds of little gadgets, trinkets, and stuff there that're a lot of fun. Right next to Kiddyland is a place called the Oriental Bazaar. It's a great place to buy your souvenirs: kimonos, pottery, ceramics, and all the classic stuff you want to take home. They have the T-shirts with the ninjas and the ninja outfits for your nephew or six-year-old. It's a great place to get postcards, chopsticks, tea sets, and stuff like that. And the prices are really good.
Baseball is monumental in Japan. Have you ever been to a game there? Or to any other sporting event?
PERRY: The sumo matches. They are definitely worth going to. It's amazing, watching these guys go at it, especially if you go with somebody who knows a little bit about it. If you ask the hotel concierge or the front desk, they'll steer you in the right direction. Sumo has been going on for 1,500 years. It's their version of big-time wrestling, football, and baseball all rolled into one. It's the only sport there that's totally, uniquely Japanese. A sumo match will usually have maybe 2,000 or 3,000 people at it. If you can't get tickets, it's worth watching it on TV.
What about some of the more cultural stuff? Do
either of you do any of that?
TYLER: The Ueno is a place we'll spend all day at. It's the oldest and largest park in the city. There are temples, shrines, pagodas, a zoo, and museums. It also has a market where you can buy a bunch of cool stuff. If you ride, you can get a Harley there that you can't get anywhere else.
PERRY: Ueno's flea market is huge. It must be 2 acres. You can get everything there, like Nikes for a quarter of the price at a regular store. They have toys. They have army surplus stuff from all over the world. They sell food. It's just a great place to go and hang out. You can't help but come out with 2 or 3 shopping bags full of stuff.
If you have a little extra time, where might you go for an exciting day trip?
PERRY: One thing is to go out to Edo Village in the suburb of Nikko. You walk in and all of the architecture and buildings are like they were back in the samurai days. They have little shows and skits with sword fighting and ninjas. Everybody is dressed in the traditional outfits, with the hairstyles and everything. Even if my kids weren't with us, we'd go there. It's about a two-hour drive out of the city, so it's a perfect day trip.
TYLER: I took the bullet train once with my family out to Mount Fuji. You're traveling at 130 miles an hour. It takes you about 2 hours to get there, and it's just beautiful. There's snow on the top. You can walk or take a cab halfway up to a beautiful lake and some restaurants. The train ride itself is spectacular because the Japanese countryside is adorned with step plowing, step gardening, where nothing can erode, and rice paddies and beautiful trees. They really take nature seriously.
What's something you love that you can only get in Japan?
PERRY: Taiyaki. It's a delicacy that I've never had here in this country. It's basically two pancakes put together in a little sandwich-maker kind of thing with some bean paste in the middle. It's sweet. If you can get one when it's fresh and hot, there's nothing like it. The traditional one is actually shaped like a fish. They usually have it in the food courts in the department stores. Once in awhile, you'll see one on the street, where they actually make it the old-fashioned way, with a little iron and cooked over coals, so the outside of the pancake is a little crispy.
TYLER: I just adore anything taiyaki.
What about restaurants in general? Where do you like to go?
TYLER: We stopped at a place called Serina Honten for sukiyaki and stone-grilled steaks. The raw meat comes on a plate and you take your chopsticks and lay the meat on top of some hot rocks that are brought to your table. You cook the meat right there on the rocks.
PERRY: Steak House Hama is a classic Japanese restaurant. They cook everything in front of you. There are a few of them around the country, but the one in Tokyo is a classic. The shrimp is usually still moving when they throw it on the griddle. Obviously, you can get sushi there, but their main focus is steak and seafood.
TYLER: For Chinese noodles, it's Kohien, and the Korean barbecue place we ate at every day is Yugentei. We ate a lot of lunches in the Chinese noodle place because you get a big bowl of steaming noodles with tempura or vegetables or raw egg, whatever you want in it. That makes a great lunch. The Korean barbecue is more of a dinner. It's just a meat feast. They also have the Kobe beef, which is very expensive. You get up from the table and it's like $400 a person.
What part of town would you say has the most energy?
TYLER: Roppongi is where we found most of the great restaurants. Big fashion. Big nightlife. It's where you go if you're an artist or celebrity. It's the biggest wow for the buck. Shabuya is in west Tokyo. It's where the movie Lost In Translation was filmed.
Where do you most like to perform, and where do you go to hear other bands?
TYLER: The venues we have been playing are like the Osaka Dome, Fukuoka Dome, Tokyo Dome, Yokohama Arena, Nagoya Dome. They're huge. They hold 46,000, stacked to the max. The Budakan is one of the best places because it's so small.
Speaking of performing, you're on the road constantly. Do you have any great travel tips?
PERRY: When it comes to jet lag, don't try to fight it, just live through it. For my work, I have to be on top of my game around seven in the evening, so I have the luxury of sleeping in. We just kind of roll with it and try to get some sleep on the plane, and drink a lot of water. Then your body will naturally shift over. It takes about a day for every hour of time change. It takes me at least a week to get shifted over.
Anything we haven't covered?
TYLER: Let's not forget the Aerosmith Rock n' Roller Coaster. [Which isn't in Tokyo, but at the Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida]. It has an electromagnet engine that propels the cars from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds.
And is there Aerosmith music playing during the ride?
TYLER: Oh, yeah. "Love in an Elevator," "Young Lust," "Sweet Emotion," "Walk This Way." The typical Aerosmith songs.
Have you ever written a song about Tokyo?
TYLER: "Draw the Line." The lyrics don't have anything to do with Tokyo; it's just that we wrote the song and it's the first place we played it. So it reminds us of Tokyo. It's also one of our biggest songs over there.