When we said Asian grandmas are cooler than yours, we meant it. Chinese Gyoza making chef by day, an energetic party-starter by night, dropping beats in popular nightclubs around the Japanese capital.
'I'd be perfectly happy to die in the DJ booth – or the kitchen,' says 84-year-old Sumiko Iwamuro, aka DJ Sumirock, the oldest active DJ in the world. Sumiko spends her days cooking at Gyozaso Muro, a traditional Takadanobaba dumpling restaurant opened by her father in the early postwar years and occasionally heads for the clubs after dark.
There are different sayings about how she got into DJ-ing. Some say Sumiko discovered her passion for techno music 14 years ago, while choosing the music at her son’s birthday party, and apparently found it fascinating enough to dedicate a whole year of her life to learning the tricks of DJ-ing at a school for disc jockeys. Others say she got into DJ-ing after getting to know Frenchman Adrian le Danois, the organiser of club nights including Tokyo Decadance, who was renting a room at her place. After checking out a few events together with Le Danois, she rapidly developed an interest in spinning and started practicing at home.
She then started making her own tracks, most of which consist of techno beats mixed with jazz, French chanson and classical music. These combination proved a hit with Japanese nightclub-goers and 84-year-old DJ Sumirock is one of the most popular disc jockeys in Tokyo.
The elderly Japanese DJ says that spinning turntables in a nightclub is similar to running a dumpling restaurant: “In both, results can be seen immediately. If the customer eats what you have made, it shows on his face if it is delicious; and if a DJ is good, everyone will dance happily.”
Even though the vast majority of her audience is usually 60 years her junior, Sumiko’s music transcends the wide generation gap, making her very popular on Tokyo’s nightclub scene.
DJ Sumirock is a monthly fixture at DecabarZ, a popular nightclub in the heart of Shinjuku district, but she hopes to one day break into the New York club scene as well. For someone who only took up DJ-in in her 70s and managed to become so popular, it doesn’t sound like an impossible dream.