(By Women In The World Staff | Published on April 12, 2017 for New York Times)
An 82-year-old Japanese DJ who spent 50 years running a gyoza restaurant before learning how to play turntables has become a sensation in the Tokyo club scene. Sumiko Iwamuro, also known as “DJ Sumirock,” performs a monthly set at Shinjuku hotspot DecabarZ, which she opens with the theme to popular 1980s anime Astro Boy before launching into an eclectic fusion of techno, jazz, French chanson, and classical music.
Speaking with AFP BB News, Iwamuro said she had always loved music, but circumstance — most importantly, her commitment to the family’s restaurant, where she began full-time work at age 19 — had prevented her from pursuing it as a career. Her father, she recalled, had been a jazz drummer. During WWII, she said, she had to muffle her gramophone with cushions so that her neighbors wouldn’t hear her listening to Western music.
After the death of her husband, when she was in her 70s, Iwamuro decided to take up a DJ training class at a local music school. She honed her skills and eventually managed to impress a French event producer who helped her begin booking gigs in the club scene.
In at least one sense, however, Iwamuro feels her new vocation is not unlike her old one.
“In both, results can be seen immediately,” said Iwamuro. “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.”