Licaxxx (real name Rika Hirota) has been at the forefront of the Japanese dance music scene for over 10 years, as a radio DJ hosting her own show on J-Wave radio and as a club DJ and facilitator. She is also one of the founding members of Tokyo Community Radio (TCR), a music-forward podcast community based out of the capital, which formed in 2019.

Ahead of her all-nighter on Saturday at Zero Tokyo, she spoke with Tokyo Weekender about her work with TCR and her passion for helping young DJs find their way around the Japanese dance music scene.

13 Years of Music

2023 marks her 13th year as a DJ, in a career which has stayed razor-sharp with music as its edge. Taking her moniker from DJ Kyoko’s XXX mix series, when she was 19, she began using CDs to mix tracks, before moving onto records and mp3s. As a DJ, she gradually built a reputation for slick blends and funky transitions, appearing in clubs across Tokyo and beyond, before landing a spot on Tokyo FM’s radio station, J-Wave, in 2016.

December of the same year saw her now-legendary Boiler Room set, which placed her firmly onto the global stage when it was uploaded in 2017. Currently standing at over 700,000 plays, the set sees Licaxxx exhibit near-seamless blends one after another, touching down upon contemporary house music from labels including Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. and Bristol’s Idle Hands. This helped to cement her as a key player in the new Tokyo scene, which had previously been segregated somewhat by genre.

“House was house, and techno was techno.” she says. “People would often ask me what my sound was, but gradually they started to recognize it as a Licaxxx sound.”

On the back of the Boiler Room set, she began to receive offers to play overseas.

“Before, it was a case of me reaching out to promoters,” Licaxxx says, “but after that, they started to approach me.”

Tours followed, including a set at the famous Circoloco after party in Ibiza in 2018.

Starting a Station

Becoming visible on the global scene meant exposure to global trends and practices. One such example being internet radio. She had guest spots on the most prominent internet radio stations, including NTS radio and Rinse FM from the U.K. Previously, as a host at J-Wave, she would talk and introduce guests and songs, but internet radio was different. It was 100% music and a chance for DJs to showcase their mixes outside the club setting.

Stations like Korea’s Seoul Community Radio invite touring DJs into the studio to record their mixes in person. In the studio, DJs are given the chance to hang out outside of clubbing hours, still within the music realm. Rotating DJs with their crews gravitating around the stations, naturally form communities, opening up opportunities for discussion and collaboration. A famous clip of the late DJ Andrew Weatherall recently resurfaced, in which he claims that the after party is “when the important thing [happens].”

In Japan, as houses are small and sound tolerances lower, the opportunity to invite a slew of clubbers back to the house is less forthcoming compared to other countries. Until 2019, Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world, was lacking a community radio station of its own.

“I was talking with some other DJs who had appeared on different radio stations too, and we spoke about how Tokyo needed one,” says Licaxxx.

Further to this conversation, in May 2019, alongside Tokyo DJs including Mars89 and Kotsu, a new community hub called Tokyo Community Radio (TCR) was launched. TCR was originally started as a base to invite touring DJs — both from outside Tokyo and further afield — to showcase their mixes and grow a Tokyo-based dance music community, while also inviting international exchange with other global stations in the process.

In September 2019, Licaxxx headlined an all-nighter at Liquidroom in Shibuya, DJing for the whole night. The other rooms were manned by TCR members, each bringing their own style of dance music to the floor.

Future Trackmakers and Community Activities

TCR currently runs a Japanese-language podcast, in which Japanese DJs share their thoughts about hobbies and music. There’s also a monthly mix series featuring touring and local artists and a regular event series, which works to showcase local and international DJs. During the pandemic, TCR flourished, giving listeners the chance to experience their favorite DJs at a time when going to clubs was largely prohibited. Now COVID restrictions have finished, the radio’s event series is in full swing. Licaxxx, meanwhile, currently oversees artist incubator sessions in collaboration with Red Bull Japan.

The educational program provides Licaxxx-selected DJs and future track makers with the means and motivation to create their own tracks. DJs from across the country applied for the open call and were whittled down to 14, with the lucky few attending a weekend training camp in Izu. DJs listened to lectures by established track makers, including Stones Taro and Carpainter, who gave lessons on how to use song-making equipment, and how to overcome typical industry issues. They then made their own tracks under supervision from professionals. The tracks were selected for the resulting compilation, which was released in June via the Tokyo Community Radio platform.


Future Global Players

Championing new talent is where Licaxxx may have found her calling.

“Since starting TCR, I’ve become more proactive in finding new artists,” she says. When asked to pick three DJs she thinks people should know, she’s initially stumped.

“There are just so many,” answers Licaxxx. “The first is DJ Shikisai, who’s a regular at Bar Bridge. He plays a lot of house and disco, always really well. We’ve actually hardly been in the same lineup, but we’re close. The next is Feline, an artist I’ve been pushing for a while. She can do it all really, whether it’s hard or light. The last one would be Chanaz. She’s got a bright future ahead of her, and she’s so motivated.”

As well as looking to the future, Licaxxx is firmly aware of her roots. Her upcoming all-nighter at Zero Tokyo sees a collaboration with long-standing dance music party Glue — where she made a guest appearance 10 years ago. The middle floor of the four-floor venue sees Glue member Reiji Okamoto curate a lineup from an edition Licaxxx played more than 10 years ago. DJs on the B2 floor include DJ Shikisai and DJ Kyoko, the same DJ who inspired Licaxxx’s name.

“Apparently it’s the first all-nighter at the venue,” she adds. “I’m looking forward to seeing you all there.”

Tune in to Tokyo Community Radio.