55.6761° N, 12.5683° E
‘I like writing everywhere because I get a different kind of song wherever I am.’
Gems in this
Sunny singer-songwriter Mina Okabe lights up when she talks about Copenhagen. After growing up in London, New York and Manila, the Danish capital has become a much-needed base for the Japanese-Danish musician.
Mina’s cross-continental upbringing has given her a global musical education — from listening to 2000s pop in Manila to her mother’s favorite Japanese songs and classic UK alt-rock outfits like The Cure. The eclectic blend of influeces present in her radiant, dreamy indie-pop tunes have seen Mina sign with Universal Music and her top single rack up over 28 million streams — all by the age of 22. Dialing in from her label’s studio in the city, Mina chats to us about creating a new home for herself, and shares her pick of cozy eateries, community spaces and groovy music venues in her Copenhagen Travel Playbook.
On musical influences from the places you’ve lived
The music that was popular in the countries I lived have always had an influence on the music I write. There are a few Japanese songs that feel nostalgic to me because my mom would listen to them. I actually went back to Japan recently after three-and-a-half-years, and it was amazing — woah, it was nice to be back. Then, in London, my dad would listen to Oasis; he showed me Amy Winehouse and The Cure. In Manila, people listened to a lot of pop music, and when I moved to Denmark I started broadening my music tastes. Those countries have had an influence on me.
On your unusual love of airports
I love airports — except security, that scares me. The airport in Copenhagen is really nice. When I was younger I would visit Denmark every summer; when I walked into the airport, there was always this smell — it reminds me of Copenhagen and how excited I was to be there. Now, whenever I land, the smell still reminds me of when I was younger. It’s the same with Japan. Last time I was there, I almost wanted to cry of happiness when I arrived.
‘One thing that I've learned through travel is that I'm curious; I’m open to learning about different cultures and trying new things. Everywhere I go inspires me.’
On finding inspiration wherever you are in the world
One thing that I've learned through travel is that I'm curious; I’m open to learning about different cultures and trying new things. Everywhere I go inspires me — I am always making new melodies and writing lyrics. I like writing everywhere because I get a different kind of song wherever I am.
On a window or aisle seat
Always window. When I went from Tokyo to Copenhagen, I just listened to music and looked out the window, and it was entertaining enough for me.
On overcoming pre-performance jitters
I always loved singing, and I started writing my own music when I was around 15. When I was younger, I loved performing. Then when I started high school, all of a sudden, I started getting so nervous before I went on stage. After high school, I changed my mentality and told myself, ‘You have to enjoy this. If you don't think it's fun, there's no point doing it.’ So now I’m excited-nervous. I still feel nerves, but not in the same way.
On a standout performance
My first festival was SPOT Festival, where a bunch of upcoming artists play. I had only played two shows before that with my band, so performing my own music was really new. I was so happy that there were people there. Then when I played the last few songs, people actually stood up and sang along and danced. It was such a positive surprise and it made me excited to play even more.
On creating a home in Copenhagen
I've moved around my whole life. When I was 15, I wanted to find a place where I could stay for a longer period and have a base. I went to an international school before Denmark, where new students would come and leave every year. I wanted to live in a place where I knew my friends would stay, and I would be able to build friendships for longer. So I moved to Copenhagen. I've loved living here so much. It really feels like home.
On cozy eateries in Copenhagen
I love the cafés in Copenhagen. I really like Kaf. It's a small, cozy, vegan café with a bunch of cakes, pastries and coffee. There's also a wine bar in Vesterbro: Vores Vinbar, which is basically ‘our wine bar’ in English. It is also a small, cozy wine bar that's not too expensive. The people are super friendly, and it’s a really nice atmosphere.
‘Byhaven in Vesterbro is an outdoor venue. I love it because they have a bunch of upcoming artists, so it's a really great way to discover new music.’
On exploring different areas
I live in a really nice area called Nørrebro, close to the big lakes in the middle of Copenhagen. There are a lot of small shops and it’s nice to walk around. I feel like the best cafés and restaurants, and the best vibes, are in Vesterbro, Nørrebro, Østerbro.
On the best way to get around
One thing that’s good to do when you're in Copenhagen is to bike around. That’s the main form of transportation. You’re really able to experience the energy. It's so easy because there are biking paths.
On a pocket of nature in the middle of the city
It's definitely nice to walk around the lakes. Kongens Have is a really nice park to visit, especially during summer — there are a lot of people having picnics or playing games, and there’s a really nice vibe.
On where to see upcoming artists
Byhaven in Vesterbro is an outdoor venue. There's a small stage and it's free entry, and there's a bar where you can buy beers and food. I love it because they have a bunch of upcoming artists, so it's a really great way to discover new music. It's a really nice vibe. I think it was one of my first live shows with my band.
On one of your favorite places to perform
I love Vega. It has three different stages, and it’s a really nice place to see concerts. I've also played there. In the interior, there's wood all around and there's a bar in every stage room. It is a really pretty place. A lot of people say that Vega is their favorite place to see concerts because it has such a nice atmosphere.
On where to connect — and play music trivia — with the community
Absalon in Vesterbro is really fun. I think it was an old church, and they changed it to this Folkehuset. They have a bunch of events: you can sign up to yoga, make pottery, paint. They also have a bar, and fællesspisning, which is like dinner. They have a bunch of long tables and a lot of young people eat there, because it's not too expensive. It's a really cozy place to gather. One of the events I've been to is music bingo. It’s really fun. During the summer they have benches outside, so you can sit in the middle of Sønder Boulevard.
‘Copenhagen is a really comfortable city to live in, and it feels safe. It's a good mix of city and nature.’
On your relationship with Copenhagen
I love traveling, but it's really nice to have a base and a place where I feel at home. It's something that I didn't really have before I moved here. It's a really comfortable city to live in, and it feels safe. It's a good mix of city and nature.
On a song that reminds you of Copenhagen
One of the new Danish artists I listen to the most is Hans Philip. His music is very unique. He has a song called ‘Somendrøm,’ which translates to ‘like a dream.’ The song gives me a warm, calming, comforting feeling that the city also gives me.
On Copenhagen in one word
Cozy. The streets are really charming. There's a really good food scene, and a lot of the restaurants and cafés do a lot to make sure there's this cozy atmosphere.