Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tokyo, Japan

Japan is something of a record collector’s paradise with record shops just about everywhere. There are about 700 in Japan at the moment. What you will need to do before arriving there is to do some research.

The one thing I would recommend you pick up before you start your record shopping adventure in Japan, is the book entitled “THE RECORD MAP”. You can purchase the book at Disk Union and many other record shops. From what I understand this year’s ’2012 -’2013 and 26th edition will be the last one in print form. I suppose they may go to an online version in the future. The cost of the book is 2,220 yen, while expensive it is the 472 page Japanese record store shopping bible. The only drawback is that the entire book is in Japanese. The book has maps which are helpful when you ask a local for vectors to the next shop. 

 The address system in Tokyo makes no real sense; street signs almost do not exist and when they do they are in Japanese. When you are walking around you will need to keep looking up because that is usually where the next shop is, up on a 2nd, 3rd or higher floor. Sometimes the sign for the record shop is super tiny or in Japanese only or both so you may miss it. Sometimes they have nice sandwich board ads out on the sidewalk, sometimes they don't. It can be a real adventure finding these shops.

One trick you can employ to navigating your way around Tokyo is to keep an eye out for "police boxes". A police box is a small police station manned by one or more Japanese police who seem to do nothing more than give directions to everybody including the locals.

The subway system in Tokyo is real easy to navigate, signage is also in English. What you will want to pick up is a PASMO card which will enable you to ride all the subway lines, there are at least 2 different companies who own subway lines (Tokyo Metro and Toei lines) as well as some of the railway lines. The deposit for the card is 500 yen. And it will cost you about 1000 yen per day or so jumping on and off subways. It is easy to refill the card in all subway stations and there are friendly subway workers to help if you get jammed up.

There are all sorts of record shops, from the large chains like Disk Union and Reco-fan to the very small specialty shops. Some sell only bootlegs; in fact there are 3 of these bootleg shops in Shinjuku that are all within walking distance. Some shops specialize in only certain genres such as Jazz or Beatles or Funk, etc. The Disk Union chain you will find to be quite well established as the king in Tokyo with several shops in different districts. Some are multi level shops with a certain dedicated genre or format on each floor, for example one floor may be nothing but CD's, or a floor with nothing but vinyl or punk or metal or progressive rock or books. Pretty cool. 
The grading system in Japan is a little different than ours. The Japanese grading system is as follows: A, B, C.  A = Mint or NM, B, = NM or VG+, C = VG. I found most places to grade conservatively

The filing system is also a bit different. You will have to look around the whole shop because you may find Jeff Beck filed under J and you will probably find Johnny Winter there as well.

Here are the records shops in the Tokyo area by district:

There are currently about 17 record shops in the Shibuya area. All genres such as Hip Hop, Rock, Metal, Rockabilly, Soul, House and Modern Jazz and genre the Japanese refer to as "Black Music".

Disk Union - By far the most dominant record chain in Tokyo. This shop has 5 floors, Punk, Heavy Metal. Hip Hop, House, Techno, Dance, J-Pop, Rock, Jazz, Groove and Soul. There are fun things to find on each floor. The LP room is small but they do a pretty good volume here. There is even a 100 yen bin. Prices are not bad starting at about 380 yen and up on into the stratosphere. Most prices are in the 1000 to 2000 yen range but there are used LP's under 1000 yen to be found.


RECOfan - This shop is pretty huge. It takes hours to go through it. All genres under one roof. Lots of new and used LP's, CD's, DVD, vintage tour programs, movie programs, books, you name it. Prices start at 380 yen and like the rest of Tokyo, they are typically in the 1000 to 2000 yen range. They were playing lots of western music in this shop but nobody spoke English. There are about 5 more RECOfan shops around Japan/Tokyo although I didn't find any others that were still open. The Ikebukuro location is now closed.


Also in Shibuya:

The Perfect Circle - Blues
Oldies But Goodies Records - Black
Manual Of Errors SONOTA
Nothin' But Records
Rockers Island
Coco-Isle Music Market - Reggae
El Sur Records - World Music
Ours/Hours - Jazz


Shinjuku has probably the best shops and the most at 23. This is the area where you can find the bootleg CD and DVD's. This is the place all the rock stars come to visit when they are on tour and in town. It is customary that when they shop in the store, they get to walk out with whatever they want for free, of course it is also customary that they autograph a 12 x 12" paper and take photos that the shop owner then displays on the wall in the shop. Looks like Bon Jovi, Metallica, ZZ Top, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jimmy Page, and many others are all regulars in these little bootleg shops. 

Back Trip Records - This shop is full of bootleg CD, DVD's and some books and magazines. There is a cool photo of Jimmy Page and Ross Halfin displayed from when they visited the shop. The owner is really nice and speaks very good English, his staff does not.


AIRS Music Video - Just around the corner from Back Trip, this tiny place up on the 5th floor has all the bootleg DVD you could ever need. They aren't cheap. Check out the rock stars who have come in and left with footage of their performances and probably the performances of artists they like. I don't know how many autographs they have in here but the walls are covered.

Brad Whitford - Tom Hamilton - Aerosmith
Looks like Bon Jovi works here part time

Blind Faith - A shop full of bootlegs and they appear to be doing a very good business.

They even sell T-shirts with bootleg LP cover art, hanging there is a Stones "Welcome to NY" design.

Nat Records / Record and CD Warehouse - These two shops share the same floor separated by uh, nothing really. They have some cool stuff in here, some cool bootlegs LP's but the prices are a bit high. Nat has the punk and hardcore. Definitely worth a look. All of these shops are within a very short walking distance. 

Boot LP's galore

Shinjuku Records - Nice shop, I just didn't find much in here of interest to me.


Barn Homes Records - Same here, nice shop, nothing of interest.


Vinyl Japan - Walking into this shop I had high hopes since it was pretty big, well stocked and had good online reviews. It didn't take me long to figure out that just about everything in this store was not from Japan. It would appear the owner shops for his records overseas especially in America where his strong yen goes very far. The problem is, I am not shopping for super expensive American or UK pressings that I can get for much much less in America. I looked, I left. It could be that Vinyl Part 2 has better stuff.


206,900 yen, that is $2069. Nice record, with the poster and 7"

A Ska and Reggae shop.

Then there were these shops: All in the same building the 1st two on the 3rd floor, the Perfect Circle on the 5th floor.

Beat Collectors Records
Hal's Records. All Jazz. Hal was a really nice guy.

The Perfect Circle - All Beatles

Then you know, you're just walking around Shinjuku and you see shops like these:


Something for everybody.

...and of course Disk Union has a big presence in Shinjuku just on the other side of the JR Line railroad tracks. They have 6 different shops all in the same neighborhood each one specializing in either a format or a genre. You can see by their stock that they also have buyers in the UK and America spending those strong yens and shipping those collectible records to Japan where they put a big price tag on them. If you look long enough there are a few bargains to be had here at Disk Union though.

They have a flyer with a map of all the Disk Union Shinjuku area shops

Led Zeppelin anybody?

14,700 yen, that is $190. Nice looking LP, original obie too


A Disk Union store with nothing but Prog Rock

Punk and Metal location
Also in Shinjuku:
Garden Shed CD - Progressive Rock
Fineday Music
Red Ring Records 
Ned's Records - Noise
Dub Store Record Mart - Reggae, Black
Sawadee Shop - Thai
Raw Power - Rock

Remember, don't smoke while you walk down the street or the smoking police will write you a ticket. But it's OK to ride your bike on the sidewalks.

and then there was this kid, I call him "Fucked Up Shinjuku Hipster D-Bag Guy".

Very stylish with his Louis Vuitton belt and what not.


Hashodo Shoten - This shop is pretty cool, they have lots of 300 yen LP's out front to lure you in, most do not have the obies. Inside you will find a decent selection and prices that are fair. All genres. Very helpful staff, one younger kid clerk did speak English.

Coconuts Disk - Nice shop, all genres, I just didn't find much here of interest to me, the prices were a bit on the high side. Worth a look for sure. They have another location in Tokyo as well.


Disk Union - Great location and they have a Book Union there on the same 4th floor as the music. Friendly staff and all genres. This one was a little hard to find. Find the shop and take the tiny elevator up to the 4th floor.


Jimbocho is the new and used book district. There are book stores everywhere. There are also several record shops here as well. 

Record Sya - Nice shop, 3 floors, LP's on the ground floor. Some good stuff in here. Recommended.

East Record - A nice but small shop, I didn't find much rock, but there was plenty of jazz, soul, etc. 

Fuji Records - Lots of stock in all genres in this place up on the 9th floor, but the prices were pretty out there so I didn't hang out for too long.

Rubbergard Records - Closed on Wednesdays and guess what, I was there on Wednesday. Bummer. It seems there are several small record shops in Tokyo that are closed on Wednesdays.

Walking around you never know what you might bump into...

Just a random small shop with cheap records for sale...

Also in Jimbocho

Tony Records - Jazz
Root Records - Jazz, Vocal
Ams Record Shop - AOR
Tacto - CD's
Idea Classic - Classical


Disk Union - There are 5 different Disk Union stores in this area. All walking distance and also walking distance from the Jimbocho area. There is one location that has the following: 2F Hard Rock, 3F Death/Black/Gothic Metal, 4F Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. There is a Jazz store, and Classical store which in Japan they refer to as "Classic". There is a Soul, Rare Groove/Indie Soul shop, but my favorite Disk Union location was the main store,it has plenty of room inside to maneuver and a real good selection of Rock, Metal, Punk and just about everything else on vinyl. I also found some decent prices here. They also have a Book Union shop inside.


Van Halen boots

Also in Ochanomizu:
Birds Nest - Jazz, Classical
Used Records 

You can also go to any of the many flea markets in the Tokyo area, there are a bunch of them. Typically they are on Sundays, some are also on Saturdays. Some only once a month. Check online for a schedule. Some of the online flea market schedules are all in Japanese, so good luck with that. I found some cool Japanese pressings at a flea market for as low as 100 yen.

To give you an idea of how serious the Japanese are about record collecting, they publish at least 3 different monthly publications relating to record collecting. All text is in Japanese but they are good for reference. They are in a paperback book format and can be purchased in the record shops usually at the register counter. Good stuff.

Strange Days

Record Collectors Magazine
Beatleg - All bootlegs

This place is awesome
This place, not so much, the menu is totally different from the U.S. menu
Japan's most wanted