Kyoto’s “Cremona” and Its Legacy of Three Generations

Tatsuya Shirahase

The Third-Coming of Cremona

“The shop’s name was going to be Cremona from the start. I wanted to leave that name behind. When I asked my father he responded without blinking: ‘Go for it.’”

Masao-san assessed the danger of paying high rent; the store may close before anyone knew it was open. So in April of 2016 he opened his store in Imadegawa outside of Kyoto’s city limit. “I was prepared to be in the red at first and was hoping to work my way to a more balanced profit by the end of the first year.” He opened for business with that mindset. He was also ready to fold in a year: if business failed. Much to his surprise, his old customers and other record shop owners started to pour into his place.

A liquor shop owner, one of Cremona’s top regulars from the past, went around handing out flyers at all of his clients’ restaurants. Takeshi Kaji, the mover and shaker of the Kyoto Record Fair (mentioned earlier) and owner of record shop “100000t alonetoco,” also showed major support by putting out flyers at his own shop.

Kaji-san recalls those days: “I was a regular that would go to Cremona almost everyday. The timing of Cremona Kyogoku store closing and my store opening happened to coincide, and opting for more inventory, I bought what was left of their products.”

The news of Cremona’s revival spread like wildfire thanks to their local network.

Masao-san modestly comments with a gentle expression: “The reason why I can make ends meet is because of the long standing connection I have with my peers and customers, and without the name Cremona and its years of legacy in Kyoto, I don’t think I would have lasted a year.”

Today, a wide range of customers from young DJs to elderly jazz and classical music enthusiasts visit the store.

■ The Ethos of Cremona

Contrary to the first and second generation, the third generation of Cremona mainly sells used jazz records. Masao-san is particularly fond of the works of Sky High Productions, the team that produced Miles Davis, Donald Byrd and Bobbi Humphrey from the late ‘60s and on; the kind of music that was later reclaimed by the club music scene. His father, Toshihiro-san, was very knowledgeable of modern jazz and the eras before. Upon opening his store, Masao-san learned a lot about jazz from Toshihiro-san. A variety of jazz eras are represented at Cremona today as if to reflect both of their preferences, and further, they also carry rock, blues, and classical music. Recently, through customers’ requests, they have started to display Japanese popular music and sounds as well. In their used CD section, rare and popular albums of ambient and club music - Masao-san’s obsession from his salaryman days - line the shelf. At first glance, the store comes across as any old record shop, however, the selection is rich and the price is much cheaper.

“Kyoto has multiple well-established record shops that specialize in jazz originals. I understand the importance of those stores, but the prices tend to get high. My rule is to sell records at a price that high school students can afford with their allowance. For the price of one foreign original, you can buy 20 domestic versions. I just want records to feel more accessible to our customers. In that way, maybe we are more suitable for people who are just getting into records. My wish is that analog records will stay a popular hobby for the younger generations. I know they can’t afford to screw up a purchase, so I welcome them to give it a listen first.”

Masao Terai, the store owner.

Recently, analog records have experienced a boom. The overall sales, however, do not compete at all to the days when each household had a record player. Therefore, there is a business model trend in selling rare records at a higher added value, treating records more as antiques. It is also essential to have Cremona, on the other hand, an environment that nurtures a more casual relationship to records.

Today, Cremona’s welcoming doors are flung wide open. This is its ethos: slowly molded by holding onto its legacy and upholding Kyoto’s record culture for three generations.

■ Rare Finds at Cremona

The 4th Folk Camp Concert, Various Artists (1969 / URC)
This is a live album from a record label called URC, the stronghold of Kansai’s folk music. It was recorded at the outdoor venue of Maruyama Park in Kyoto with legends such as Nobuyasu Okabayashi, Goro Nakagawa, Wataru Takada and some lesser-known musicians such as Handainigro. The high energy of the youth of Japan from a half-century ago can be felt through this precious album.

3rd Floor of Daijin Building
234 Tsukiyamaminamihanchō, Kamigyo-ku
Kyoto-city, Japan 602-0034
(3 minutes walk from Imadegawa station of Kyoto metro Karasuma Line)
Calls within Japan: 075-748-0957
International Calls: international dial out number +81-75-748-0957
HOURS: 11am - 8pm
Closed on Wednesdays and Japanese holidays
Official Site:

Tatsuya Shirahase

Tatsuya Shirahase
Tatsuya Shirahase is a published sociologist and fieldworker that focuses on urban issues and regional culture. He was the head of a music research club in college and his famous words are, “Digging for records over three meals.” He enjoys jazz, soul, Latin, reggae, hip-hop, house and ambient music. While he is committed to his field research, he also throws vinyl parties in Osaka and Nara.

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