Seeking Vinyl Gems: Record Shop Pilgrimage Across Japan

REVINYL Editorial Team

It’s coming up on 30 years since the 1990s vinyl bubble era. In the larger cities of Japan, we used to see tons of young people walking around with record shop bags. At its peak, there were more than 10,000 record shops prospering in Japan. Digital downloads took over in the 2000s and the vinyl boom came to a halt, but recently, records are gaining traction once again — in place of CDs and downloads — as a format that offers a different form of music listening.

According to the 2017 listings of TownPage, Japan's Yellow Pages, there were 748 record stores in Tokyo; 436 in Osaka; 432 in Aichi prefecture (these stores carry both CDs and records). These numbers show that record stores are actually in business. Japan is at the top of the world with a total of 6,955 stores: it is indeed the land of record stores. That means, for every 10,000 Japanese people there are 5.48 record shops, and that roughly translates to everyone in Japan having nearby access to a beloved neighborhood record shop.

To dig deeper, our crew at Donuts Magazine set off to find top notch record shops outside of the big cities, in the small towns of Japan. We interviewed them and also asked them to recommend some records from their impressive collections.

Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture
Mr. Yasuyuki Suda at inception records 

First, we would like to introduce a record shop that quietly dwells in a back alley in Kiryu City. The selection consists mainly of new releases from house music but also includes hip hop and jazz new releases. The shop owner’s taste is reflected rather strongly in its selection, but it is devoted to being a good place for customers to encounter new music. Please check out their homepage, and if it feels like a match for you, we would be delighted if you’d go pay them a visit. The shop is equipped with a sofa, and offers drinks and snacks so that you can relax and spend as much time as you like.

inception records’ record pick

We Out Here by Various Artists (2018, BROWNSWOOD RECORDINGS)

—Why did you choose this record?
I chose this one because it was the most impactful album to me this year, personally. I’ve always enjoyed jazz and I listen to it often, but in this compilation, honestly, I was only familiar with Shabaka Hutchings. This album was a release from Brownswood, a label founded by Gilles Peterson, and I saw that it featured Shabaka Hutchings, so it sparked my interest. The very first track I previewed immediately captured my heart. The album has this quintessential UK sound, a crossover style, and it intertwines various musical components and yet it is jazz through and through. It is so spectacular — I’d say it’s modern jazz at its purest. Before I knew it, I had it playing on repeat.

Through this one album, I found Moses Boyd, Joe Armon-Jones, Nubya Garcia and other young jazz players from London. It allowed me to appreciate the joy of encountering new music once again.

inception records
Location:5 Chome - 352 Honchō, Kiryū-shi, Gunma-ken Japan 376-0031
Hours:Tuesday-Friday: 6:30pm-9pm Saturdays: 1pm-9pm 
Weekends and Japanese Holidays  1pm-8pm
Closed on Mondays


Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture
Mr. Satoshi Yokota at COCOBEAT RECORDS

The next shop is Cocobeat Records in the city of Koriyama in Fukushima. When it first opened in 2002, the shop specialized in club music such as hip hop and reggae, but in the shop’s pursuit of the source and original songs that most of their music was sampled from, they started to open up to buying and selling more music in all genres: it has become the good old record shop of Koriyama. (They just launched their website!) Regardless, their selection of hip hop — their origin — and reggae, from years of buying, remains abundant. Most of them are available for listening on their website, so please go check it out. Also, the owner offers specialized consultation for fixing Technics’ finest SL-1200 series turntables. Please feel free to contact them!


Everyting Is OK by Original Kose (2017, Niceonsen)

—Why did you choose this record?
I think there are a lot of people that have been impacted by the Jamaican sound system culture. This album includes a song called Sound System that talks exactly about that. I heard the song and then went to “Jah Works Sound System” in Osaka, one of the few places in Japan to experience sound system. I was doubly impacted by the fact that the impactful Jamaican culture could be experienced in Japan to that extent — the song has become very significant to me.

Sound System also comes in a 7-inch, and the B-side song is called Midnight Session. This one is quite a contrast from Sound System and the heavy minor progression reminds me of what plays at clubs; it’s very cool. This is the ultimate coupling of songs — it is one of my favorite 7-inch records. Needless to say, the full-length album that contains these two songs totally met my expectations! There are elements of comedy and consciousness, and the dub in it is enthralling. There was a track he sampled called RIDDIM by JAHTARI, a German artist, and that also made me curious of German reggae, something I didn’t listen to before.

Location: Hachiman Plaza Building 2
1-6-13 Shimizudai, Koriyama-shi, Fukushima-ken, 963-8005 Japan
Hours:11am-7pm daily

Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture
Mr. Masayuki Shibata at SOUL CLAP

The next shop stocks soul, funk, jazz, hip hop, disco, and sampling sources. More than 90% of the merchandise was bought in the US. The shop has a lot more albums than their website presents, and there is unlimited listening, so please visit the shop!

Mr. Shibata: “It used to be that I would buy stuff according to the client’s specific needs: the one so and so played on, or, it was included in the mix of…, etc. Those popular albums and sought after albums were what we used to search for during our buying trips. But recently, things aren’t so much that way, so I feel free to buy whatever I enjoy at the listening stations. Buying trips to the US, in that way, have become more enjoyable compared to the past.”

SOUL CLAP’s record pick

Get Up and Dance by Freedom (1979, Malaco)

—Why did you choose this record?
As you know, this is a party tune that was also part of the Ultimate Breaks & Beats compilations. They came out with LP, 12-inch and 7-inch versions, but what now people want seems to be the 7-inch. Around the time when I first opened the shop, I found this for $2.99 on eBay’s Buy It Now. I bought one, and then I had a back-and-forth with the seller.

“Do you have more in stock? I would like more if you do.”
“How many do you want?”
“I’ll buy all of it.”

As a result, I received more than 80 of them as dead stock items. [ Laughs. ] I didn’t have my online store yet, so I was ready to spend my lifetime selling them slowly, but thanks to the cheaper price point I set for them (approx. $15 each), they sold out pretty fast.  But since then I can never find them when I go on my buying trips, and so now I pay 10 times the price and purchase them from dealers for about $30 each. [ Frowns. ]

Location: 312-22 Tenmachō, Naka-ku, Hamamatsu-shi, Shizuoka-ken 430-0935 Japan
Phone: 053-451-3457
Hours:2pm-8pm daily
Closed on Wednesdays


By REVINIL editorial team
Translated by Mika Anami

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