I buy and sell records. Record selling is my profession
and my obsession. This obsession has taken me to many countries. I've had lots of great moments (and finds!) but nothing -- absolutely nothing! -- compares with record shopping in Japan. I’ve traveled all over this country searching for records, and I am continually blown away by what I find.
Japan is a Haven for 7" Record Lovers -- Photo by Adele Daniele
The range of titles available in Japan is staggering. I’m convinced you can find better Ethiopian funk, French '60s ye-ye, Brazilian jazz and German progressive rock records in Japan than you can in these genres' original countries.
One of my favourite finds was the original soundtrack LP for the TV show The Samurai (Onmitsu Kenshi)
. Though virtually unknown in Japan, in Australia (my home) this was the most popular show when I was a youngster. My hands shook when I found this gem.
Read on and I’ll let you in on some of my record-buying secrets, starting with one of my top destinations – Osaka
Osaka record shopping overview
Osaka’s record stores can be a little more expensive than Tokyo’s, but the range of music tends to be better. Record chain Disk Union has only one branch in Osaka. Most of Osaka's record stores are small, hard to find, hole-in-the-wall
, shops. Each of these shops has its own unique character.
Osaka Record Store Map -- Photo by Bruce Milne
An Osaka record shopping map/pamphlet was produced in 2016 and is available (free) at most record shops. The map doesn’t list all of the stores, but does include all the important ones and is (mainly) written in English.
The great advantage of record shopping in Osaka is that the shops can broadly be bunched into three main areas: Nishishinsaibashi/Amemura
, Nipponbashi/Namba, and Umeda. All of these areas are easily accessible on the Midosuji subway line or by bike.
Nishishinsaibashi, home to Amemura or Amerika Mura, is still Osaka's main area for all sorts of youth culture. Although small in size, the area can be very busy and crowded on weekends. Nestled amongst the clothing, music instrument, book and anime/toy stores are at least twelve record stores. And at least another dozen record stores in the area surrounding Nishishinsaibashi.
My first stop is always Time Bomb Records
in the basement of the Sun-Bowl building (easily found because it has a giant bowling pin on its roof). Time Bomb specializes in rock’n’roll – in all sorts of forms from rockabilly through to hardcore punk. They have a store guide in English which will help you navigate this large space. Owner Kenji Kodama also speaks good English.
Records -- Photo from Flickr cc by Matthew Hine
Just around the corner is King Kong
(also in the basement of the Sun-Bowl). The store's layout is confusing, but King Kong
stocks a huge range of records from rock/indie pop through to hip-hop/dance/trance/R&B.
The nearby Lee Structure Building is home to seven small record shops. All of the stores are located near the building's first floor, and it is easy to walk past the narrow entrance. If you are after hip hop/funk/rare groove/soul, this is the place to head. Two stores in the building, Night Beat
and Old Hat, specialize in rare U.S. 50s/60s R&B, soul, and rock’n’roll – especially 7"s.
Just a short walk from Amemura, Namba is another rich area for record shops. Forever Records
, not far from the south exit of the station, is a treasure trove of rare records. Though it is small, Forever has a broad range of records and is a great place to find limited prog/psych and experimental LPs (both Japanese and non-Japanese).
Jazz Records in Osaka -- Photo from Flickr cc by tc_manasan
Around Forever, you'll find many other record stores. The biggest is Disc J.J. on the busy Sakaisuji street. It features a wide range of records but is particularly good for jazz and soundtracks.
Further south, 8Beater is one of the best stores in Japan for 80s/90s indie/alternative rarities. Explore this area because plenty of other record shops are nearby.
A few stops north, in Osaka’s main shopping/business centre, is Umeda. I have been record shopping in Umeda for thirty years, and I still get disorientated and lost. Even locals roll their eyes when discussing the myriad of underground malls and buildings in the area. That said, record collectors will find Umeda well worth a visit.
Record Shopping in Osaka at Wall
Vinyl in Osaka -- Photo by Adele Daniele
Try to find the Disk Union, which is on a main road (Miyakojima Dori, to the east of JR Osaka station). The store is big and far less picked over than its Tokyo counterparts. Also look out for at least six good, small stores in the small streets behind Disk Union.
Otherwise, hit the Osaka Ekimae Building to the south of the station. At least four record stores can be found in the basement floors of the building. These stores are all a little hard to find, but your persistence will pay off.
Records and Trinkets at the Shitenno-ji Temple Flea Market -- Photo from Flickr cc peter-rabbit
The antique and flea market held near Osaka's Shitenno-ji Temple
on the 21st and 22nd of each month is well worth visiting. I've found some great records there, as well as other trinkets and souvenirs to take home.
Another irregular flea market is held in Suita (to the north of Osaka) at Banpaku Kinen Koen
. Major markets are usually held in Spring (April) and Autumn. However, I've been told that weekend events are becoming more common. This park is the site where the Expo ’70 was held and makes for a great day trip. The mainstream EXPOCITY
mall and shopping complex is nearby, too.
While you may find other record stores around Osaka, no other areas boast such a high concentration of stores.
Jet Set Records, Kyoto -- Photo from Flickr cc by Chinnian
also have plenty of record stores and are both a short train ride from Osaka.
If you are looking for records by Japanese artists, either have a print out of the record covers or store the info on your phone/iPad. If you can’t read kanji, you may have trouble looking for Japanese artists in the stores. A far easier option is to show pictures of what you are after to the store owner and let them help you.
If you are serious about your record shopping, Osaka's three districts listed above will take more than a day each to dig through. If you are with non-record obsessed family/friends, rest assured: They'll find plenty of other things to see and do in these parts of Osaka.
Want to know more about Osaka City?