Thursday, July 24, 2014


By rites this should be a detailed and all encompassing appraisal of Tokyo's many and varied record shops, it's not. I have forgotten the finer points and the trip was 'whirlwind' to the point of me not even being sure it actually happened. 

One of the very last things I did whilst in gainful employment was insist that my team embark on a trip to Japan. It is after-all a global consumer capital and home to some of the most intriguing and inspiring retail experiences on the planet (my job involved trainers and marketing and markets yada yada). So on getting a 2.5 day foray during a stop-off to Hi Chi Mihn signed off I made sure I had the names of at least one or two record shops in my phone. This trip came at a time when my vinyl consumption was down to a manageable fifty quid every couple of months on Boomkat or Normans Records (both stirling sites), so I hadn't expected to go particularly crazy.

I did. On one fateful day in mid May 2014 I managed to spunk 700 quid between five shops in about four hours. Had I had the luggage room the damage would and should have been a lot more considerable. (See guy above about to jizz over a record).

My main recollections are shortness of breath, palpitations, continuously asking myself it this was actually happening or if it was just in my head. It's weird but even at a time where I had my little problem in check I found myself nose deep and utterly aroused. The intoxicating smell of ancient card battling protective plastic alone was enough to say fuck every dry day and all of the money I've saved not dicking about like a complete fucking loser in record shops.

It had been so long since I'd walked into an even half decent record shop that I'd forgotten that buzz, that thrill - Just how pant-shittingly exciting it can be to be faced with so many of your round, black  and plastic dreams coming true at once. The only way I can attempt to describe the feeling is as pure specialist retail pleasure. It bordered on sexual, it nearly spilled over firmly into sexual and that's not something I've felt since Copacapbana records opened in Nuremberg: I still recall the cold and sobering chill of my face on it's window as I made out the sleeves through the half-light the night before it opened.  

If you are interested in the specifics or any names to go with the pictures there are a few blogs out there that do the experience a justice complete with addresses. Sadly the best I can do is tell you that it was for me at forty a game changer. I had always known Japan would be special - they've spent the past four decades robbing the west of it's vinyl. But to see it first hand. Crikey fuck.

On a practical note Japanese grading appears to be the most consistent and accurate I have come across.

On an impractical note the flimsy plastic/polythene sleeves with the sticky edges that they house records in are utter shit.

I had hoped that this trip would act as an exercise in 'binge and puke', idea being I made myself sick to death of record shopping, kind of like the kid caught smoking by his dad who was made to smoke a pack of 20 straight in an attempt to forever put him off smoking - Flawed fucking logic there in both cases. I do recall that the lady above is right to walk past this particular shop. Miserable staff, pricier than most and way too much bollocks to sort through. But in saying that had this one shop been my local i'd be happy as pancakes with a side of crispy bacon.

Yeah, this was the entrance to that shop. Not all that despite the Richard Hell poster.

See what I mean about wheat Vs chaff? Anyway, this is a bad example. I went to one called Disk Union, had about seven different stores, all for specific types of music. They was fucking awesome. The last time I was in a situation where I was having to put stuff back because there was too much affordable stuff that I wanted was a record fair in Cheltenham in 1996 - Back then it was because I was a student and buying a VG copy of Shirley Collins' 'The Power of The True Love Knot' for 50p would have been a considered purchase. This time around it was because my suitcase was only so big and my back was fucked from carrying kids. Anyway, I always knew it would be but now it's official Japan is record shop heaven and everything I thought I had seen and knew has now been reclassified... With a couple of honourable mentions including Night Owl Record Fair Portland OR and Pied Piper Records Northampton circa 1998.

So there it is, a totally useless guide to record shopping in Tokyo. The legend of Big-foot is real.

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