Konnichiwa! The past few weeks my insatiable appetite for African music drove me to Tokyo and Osaka in Japan. Not the most obvious choice to find African music, I agree, but after a few serious digs my bags were filled with great finds, and some new discoveries too!
My guides collector MP Flapp and his friend Iain who lives and works in Tokyo, showed me around -thanks guys!
Tokyo is without a doubt the biggest metropolis in the world and although the language is impenetrable for foreigners it was relatively easy to get around, especially if you have a good street map.
Use the subway, it’s the best way to get around in this huge city, easy and handy once one understands the planning and structure of this excellent form of public transport. And it’s economic too! All vending machines are operated in English and should you get lost then there’s always a helpful English speaking company employee coming to your rescue .
Disk Union publishes an excellent catalog of Tokyo record stores and new releases.
A good map and list of places to go makes hunting for the big five in Tokyo a lot easier…
Most shops are either ultra-specialised in one specific style or huge in terms of the selection of used -and new- vinyl on offer. Division and lay-out of the shops is quite well marked in English and the prices are relatively cheap, especially for the Japanese pressings. There is always an interesting section of second-hand vinyl in excellent conditon. But don’t be fooled; it’s hard to find real bargains since most owners seem to know their merchandise -and the prices for rare vinyl- really well.
The Goldmine grading system has been replaced for the Japanese version of it -using A, B, C as indication- but since the Japanese are keen on clean it is rare to find junk. Most of the staff working in the stores have a basic knowledge of English and are always helpful, a polite bow always works miracles as well.
One of my favourite shops in Tokyo is Flash Disc Ranch -at Shimokitazawa- Misuzu Bldg 2F, 2-12-16 Shimo-Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 155-0031- a big store one flight up the stairs under a manga-styled door, opened in 1982 with a great selection of R&B, soul, jazz. The specialty of the house is “cheapies”, lots of it! Check the 45’s boxes, lots of great finds at Yen 100. The owner Masao Tsubaki speaks English and knows his trade very well.
Open 12-10 pm daily (Saturday 14.00h -21.00h). Sundays 14.00h -21.00h. Closed on Wednesday.
Within walking distance from Flash Disc Ranch is a small shop called Otonomad that stocks an excellent selection of soul, jazz, world and some rare African vinyl. The selection changes with whatever the owner puts in the racks daily so do check these out as there are some treasures hidden in those bins. Excellent selection of CD’s too and there is a listening post…
Otonomad -3 minutes walk, 1F along the main street shopping district Shimokitazawa Station North Exit from First Avenue. Monday to Saturday 13:00 to 20:00 -Sun, Holidays 12:00 to 19:00 -Closed on Thursday.
Then there is the wonderful El Sur -1OF -1006 Miyamasuzaka Bld, 2-19-15 Shibuya, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo (closed on wednesday) – not easy to find since it’s located on the 10th floor, we had to ask the postman-but well worth a visit for the best selection of African rarities and world music in general.
I asked the owner Takashi Harada if he knew the Soul Safari compilation ‘Township Jive & Kwela Jazz’ and hey presto! -he pulled it out the rack in a flash!! Now Takashi deserves a cigar!!! The shop is also well known for their own releases of selected rare World music on the El Sur label.
EL SUR Records -directions -3 to 4 minutes from the East Exit of Shibuya Station. Go towards the direction Masuzaka Aoyama Palace, sequence right.Just after the bank, the Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation, Resona, Pronto, pharmacy Higuchi, Matsuya you will a see a big old building <Building Masuzaka Palace> El Sur shop is located on 10th floor, Room 1006.
The entrance is in front of the frame shop.There is a lift to the right immediately as you enter.
Business hours are 2:00 pm until around 10:00. Closed on Wednesdays
TEL 03 (5485) 9967 FAX 03 (5485) 9968
Noah Lewis’ Records
2A Dentobiru Shimokitazawa 2-23-12 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 〒 155-0031. Open every day from 9:00 – 12:00 PM -Closed Wednesday. Phone 03-3418-0161. Take the Western exit when leaving the Shimokitazawa subway station, walk along the rail and turn over the crossing, turn left and you’ll find the streetsign.
It may be the smallest record store in Shimokitazawa area, opened in November 2001, but it is a lovely collector’s shop with lots of interesting 78’s, 45 and 33 rpm vinyl specialising in 50’s R&B, Rock ‘n Roll, Doo Wop, New Orleans jazz and odd/weird records. It’s definitely one of my favorite places in the area since the owner speaks English and he plays the picks and advises on whatever you are looking for, very personalized and professional service. Reasonable prices too…
They also do mail order. Great finds in the shop and daily updates on their website.
Disk Union is a chain found in the major shopping centres of Tokyo, their stock and selection is excellent and huge in terms of the vinyl on offer -both new and used. Check out the cheap Japanese pressings and the used bins. You won’t leave this store empty handed!
Do check out Disk Union’s catalog of Tokyo record stores and new releases. Definitely a must as it contains all addresses and opening hours, descriptions in English of some of the key stores in Tokyo. Newly updated issues appear regularly at Amazon.co.jp or buy the catalog available at Disk Union stores around Tokyo.