Digging in Japan is a dream for many record collectors.
I made that dream a reality last month when I spent a week wandering the streets of Tokyo exploring as many of the local record stores as I could fit into my short visit.
I started my week wide-eyed and sleep-deprived, emerging from the train station’s Hachikō exit and thrust out into the chaos of Shibuya’s “scramble crossing”. Enormous screens attached to surrounding buildings blast advertisements, as the sidewalks fill with shoppers, students, commuters, and tourists. This is the turbulently beautiful crossing that you might remember from the movie Lost in Translation.
The lights all turn red at once, and a surge of waiting pedestrians overtake the whole intersection. During rush hour, 2,500 pedestrians may flow through during one signal change!
If you are digging for records in Tokyo, the Shibuya area is a must. From Shibuya crossing, you are a few minutes walk to several enormous music chains and a seemingly endless number of smaller record stores.
Check out a full list of the record stores I visited:
Vinyl Vacation: Digging in Tokyo
Although visiting the bigger chains like Tower Records, Disk Union, & HMV was definitely on my list, I’m always a fan of the smaller, independently owned shops. Before traveling to Tokyo, some locals had raved about Face Records in Shibuya, so I stopped by with Lapinagile, our Tokyo-based Community Support rep.
Face Records : Discogs / VinylHub / FaceRecords.com / Facebook
Focus: Jazz, Soul, Funk, & Rock / second hand LPs & 7” records
Address: 10-2 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0042, Japan
Phone: +81 3-3462-5696
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 1pm – 8pm
We spent some time digging, and then sat down with the owner, Shin Takei (武井進一), along with the store manager, Motoki Horigome (堀込元気 ), and their online store manager, Yuji Okabe (岡部裕司).
Face Records has been open for over two decades. The spot was established as a small mail order shop in 1994 by Shin Takei (武井進一), and the Shibuya shop was opened two years later, in 1996. The shop mainly sells second hand LPs and 7” records. There is a great selection of Japanese music here, and the shop owner also travels to the US and across Europe to purchase records for the store.
The genre focus carried by Face Records is definitely Jazz, but they also have an excellent selection of Rock, Soul, Funk, and Reggae.
Like many of the record stores in Tokyo, Face Records is impeccably neat and organized. The shop has beautiful lighting and shelving, and perhaps my favorite touch: a 45 adapter dispenser.
Face Records stays true to their mail-order roots, and does a considerable amount of business online and ships around the world. Some of their stock is organized off the floor, and they even have a large area nearby for processing online orders and shipments.
Takei has always loved music and started collecting vinyl when he was young. The evolution from record collector to record seller was a natural one, and his small mail-order business has grown and evolved over the years. Just last month (March 20, 2016) Face Records opened a sister shop in the Shimokitazawa neighborhood in Tokyo called General Record Store.
General Record Store : VinylHub / GeneralRecordStore.com / Facebook / Twitter
Focus: Jazz, Soul, Funk, & Rock
Address: Matsuda bldg.1F, Kitazawa 2-8-4, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 155-0031 Japan
Phone: +81 (0)3 6804 7414
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 1pm – 8pm
Much like Face Records, General Record Store is vinyl only and focused on Jazz, Soul, Funk, and Rock. They have an extensive Progressive Rock section, as well as smaller sections dedicated to Folk, Punk Rock, and other styles.
A listening section is set up for previewing any gems you dig up.
General Record Store is a great addition to the already music-rich neighborhood of Shimokitazawa, and it’s just a quick trip via the Keio-Inokashira Line from Shibuya Station.
As you can see from the above VinylHub map, there are definitely neighborhoods in Tokyo that are incredibly music-focused. Shibuya certainly has the highest concentration of record stores, but Shimokitazawa might be a close second.
If you are digging in Tokyo, I highly recommend both Face Records and General Record Store… I mean, assuming you have room in your suitcase for a few more records.
For any Discogs community members living in Japan or recent visitors: what’s your favorite shop in Tokyo?