Once serving mainly the city's DJ population, vinyl-focused record shops have been undergoing something of a revival over the past decade in Tokyo, attracting strong numbers of quality-conscious music enthusiasts who still prefer physical records over digital downloads. While neighbourhoods such as Shibuya and Shimokitazawa are particularly fertile ground for vinyl hunters looking to go on a shopping spree, visit-worthy stores can be found all over the city. Here we highlight all the best outlets from Kichijoji in the west to Kita-Senju up north and specify which genres are best represented at each store. No matter what your musical preferences might be, the variety on offer at these fine establishments is sure to satisfy.
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Tokyo's best record stores
Formerly based in Setagaya’s Kamimachi, Ella Records picked up and moved to Nishihara in summer 2016. The warm, wooden interior houses an impressive selection of rock, soul, jazz, rare groove and Japanese oldies, and you can often spot Shibuya-based DJs browsing the racks in search of filling for their jazz and groove sets. Don’t sleep on the discount corner either.
One of the top record stores in Shimokitazawa, an area littered with shops dealing in both vinyl and CDs, the spacious Flash Disc Ranch is found on the second floor of a run-down building on the south side of the station. The vintage sound system is usually turned up almost all the way, accompanying your search for everything from rock and jazz to house and new wave. Make sure to check out the 'three discs for ¥2,000' box.
The atmosphere is very home-like at this small record store frequented by local music fans. In addition to vinyl, they sell cassette tapes and CDs, while the genres range from sugary idol pop to classic rock. Coconuts Disk also has shops in Ekoda, Yoyogi and Kichijoji.
Trusted among musos for its good taste, Big Love is an independent record store that collects vinyl and cassette tapes of indie bands from the US, the UK and Europe. Soak in the atmosphere at the bar space where you can enjoy Shiga Kogen beer, one of the best Japanese craft beers.
Hidden in an alleyway just off Cat Street, Glocal is run by the Rudiments label’s Genta Minowa and counts DJs Kinka, Kenta Kazamatsuri and Jahtome among its employees. Such expertise shows in the secondhand-focused collection, neatly organised in a very narrow space. You’ll find house, hip hop, reggae, drum and bass, disco, jazz and much more, with a particularly nice selection of non-Western dance and beat records.
Technique is the purveyor of all strands of dance-music vinyl – from progressive house to nu-jazz. Several listening decks and knowledgeable staff make this the store of choice for many local DJs. Keep an eye on their Twitter feed for info on the latest additions and release news.
This atmospheric Shibuya record store focuses on genres such as house, disco and Balearic house, and also boasts a pair of handsome vintage Klipschhorn floor speakers. Prices are very reasonable, and the shop gets a shipment of new stock every week, so check back regularly.
Those on the lookout for punk and hardcore records will want to head straight for this Nishi-Shinjuku shop, famed for its collection of ’60s-’70s releases from both Japan and elsewhere. Nat also stocks indie discs and occasionally releases its own compilations. It’s run by Masanobu Itagaki, one of Japan’s leading experts on underground punk from the ’70s.
Most of Setagaya’s musos have been to Husky at least once: opened 12 years ago on a quiet side street in Kyodo, it’s owned and operated by the multi-talented Husky Nakagawa, a former band manager, writer and producer who lords over the shop’s ever-curious collection. As Nakagawa puts it, Husky stocks ‘everything except kabuki music’. Every disc comes with a short handwritten comment from the owner himself.
Opened in spring 2013, Shimokita's Weekend Records is operated by a fellow who used to run a store with the same name in Brooklyn before moving back to Tokyo. Most of the discs on sale are imported from New York and Chicago, and the shop retains a hipstery Brooklyn vibe. It isn't the most comfy record store in the area, but still worth a visit – especially if you're trying to keep up with what's hot in the Big Apple right now.
Owned by musician Keiichi Sokabe, this Shimokita joint combines the functions of café and record store. Tucked away on the fourth floor of an office building that's seen its best days, City Country City stocks more records that the space can handle – as evidenced by the piles of vinyl stacked against the walls. Every single record is displayed with a handwritten note describing it – if you can read Japanese, these make for endless entertainment. Represented genres range from acid folk to house and ambient.
Tucked away on the second floor of a small building right next to Shimokitazawa Station, Noah Lewis' is a tiny slice of heaven for serious vinyl fiends. The selection centres on 78, 45 and 33rpm records from the '20s to the '60s, with a special focus on '50s jazz and country, and the distinctive smell inside also hints at decades long gone by. Personalised service is the name of the game, with each record coming with an explanation written by the English-speaking owner.
Run by a veteran record collector who appears to be very excited about rare (read: weird) discs, Shimokita's Otonomad specialises in secondhand CDs but also sells books (both new and used) and a selection of random knickknacks. Most customers seem to come here for the experience as much as the money-spending.
Having been around from 1995 to 2007, Best Sound Records took an extended break before relaunching above fellow record shop Flash Disc Ranch in its native Shimokitazawa. And now it has relocated to the west side of the station. They stock more than 3,000 records, predominantly rock, folk and jazz, mainly imported from California. Make sure to check out the ¥1,000 section, which is great for finding classic rock recordings.
Take the shopping street from Kita-Senju Station’s east exit until you reach this spacious shop, hidden away in a second-floor apartment. Finding what you’re looking for is easy thanks to the clearly marked, genre-specific shelves – rock, jazz and hip hop are all well represented, but the real reason to visit Fandango is the superb selection of Japanese oldies. Kayokyoku, domestic jazz and many even stranger types of seven-inch records – virtually all in impeccable condition – can be had for very reasonable prices.
This Kagurazaka retailer is more CD- than vinyl-oriented but makes up for the fact with an incredibly plentiful selection of Brazilian and Argentinian music, more or less chaotically stacked on shelves inside the small space. At least the covers are mostly visible, making finding what you're looking for slightly less of a challenge. Browse everything from classic bossa nova to the latest indie hits from Buenos Aires, or pick up records by Ryosuke Itoh e Shiho – the couple behind Taiyo Record.
Shibuya has plenty of record shops specialising in electronic music, but Jaro is one of the few entirely jazz-focused stores in the area. First opened in 1973, it's housed in a basement filled with around 8,000 titles, ranging from classics of modern jazz to releases in obscure sub-genres.
Founded in a Shinjuku apartment building back in 1994, this well-supported record shop was based in Hatagaya for well over a decade before moving to its current Koenji location in 2015. Underground records are the main draw, but you'll also find plenty of quirky T-shirts and self-published music mags here.
More than just a record store, this funky shop stocks clothing, DVDs, books and a range of random accessories alongside a CD and vinyl selection that ranges from hardcore punk to hip hop. The secondhand discs are especially well worth browsing, as prices are fair and you can occasionally find real rarities just sitting on the shelves.
Tokyo is well known for its vibrant record store scene, but finding a shop specialising in good old cassette tapes might surprise even the most hardcore of collectors. Waltz stocks a whopping 3,000 tapes amassed one-by-one by the owner, plus an extensive selection of vinyl, VHS tapes, vintage mags and boomboxes. They’ll even let you try before you buy.
Record store Diskunion operates branches throughout the Kanto area. Each floor at this huge Shibuya location is dedicated to a specific genre, such as punk, metal, jazz/rare groove, club music and so on. Both new and secondhand records are available, and serious bargains are easy to come by.
Opened in August 2014, Shibuya's HMV stocks up to 80,000 titles, with around 60 percent of those being vinyl and the rest mainly CDs. The focus is on releases from the '60s to the late '90s – something for everyone, in other words. On the first floor you'll find rock and pop records, secondhand CDs, books and mags, accessories and music players, while the second floor is dedicated to genres like soul, reggae and jazz.
Tower Records was given an extensive overhaul in late 2012 that increased its whopping 5,000 square metres of floor space. There’s now a bookstore and a decent café on the second floor, the music sections now give prominent placement to back catalogue stock as well as new arrivals, and there’s ample opportunities for listening to records before you buy, plus extra space for live performances.