TOPArt & CultureMusic10 Best Record Stores in Tokyo For All Your Vinyl Needs

10 Best Record Stores in Tokyo For All Your Vinyl Needs

A seasoned record collector's personal recommendations

By Taylor Mignon

I’m an unapologetic record collector living in one of the best places on the planet for vinyl lovers: Tokyo. For the past several years, I’ve hunted for records throughout the Kanto region, from Yokohama to Chiba and Saitama to Tokyo. So here’s a guide to the top 10 record stores in and around Tokyo.

The Method to the Madness

Ultimately subjective, there’s still a method to the madness of record collecting. Input a record to the record database app Discogs and this will give you estimates of the lowest, median and highest market value for records. If the median rate, cover and media conditions are fine, drop some dough, so you can drop the needle. That way you’ll know you’re not overpaying.

Personally, I’m not interested in finding the cheapest vintage copies of vinyl from the 60s-70s, etc., because they’re often dirty, moldy and exhibit poor fidelity. With limited space at Chez Musique Salon Mignon (a.k.a. my place), I’ve decided to buy cleaner copies of mostly newer music, or obscure ones that I’m just discovering.

Taylor mignon top 10 record stores in Tokyo

Caveat: Discogs is just a guide and its projective market values might not necessarily match Japan’s current tastes. In this guide to record stores in Tokyo I’ll point out each shop’s strong points and choice finds, comparing the prices I paid, next to their supposed market value. Ranked by best deals and record finds, here are the top 10 record stores in Tokyo, Saitama and Chiba — or as we say, the Kanto area.

Without further ado, let’s dig in.

1. Disc Union (Shinjuku)

top 10 record stores in Tokyo

Located on the sixth floor, this Disc Union store is a narrow space so best to visit during low-peak hours.

Unique Features: A specialist in Indies, the used post-punk and post-rock selections here are top drawer. The seven-inch records and box sets can also please.

Purchase Highlights: Comparing PP (price paid) to MMV (Median Market Value)
Mr. Bungle, Disco Volante, PP ¥1,200 | MMV ¥18,000
Absolute Body Control, Wind[Re]Wind PP ¥1,500 | MMV ¥5,500

Location: 3-31-4, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku

2. Tower Records (Shinjuku)

top 10 record stores in Tokyo
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More people know the Tower Record store in Shibuya with its slanted Hachiko statue, but the Shinjuku branch shouldn’t be missed. There’s a huge floor focusing on vinyl with equal emphasis on used and new records under one roof, rather than the divide and conquer spread of Disc Union.

Unique Features: The point card system is quite generous, giving you sizable discounts. Furthermore, with occasional “outlet” sales offering up to 70 percent off, there are good deals to be had. The used vinyl section emphasizes classic rock while the brand-new selections focus on more recent releases. This shop even has boxes of the current offerings from specific Indie labels.

Purchase Highlights: DEVO, EZ Listening Muzak (box set), PP ¥2,600 | MMV ¥7,000
Betty Davis, The Capital Years (2LP), PP ¥2,000 | MMV ¥4,000

Location: 3-37-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku

3. Disc Union (Kita Urawa, Saitama)

 

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Unique Features: This sprawling store organizes its records by genre and has large sections of CDs and DVDs. It rarely fails to please, with either post-punk, post-rock, or independent records. Additionally, along the wall on the far side of the store you’ll often find proto-punk or proto-post-rock gems. Highly recommended is a section of newly received used records. Once I found Boys Don’t Cry by The Cure from 1980 there, remarkably still unopened.

Purchase Highlights: Iggy Pop, Nude and Rude: The Best of Iggy Pop, PP ¥3,000 | MMV ¥11,000
Various—Disco Not Disco (Post Punk, Electro & Leftfield Disco Classics 1974-1986), PP ¥2,450 | MMV ¥9,500.

Location: 10-8-5 Tokiwa, Urawa-ku, Saitama

4. Disc Union (Shimokitazawa)

 

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Unique Features: The sections here are clearly organized from 1980s Post Punk to New Wave, Gothic, Post Rock, 1990s and to more current offerings. It is very easy to navigate so you don’t get lost browsing. A special section of the store is mapped out for hip hop and dance music.

Purchase Highlights: Grateful Dead, Shakedown Street, PP ¥2,000 | MMV ¥3,000
Headhunters, Survival of the Fittest, PP ¥700 | MMV: ¥3,200

Location: 1-40-6 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku

5. Disc Union (Ochanomizu)

 

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Unique Features: This store always seems to have something on offer, from the obscure to the mainstream. There are discount bins containing such gems as Xmal Deutschland and Tones On Tail. One side of the store is solely dedicated to vinyl while the other has CDs, DVDs and shirts. The Japanese lineup is also solid. I managed to get hold of Ex-Girl’s Kero! Kero! Kero!, Shonen Knife’s Sweet Candy Power and Pale Cocoon’s 繭 = Mayu.

Purchase Highlights: William Burroughs & The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, PP ¥2,000 | MMV ¥6,500
Sisters of Mercy Psychedelic Sessions (numbered bootleg), PP ¥1,300 | MMV ¥16,000

Location: 4-3 Kanda Surugadai, Chiyoda-ku

6. Disc Union (Kichijoji)

Unique Features: Another large spread, with a lot of merchandise in addition to records. The avant-garde section is quite superb. As is the selection of unofficial LPs.

Purchase Highlights: I was recently blown away by discovering at once five Sisters of Mercy bootlegs — priceless. I’ve also purchased there a long-sought-after Melt-Banana album and a rare Shintaro Sakamoto seven-inch.

Note: Recently moved to the Parco basement
Location: 1-5-1 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino

7. HMV (Kichijoji)

Unique Features: Here you’ll find a great range of avant-garde records and cassettes. The most recently received bins of used items can surprise with quality.

Purchase Highlights: Beak> Recordings 05/01/09 > 17/01/09, PP ¥2,500 | MMV ¥7,000
(this box set contained a T-shirt worth the ¥2,500 alone)

Location: 1-11-5 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino

8. Disc Union (Kashiwa, Chiba)

 

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Unique Features: This Kashiwa shop is mostly mixed genre and usually very rewarding in terms of record finds. I have fond memories of finding good deals for Minutemen, Mark Stewart and Stereolab here. Good range of DVDs and CDs too.

Purchase Highlights: Chai, Punk, PP ¥3,000 | MMV ¥5,500
Tobacco, Maniac Meat, PP ¥2,100 | MMV ¥8,300
Joy Division Singles, plus 1978-80 box set, PP ¥10,000 | MMV ¥25,000.

Location: 1-1 Chuocho, Kashiwa, Chiba

9. Big Love Records (Harajuku)

Unique Features: This is a shop that simply oozes cool. A corner of this family-owned store offers beer on tap and fresh music videos. Aside from records, original merchandise is also available.

Purchase Highlights: You won’t find any great deals here, but if it’s newer stuff you’re after, this is your place. My finds here have included Reggie Watts, Magnetic Fields and Thee Oh Sees.

Location: 2-31-3, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

10. General Record Store

Unique Features: Compared to other stores, this is quite a cozy place. Rare post-punk and avant-garde wax records stand out. The seven-inch records in particular are well worth a look.

Purchase Highlights: The strength of General Record Store is not the great deals but finding rare stuff. Here are some of my recent finds there: The March Violets, Section 25 (“Looking from a Hilltop”) and Cabaret Voltaire. I also got John Zorn and Ennio Morricone’s The Big Gundown.

Location: 2-8-4 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku


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