Tokyo’s 11 Best Record Stores
Tokyo is the record buying capital of the world, a city with a record store around every bend. Discover the 11 very best Tokyo record stores, with us.
Well-publicised spikes in record sales in Europe and America have led some quarters to (prematurely) hail a new Golden Age of Record Buying. Japan, never one to follow the herd, is still waiting for the original bubble to burst. The country is home to countless record stores large and small, all serving a seemingly insatiable demand.
Blame the country’s cultural conservatism, its wonky capitalism, whatever you like—the explanations are endless. When you’re done with the chin-stroking, however, there’s only one thing left to do: take advantage. Tokyo, inevitably, is the epicentre for record buying and where you’ll find the best range. Avant-doom or simply anything with a tune, whatever your preference, there’s a Tokyo record store with your name on it.
In what follows, we’ll introduce you to eleven of our favourites, each, hopefully, offering something different from the last.
Disk Union (Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya…)
Disk Union is the esteemed king of all record stores, a nationwide chain that simply can’t be ignored when record hunting in Japan. Disk Union is so dominant, so visible, that you almost want to dislike it on principal. Yet, for many reasons, this is simply impossible.
The first, and the most significant, is that the sheer scale of Disk Union means that its selection is unrivalled. The three biggest Tokyo stores—Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Shibuya—demonstrate this best. Over multiple floors, there are thousands upon thousands of records to flick through in crates and even more lining the walls. The Shinjuku branch is particularly impressive with its eight floors, each given over to a specific genre. Jazz, classical, rock, punk, pop, alternative, world music, soul, groove—it’s all there, punctuated by flights of stairs. In the bigger stores, you can easily spend a good few hours browsing without even realising.
Secondly, Disk Union, unlike some other large record stores, is well-curated and packed full of quality. The shelves aren’t filled out with second-rate junk, they’re overflowing with gold. Rare Japanese pressings, LPs you rarely see elsewhere, the latest reissues, the list goes on. If Disk Union is your first taste of record shopping in Japan, the experience, without wanting to be too hyperbolic, can be revelatory.
The last major reason that Disk Union rules supreme is the prices. Disk Union is cheap. Very cheap. The store has a policy of pricing its stock at or below internet levels and of constantly marking down records that haven’t sold. Bargains, it goes without saying, are there to be had.
As well as records, most Disk Union stores also sell CDs, DVDs, music-related books, record players and clothing. If you’re planning on visiting, it’s advised that you set aside a significant chunk of your day and do it properly.
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 11:00 - 21:00/Sun 11:00 - 20:00 Website: Disk Union Address: Takamura Building 4F, 1-1-2 Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo Access: Ikebukuro Station Phone Number: 03-5956-4550
Warehouse/Nat Records, Shinjuku
Disk Union may seem impenetrably dominant, yet, countless much smaller Tokyo record stores thrive. How? The seemingly insatiable thirst for vinyl in Tokyo is certainly a factor, as is the personality of these places and their ability to offer something a little different.
Warehouse and Nat Records are two excellent examples of such counter-hegemonic record sellers. The stores are distinct, but, save for a pretty ineffective partition, share the same store in Shinjuku. Warehouse keeps a stock of roughly 5,000 used records, largely from the 1960s and 70s, in genres of all stripes. If you’re into Japanese stuff from that period, the likes of Sai Yoshiko and Tako Unuki, you’re likely to be kept happy here, though perhaps half the records are imports or Japanese pressings of foreign artists so there should be something for everyone to dig out.
Nat Records, on the other hand, is a little more niche. The store specialises in ‘noisy’ music, for lack of a better term. Although the owners’ penchant for metal is noticeable, hardcore, post-hardcore, punk, post-punk, drone and countless other genre permutations are present and correct. Again, the selection of records from Japanese bands is extensive (ask for a few recommendations if you’re new to it) but there are also a good deal of imports. The owners of both stores clearly have fine taste in music and regularly make trips abroad to hunt down fresh stock.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 11:00 - 21:00 Website: Warehouse / Nat Records Address: Shinmei Building 2F, 7-7-33 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo Access: Seibu Shinjuku Station Phone Number: 03-3367-4704 [Warehouse] / 03-3368-8262 [Nat Records]
Record Shop Big Love, Harajuku
Tucked away up a few flights of stairs on a Harajuku backstreet, Big Love has surely but steadily built itself a reputation as one of Tokyo’s very best record stores. Run by Naka and Haruka, a husband and wife team who seemingly live for music and art, it is a record store (as well as a gallery space and micro-cafe) that you can’t help but be charmed by.
Each wall drips with art, photographs, posters and records, giving the store a feel not dissimilar to that of a teenage bedroom. Albeit, a teenager with impeccable taste in music. Unusually, Big Love’s customer base is an even split between Japanese and foreign shoppers, something explained by the fact much of the stock is imported from abroad, reflecting the owners’ personal tastes and their circle of friends and contacts. To name but a few examples, Australian bands like Total Control and DMA are present, as are acts from the Nordic experimental punk scene and a whole lot more besides.
Big Love also acts as an exhibition and performance space for artists from Japan and abroad, spurred by Haruka’s passion for contemporary art. Artists like Kazuki Kuraishi and Sonya Sombreuil have shown here in the past and there is always something exciting in the pipeline. Although the shop is relatively small, it feels pleasantly self-contained, like a community unto itself. Drop in and you’ll see what we mean.
Opening Hours: Mon 13:00 - 20:00/Tue-Sun 13:00 - 22:00 Website: Big Love Records Online Store: Big Love's Big Cartel Shop Address: Houei Building 3FA, 2-31-3 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo Access: Harajuku Station Phone Number: 03-5775-1315
Lighthouse Records, Shibuya
In contrast to Big Love, Lighthouse Records is a store with a far more ascetic feel. Although just minutes from the maelstrom of Shibuya Crossing, its hardwood floors, neatly shelved records and serene ambience put it in a whole other world.
House, techno and disco are the focus at Lighthouse Records, following the tastes of the owner, Yasuhara Morihiro. A former DJ himself and still heavily involved with Tokyo’s thriving house scene, you can trust that Yasuhara’s stock is first-grade. There’s a good selection of rare and difficult to find used records here, though the main focus is new releases and repressings from artists from across the globe. New stock arrives weekly, ensuring Lighthouse Records is always at the forefront of what’s hot. In a labour of love, Yasuhara writes a short description or review for everything in the store, ensuring there’s always something to discover.
Local DJs on the lookout for something new are a constant fixture at the store, as are DJs from abroad who’ve heard of Lighthouse Records through the grapevine. This, as much as anything else, should assure you of the store’s pedigree when it comes to club music.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 14:00 - 22:00 Website: Lighthouse Records Address: Seijitsu Building 4F, 2-9-2 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo Access: Shibuya Station Phone Number: 03-3461-7315
Manhattan Records, Shibuya
Manhattan Records certainly makes no secret of the city it’s beholden to. Indeed, the spectre of east-coast hip-hop looms large over this Shibuya record store, yet, there is far more to discover the Biggie and Nas reissues. Hip-hop records from local Japanese and US artists can be found here, but they also stock a good range of R&B, rap, house and stuff that is a little trickier to categorise. Visit the store and you’ll get a preview of some of that week’s hottest new LPs through the ferocious speakers and the opportunity to browse the numerous crates—all meticulously organised, I might add—at your leisure.
Established over 30 years ago, Manhattan Records is one of the area’s oldest record stores and certainly the most senior within its particular niche. This kind of longevity tells us they’re certainly doing something right, as does their impressive wall of fame—a who’s who of music world stardom, all of who at one point gave Manhattan Records a visit. Old, perhaps, but the store is kept fresh by the dedication of the owners who even go to the effort of making regular trips to New York to buy stock. Nothing is too good for the customers at Manhattan Records.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 12:00 - 21:00 Website: Manhattan Records Address: 10-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo Access: Shibuya Station Phone Number: 03-3477-7166
Like Disk Union, RECOfan in Shibuya very much has size on its side. The store is prodigious, pretty much occupying a whole floor of a large building not far from Dogenzaka, Shibuya’s main drag. Whilst strip lighting, beige walls and a lack of natural light hardly make it the most characterful place to spend time, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem given the thousands of records there to distract you.
RECOfan doesn’t really have a specialisation—everything from J-Pop to hip-hop lurks somewhere—but classic Japanese artists and European and American rock (from the 1950s, 60s and 70s especially) are noticeably well represented. The system of organisation is a tough nut to crack but generally records are sorted alphabetically, making finding something specific not too arduous. Prices are very low, even for rare and highly sought after items, starting at just 100 yen. As well as LPs and single, there’s also a healthy stock of CDs for if you’re running out of space in your suitcase.
Get there just before opening to witness the hardcore Japanese collectors literally running into the store as the doors open. Join them if you really want to get into the spirit of things.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 11:30 - 21:00 Website: RECOfan Address: Shibuya Beam 4F, Udagawacho 31-2, Shibuya, Tokyo Access: Shibuya Station Phone Number: 03-3463-0090
Jet Set Tokyo, Shimokitazawa
Jet Set Tokyo’s name rings out in the world of Japanese record stores and the non-mainstream music world in general. Jet Set has two stores, one, the first, in Kyoto and another in Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa neighbourhood, a place long associated with all things alternative. The first indication that Jet Set means business is its English website (a rarity in Japan, trust us) and its domestic delivery service, again, a rarity among Japanese record stores.
Shopping online would be a shame, however, as the store is well worth popping into. From Sunn O))) to JLo and everything in between, genre diversity is key to Jet Sets’s appeal. Though this may be a slight exaggeration (you’d certainly get some curious glances if you asked for JLo), you will find a lot of different stuff here, including a great selection of house and techno, alternative and drone, soul and world music among much more. Jet Set is also very keen on promoting underground artists and labels and the country’s DIY scene so you’ll also be able to shop for a host of records you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. It is this commitment to nurturing the Japanese music scene, combined with a solid gold stock list, that pushes Jet Set above the parapet and into the realms of the record store A-list.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 13:00 - 21:00 Website: Jet Set Records Address: 201, 2-33-12 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo Access: Shimokitazawa Station Phone Number: 03-5452-3318
City Country City, Shimokitazawa
We’re staying in Shimokitazawa with our next entry, City Country City, a small but perfectly formed record store that also doubles as a cafe/bar/restaurant combo. It’s a surprise, really, that more stores haven’t thought of this, considering just how well it seems to work here. Whilst customers are welcome to just shop for vinyl or just have a coffee, most people seem to enjoy combining the two.
Music first: The selection at City Country City is pretty varied, though there’s a definite dance, disco, soul and world music bent. With roughly 2,000 references, there’s a fair amount of stock to flick through. In the corner, there’s a DJ perennially mixing away who’ll be happy to spin anything you’d like to try before you buy. The owner, Keiichi Sokabe (formerly of Sunny Day Service who also went on to have a successful solo career), clearly takes great care over his stock and even makes regular trips to the U.S. to source fresh records.
It must be said, it seems as though just as much thought and attention are put into the food and drink as the music. There are all kinds of light meals and snacks on the go, though they’re particularly proud of the pasta. Hot drinks and soft drinks of all types are available, as is beer, wine and an assortment of cocktails. City Country City stays open late, giving you plenty of time to mull a potential purchase over a few drinks. They also host regular shows and events in the store which are always worth checking out if possible.
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 12:00 - 01:00/Sat&Sun 11:00 - 01:00 (Closed on Wednesday) Website: City Country City Address: Hosozawa Building 4F, 2-12-13 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo Access: Shimokitazawa Station Phone Number: 03-3410-6080
Shop Mecano, Nakano Broadway
Nakano Broadway is worth a visit in itself: a wonderfully cavernous and bizarre shopping complex that doesn’t seem to have changed at all since opening. It is well-regarded for its volume of stores catering to the otaku community, though whatever your subculture you’re sure to find something of interest. Shop Mecano, Nakano Broadway’s best record store, is exemplary of this.
Shop Mecano could perhaps be described as esoteric by outsiders, though its focus on new-wave, post-punk, krautrock, synthpop, avantpop and the like leaves a lot of space for difference—if you know what you’re looking at. Foreign acts like Kraftwerk and Throbbing Gristle are well-represented, though if you’re after something special, explore the early Japanese synthpop and new-wave stuff, which I’d challenge any record store to better. Japanese composers and artists, don’t forget, were among the first pioneers of electronic sounds, a lineage that is clearly honoured at Shop Mecano. It’s by no means a huge store, but it crams in a decent selection of records, all expertly curated by the clearly extremely knowledgeable owner.
Opening Hours: Thu-Tue 12:00 - 20:00 (typically closed on Wednesday) Website: Shop Mecano Twitter / Shop Mecano Blog Address: Nakano Broadway 3F, 5-52-15 Nakano, Tokyo Access: Nakano Station Phone Number: 03-3389-6311
Enban Record Store/Live House (円盤), Koenji
Shimokitazawa, after long last, faces a challenger for the title of Tokyo’s hippest neighbourhood. Should the omnipresent tourists, premium prices and—dare I day—slightly contrived Shimokita put you off, head east along the Chuo Line to Koenji. In truth, Koenji as a hub for underground music and art is nothing new; many of the area’s live houses, stores and galleries are well established, it is just that gentrification seems to have had far less impact here. Long may it stay that way.
Enban, a record store, live house, bar and event space, is emblematic of Koenji’s unassuming but rich cultural life. The store’s multi-purpose, interdisciplinary approach is refreshing, emphasising the importance of creation and appreciation over stony, thoughtless consumption. It is what’s on the records, not their physicality, that is the main concern here. So, while you can shop for records over a spectrum of genres at Enban during the day (as well as at night), make sure you stick around into the evening when, almost nightly, the store is host to an always interesting line-up of underground and independent acts.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 13:00 - 20:00 Website: Enban Address: Gorinkan Building 2F, 3-59-11 Koenji, Suginami, Tokyo Access: Koenji Station Phone Number: 03-4291-3555
Coconuts Disk, Kichijoji
Carry on up the Chuo Line from Koenji and you’ll soon arrive in Kichijoji, a salubrious Tokyo suburb repeatedly voted the city’s most desirable place to live. Here, among the chic coffee shops and boutiques, you’ll find Coconuts Disk. There are four branches of Coconuts Disk across the city (Kichijoji, Ikebukuro, Yoyogi and Ekoda) but we’ve chosen this one, primarily because you might recognise it from Fish Story (2009).
While the store isn’t quite as ambitious as the film, nor quite so “aggressively quirky” (as one reviewer put it), it certainly does its job well. Coconuts Disk sells a great range of used records and CDs, with a lot of 60s and 70s Japanese rock and pop, but not limited to a single genre by any means. You’ll also find a decent selection of foreign bands and artists, whether imported or Japanese pressings. Prices are reasonable given the postcode though perhaps not as tempting as in other places. Coconuts Disk is a nice place to hang out and they host a lot of events and shows which are always worth checking out if you can.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 12:00 - 21:00 Website: Coconuts Disk Address: 2-22-4 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino, Tokyo Access: Kichijoji Station Phone Number: 0422-23-1182
Tokyo Record Store Map
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