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Manor’s Top 5 Tips For Record Shopping In Japan

Manor’s Top 5 Tips For Record Shopping In Japan

Emerging Melbourne duo Manor have a fascination with music. As well as making it together in their own purpose-built studio, Caitlin Duff and Nathaniel Morse also collect rare records from around the globe to spin in the apartment they share with their greyhound Joan. They’ve recently returned from a five-week trip in Japan with a whole suitcase full of vinyl they dug up while flipping through the crates of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. Below, Duff has penned Manor’s top five tips for record shopping in Japan.


Owing to a mutual fascination and appreciation for all things analogue, our recent sojourn in Japan, intended to be a ‘writing break’, quickly turned into an all-out record hunting frenzy. A few casual days shopping revealed that the immaculate conditions of some rare and wonderful pressings were not a fluke; that most vintage record stores were selling vinyl that had rarely (if ever) seen the light of day. Our five week, one suitcase trip became a series of phone calls to Qantas about extra luggage, weighing up the cost of returning to Melbourne with some excellent records that we may have well never come across again. Learn from our errs: if you’re a vinyl nerd there are a few must-dos before you start charging to the AMEX.

#1 Do your research

This record store owner had no time for my broken Japanese, but all the time in the world to delicately wrap each purchase individually and check for scratches and marks.

It would be a shame to spend your time and money looking through record stores without first acquainting yourself with exactly what to look for and how to ask for assistance. The first few stores we hit up were so jam-packed with stock that it became quite overwhelming. So as not to miss out on the good stuff due to ignorance, we got out our dictionaries and translated the most commonly occurring katakana – words like “psych”, “rock” and “jazz” became easily identifiable due to sheer over-exposure. Whenever we could muster the limited Japanese we know to speak to the clerks, we would ask about popular Japanese bands and what they would recommend for people into “the seminal rock albums” such as ourselves. Early online research also revealed the terms we normally associated with record shopping, such as “second-hand” and “vintage” didn’t really translate; they say “recycle stores” which is kind of forward thinking and puts an eco-friendly spin on the whole thing.

#2 Pack light

We left Australia with a backpack each, fully anticipating we’d find a few things on our trip that we’d want to bring home with us. Little did we know that we’d have to purchase two extra suitcases to bring home the 80+ records we “just couldn’t live without”. Our advice? Take a relatively empty suitcase and a daypack with you. That way you can buy all the great stuff you find (not just records but recycled clothing, souvenirs and gifts that just don’t exist in Australia) and you won’t have to fork-out for extra luggage.

#3 The cost of things

The streets of Kyoto, where the best record stores hide between layers of tradition and modernism.

There’s very little point buying new records in Japan as the prices are the same as they are online or in Australian record stores. Recycled records are a fraction of the price and are in considerably better condition than anything we’ve found at home; we walked away with the entire discography of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Pink Floyd for well under $200. For all of them. Buy stuff on the spot, trust us, because something you get for 700 yen (about $8.20) could easily be worth over $50 and is very rarely worth less than their asking price.

#4 Have breakfast

Nathaniel taking a break in Kyoto.

If you’re anything like us, you probably don’t believe in eating before 3pm. While shopping for records in any country can be incredibly time consuming, the recycle record stores in Japan are considerably more involved. With seemingly no formula for categorising and displaying their records, hours can slip by as you wade through the myriad ‘Glam Rock’ and ’80’s-general’ crates searching for Queen (yeah, we know) and Michael Jackson. Get caffeinated and sort yourself out with some 7-eleven sushi before you dive in, it’s going to be a long day.


#5 Holiday first, shop last


After checking out all the shrines, temples, skyscrapers and ornate gardens you can possibly manage, you should definitely check out Japan’s thriving and impressive recycle culture. Records are awesome, and easily the best thing to own in the world (because they just sound better!), but they’re also really heavy and cumbersome. It may be hard to resist but try and do your vinyl shopping in the last few days of the trip, especially if you’re in Kyoto or Tokyo near the end. These two cities hold the most in terms of quantity and quality of recycle stores, such that you needn’t bother looking anywhere else (though Hiroshima is an easy third). Even just poking through a couple of stores will uncover some seriously great stuff so you can rest assured that waiting until the end of your trip will still be worth it.

(All photos: Manor)

Listen to Manor’s latest single ‘Can You Hear Me Talking At You?’ here.

Crate-diggers, assemble. Check out Qantas flights to Japan.

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