Vintage Japanese Vinyl Record Issues

In the ’60s, the Japanese went wild for a new fad coming out of America and England—rock ’n’ roll. Albums by Elvis Presley and British Invasion sensations like the Beatles were pressed and marketed in Japan, where they sold like hotcakes. The Japanese issues often had different artwork, as well as additional features like inserts with the lyrics translated into Japanese or the story of the group.

The most distinctive feature of these Japanese vinyl records, however, is what’s known as the “obi,” a name given by English-speakers who likened it to the sash on a Japanese kimono. For record collectors, an obi is a ribbon of paper attached to the left edge of a record sleeve that features the title of the record in Japanese and other useful information for the consumer, like track listings. The 3/4 length ‘hankake’ obis are especially rare, as are the ‘rock age’ series.

Obis were flimsy and intended to be thrown out, so records with their obis intact command a much higher price than those without. In fact, sometimes the obis are worth far more than the records. It’s also rare to find a Japanese pressing wrapped in plastic and featuring a sticker instead of an obi. CBS Sony made some of these obi-less records—promo records given to DJs, music critics, and label staff also lacked obis.

Pressings of American and British artists were made in limited quantities due to the fact that stores had limited space and Western albums needed to share the shelves with those by Japanese musicians. When these records didn’t sell, they were often returned to the manufacturer to be destroyed. Because the Beatles and Elvis were so big in Japan, many of their Japanese issue records are easier to come by than those by less popular acts.

Japanese vinyl pressings are also highly desired by audiophiles, who appreciate their sound quality. The Japanese manufacturers made the LPs out of top-notch virgin vinyl. In the 1960s, Toshiba took quality one step further by developing a trademarked “Ever-Clean” process, which infused an extra ingredient into its premium red vinyl to prevent static from building up on the record. Japanese issue vinyl is also notable for the more-durable stock paper that its covers are printed on.

All Japanese-issue 45 rpm singles feature a picture sleeve or a picture insert and Japanese graphics, and some even came with exclusive photographs. For this reason, Japanese 45s are also highly collectible.

Beatles vinyl LPs were released in Japan successively on the Odeon ('60s), Apple ('70s), and EMI labels ('80s). The earliest Beatles obis (circa 1964-'66) are blue “hankake-obi,"...

Among the most sought-after Japanese vinyl pressings are two boxed sets, called “The Originals” and “The Originals II,” released by Kiss in Japan in 1977 and 1978 to mark the band’s brief tours of Asia. These contained three studio albums each—“Originals II” is particularly coveted for its four 12-inch-by-12-inch cardboard masks, featuring Japanese-style faces of each band member. The mask were meant to be cut out and worn.

Japanese CD pressings also come wrapped in obis, and often the first runs come with extra limited-edition booklets, stickers, posters, or bonus tracks. Promo CDs are set apart by a sticker on the obi or cover with the Japanese symbols for “In English,” “By Sample,” and “Not for Sale.” Promo Only Items, however, have no obi strip, and usually feature unique artwork and songs selected by the record company for a sampler. These will usually be marked “Special DJ Copy,” or “Special Digest/Not for Sale.”

Collectors are particularly fond of Japanese “Mini-LP” CDs, which are intended to replicate the first-issue 12-inch vinyl LP of an album exactly. These feature sleeves made entirely of cardboard or paper instead of plastic CD cases. A company named Disk Union produced “promo boxes,” meant to hold an entire 10-CD set of an artist, and these boxes were given away to encourage consumers to buy all 10 discs. Promo boxes came with obis, too.

Some overseas stock releases were not issued as albums in the United States or Britain, like Nirvana’s “Hormoaning” mini-LP, which was only put out in Australia and Japan, and features the exclusive track, “D-7.” Record labels would often issue exclusive Japanese records when their bands toured Asia, or re-release an old album with a revised obi and cover.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Asian Pop Record Covers

Asian Pop Record Covers

David Greenfield's gallery of rare Asian Pop record covers from the 1960s and 1970s. Browse the groovy graphics one… [read review or visit site]

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas pays homage to international female opera singers of the LP era. Chronicling more than 800 singers, the… [read review or visit site]

317X

317X

Despite its mysterious title, 317X is plain and simple—an online gallery of vintage LPs, with a 1950s vintage fee… [read review or visit site]

Mybeatles.net

Mybeatles.net

Jesse Barron's collection of Beatles 45s, picture sleeves, magazines, books, and memorabilia. Browse singles and al… [read review or visit site]

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

This great site, from the Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors, offers detailed background information an… [read review or visit site]

The Remington Site

The Remington Site

Since 1999, the Remington Site has offered classical music collectors a glimpse into Remington Records, an independ… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Elvis Presley 1958 Japan Only Lp Loving You Japanese Sex Pistols 45 Japan Sample/promo? -" Silly Thing " - Yk 122 Ax-excellent!!Japan Odeon 33rpm 12" No Obi Red Wax Record / Pink Floyd/ A Saucerful Of SecretsSex Pistols 45 Japan Sample/promo? -" God Save The Queen " - Yk-90-axMercyful Fate-melissa Japan 1st.press W/obi King Diamond Metallica Pink Floyd Piper At The Gates Of Dawn Emi Ems-50104 Japanese Pressing Obi LpLost In Translation - Rare Oop Japanese White Vinyl Lp - Cult Film SoundtrackSlapp Happy Sort Of Art Prog Japanese Reissue Of 1st 1972 LpSlapp Happy Casablanca Moon Art Prog Reissue Of 2nd Lp Japanese Press7 Inch Single The Clash London Calling Japan Elvis Presley 1964 Japan Only 33rpm Ep Mint Elvis Sails Japanese Public Image Limited 45 Japanese Press-" First Issue " -yk-114-axSex Pistols 45 Japan Sample/promo?-" No One Is Innocent "-yk-109-ax7 Inch Single Depeche Mode Everything Counts Japan PromoJimi Hendrix / Electric Lady Land - Japan 2lpJimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland Polydor Mpx 9955,6 Japan Obi 2lpMercyful Fate-don't Break The Oath Japan 1st.press W/obi King Diamond Metallica Metallica:"kill 'em All"japan Lp With Obi!7 Inch Single Kate Bush Them Heavy People JapanElvis Presley 1965 Japan Stereo 33rpm Ep It's Now Or Never Japanese Black Sabbath / Same - Japan W/obi Ozzy OsbourneSex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks Virgin Vip-6986 Japanese Pressing Obi LpOriginal Vintage 1985 Iron Maiden 2 Lp Live After Death Japan Mint Van Morrison Moondance Warner P-8602w Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpThe Stranglers Famous Numbers 1983 Japanese Press Liberty Records K28p-333 MintPink Floyd Wall Cbs/sony 40ap 1750,1 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl 2lpBeatles Collection Apple Eas-50031?44 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl 14lpThe Beatles Sgt Pepper Mfsl Japan Lp Translucent Brown Vinyl Mfsl 1-100Pink Floyd Meddle Vinyl Lp Rare Blue Japan Poster Genesis Rush Bowie ZeppelinThe Beatles - "sgt Pepper" - Japanese 1st Issue Odeon Red Vinyl Lp + Obi StripBeatles Abbey Road Apple Eas-90072 Japanese Pressing Picture Disc Obi Vinyl LpPenguin Cafe Orchestra Self-titled Sealed In Bag Prog Caravan Related JapanJapan Odeon 33rpm 12" Record W Obi / Pink Floyd / Obscured By Clouds / NmSmiths Same Rough Trade 25rtl-6 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpCocteau Twins Treasure 4ad 28vb-1024 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single The Specials Gangsters Japan Promo The SelecterPink Floyd / The Dark Side Of The Moon - Japan G/f Lp & Booklet OrigBeatles All My Loving/love Me Do Or-1094 Japan Red Wax 330 Yen Horace Parlan Headin' South Blue Note Bst 84062 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpPink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon Odeon Eop-80778 Japanese Pressing Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single Kate Bush Hammer Horror Japan Promo Manowar - Battle Hymns Japan 1st.press K28p 270 Nwobhm Deep Purple Shades Of Deep Purple Japan Pic-disc Ex! Very Rare!Led Zeppelin Physical Grafiti Swan Song P-6317,8n Japanese Pressing Obi 2lp7 Inch Single Theatre Of Hate Do You Believe In The Westworld Japan StiffJapan Odeon 33rpm G/f 12" Record W Obi / Pink Floyd / Atom Heart Mother / Nm 7 Inch Single Kylie Minogue The Loco-motion JapanAc/dc / Back In Black - Japan W/obiChet Baker Sings Pacific Jazz K23p-6702 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpU2 Joshua Tree Island R28d 2066 Japanese Pressing Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single Kate Bush The Sensual World Japan PromoPink Floyd / The Dark Side Of The Moon - Japan G/f Lp & BookletBeatles A Hard Days Night/things We Said Today Or-1119 Japan Red Wax 330 Yen Small Faces Tin Soldier Japan Test Press White Label Promo 7" Ir-1919 $4shippingAc/dc -live Budokan,japan 1982 -2lp-ultralimited Edition- Mint Vinyl!!7 Inch Single John Foxx Underpass Japan Promo UltravoxOriginal Vintage 1984 Iron Maiden 12" Single Aces High Japan MintJapan 33rpm G/f 12" Record W Obi / Pink Floyd / More / NmLed Zeppelin 2 Atlantic P-10101a Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpElvis Presley 1967 Japan Stereo 33rpm Ep Go! Go! Go! Japanese