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    

Iron Maiden. The Beast In The Garden Vol.2. New/mint Japan Picture Disc Lp. Iron Maiden. The Beast In The Garden Vol.1. New/mint Japan Picture Disc Lp. Lp Madonna You Can Dance Japan Obi Madonna - Borderline - 1984 Japan Promo 7" Single - White Label - Sire - P-1852Lp Bob Marley & The Wailers Soul Rebel Japan Promo Obi Lp Cocteau Twins Head Over Heels Japan Obi Lp Depeche Mode Construction Time Again Japan Obi Lp The Damned The Black Album Japan Obi Lp The Go-betweens Metal & Shells Japan Obi 4lp Mal Waldron Mal/1/2/3/4 Prestige Japan Mono Vnl Ex+/nm- Cvr ExLp Adam And The Ants Kings Of The Wild Frontier Japan Obi StickerLp The Stranglers La Folie Japan Promo Obi Lp D Greenfield And Jj Burnel Fire & Water Japan Obi StranglersLp Omd Architecture & Morality Japan Obi Lp Kiss Destroyer Japan Obi Ac/dc. Paris In Flames. Mint/unplayed Japan Clear Vinyl Live 1979 + Programme.Lp Japan Quiet Life Japan Obi Poster David SylvianLp Cocteau Twins Garlands Japan Obi Lp Kiss Music From The Elder Japan Obi Lp Japan The Singles Japan Obi Picture Label Blue Wax David Sylvian12 Inch Single Madonna Dress You Up Japan Promo Obi Lp Rainbow Rising Japan Obi Lp Frankie Goes To Hollywood Bang Japan Promo Obi Lp The League Unlmited Orchestra Love And Dancing Japan Obi Human LeagueDavid Bowie"sound And Vision"1978 Japanese Rca+picture Insert+japanese Rca CoverKiss 7" Single Rocket Ride / Tomorrow And Tonight Victor Japan Vip-26033lp Bluenote Japan Kenny Burrell K.b. Blues/freedom/swingin' Vnl Ex Cvr Ex-12 Inch Single Sheila E The Glamorous Club Dance Ep Japan Obi Prince2lp Miles Davis Pangaea Henderson Sony Japan Sopz96 Vnl&cvr ExKiss 7" Single Christine Sixteen / Shock Me Victor Japan Vip-2546Bruce Springsteen ‎/ Born To Run / Sopo 96 / Japan Promo LpThe Kinks Village Green Preservation Society Japan Only Sleeve Lp Ys-2120-yJanos Starker Cello Virtuoso Music For Violoncello Denon Japan Still Sealed MintRolling Stones Sticky Fingers 【japan 1970's Press】 "metal Zipper" Obi Insert Nm!Sealed Kiss The Originals 3 Lp 1977 Japan 1st Pressing Vip 5501-3 Record & ObiMuseo Rosenbach - Zarathustra Italian Prog Magnum Opus Vinyl Lp Japan ObiJ.e.t. - Fede, Speranza, Carita' Italy Prog Vinyl Lp Japan Obi JetSgt Pepper's Lhcb, Beatles 1982 Red Wax Japan Mono Gatefold Lp Still Sealed !Metallica Master Of Puppets Cbs/sony 28ap 3169 Japan Obi Vinyl LpThe Stranglers ‎/ No More Heroes / Gp 548 / Japan Promo LpIron Maiden Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son Emi Rp28-5610 Japan Obi Vinyl LpMothers Grand Wazoo Reprise P-8306r Japan Obi Promo Vinyl LpThe Cure Lot Of 5 Lps Standing Disintegration Japanese Boys Dont Cry 12" Why?Lo Scandalo (riz Ortolani / Japan Issue)Kiss Originals 2 Casablanca Vip-5504,5,6 Japan Vinyl 3lpBeatles / Sgt.peppers~ Japan Red Vinyl Lp, Uk-cutting Mono, Low Sale!!!Randy Newman / Live, Japan Lp, Promo Blue Label, Last One!!! Very Rare!!!Rare Elvis Presley Japan Lp 10" Love Me Tender Ls 548 Look!!!Shibata Kyokudo Etc Echizen Biwa The World Of Kyokudo Shibata Japan Orig Box LpGrateful Dead Europe '72 Warner P-5070,1,2,w Japan Obi Promo Vinyl 3lpThe Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet Lp W/ Hello Mick Jagger Flexi 7" Japan PromoRolling Stones Goats Head Soup 【japan 1970's Press】 G/f W/obi Complete Nm-/nm-The Smiths ‎– What Difference Does It Make? - 12" Vinyl - Rough Trade - JapanPink Floyd Wish You Were Here 【japan 1st Press】 Lp Sony Sopo-100 W/postcard Nm--Metallica Kill 'em All Nexus K25p-438 Japan Obi Vinyl LpMetallica Ride The Lightning Nexus K25p-501 Japan Obi Vinyl LpFlower Travellin' Band Made In Japan Atlantic P-8187a Japan Obi Vinyl LpRolling Stones Begger's Banquet 【japan 1981 Press】 Lp G/f Obi & Insert Nm/nm-Jimi Hendrix Lot Of 14 Lps 45 Japan Promo Soundtrack Film Promo Little Tmoq MauiThe George Martin Orchestra Ringo's Theme (this Boy) Japan 7" Or-1142 Beatles