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    

Rare Lp - Shunsuke Kikuchi Kamen Masked Rider Japan Funk Drum Breaks ScarceMadonna Spotlight Japan Only Promo 7 Inch Single Record 1987 Rare!Lp Iron Maiden Somewhere In Time Japan Promo Obi Kiss / Originals Ii - Japan 3lp W/obi & 2paper Mask,bookletLp Iron Maiden Killers Japan Obi Iron Maiden Wrathchild Japan 7" Ems-17111 $4shipping Wrath Child Lp Iron Maiden Piece Of Mind Japan Obi Hawkwind Space Ritual Japan Orig 1st 1973 Og Complete W/ Obi & Live Poster Mint Ichiyanagi Kosugi Ranta Improvisation 1975 Japan Orig Private Psych Electronic MBeatles White Album Emi/odeon Eas-67157,8 Japanese Pressing Mono Clear Red 2lpRare Lp - Stone Ost Billy Green Japan Pressing Polydor Psych Funk Biker Lp David Bowie Hunky Dory Japan Obi Jackie Mclean & Tina Brooks Street Singer Blue Note Gxf 3067 Japan Obi LpTokyo Kid Brothers Throw Away Books Rare 1970 Orig Japan Heavy Psych TenjosajikiRolling Stones Beggars Banquet Uk Export Complete Japan Issue W/ Obi & Flexi NmDavid Bowie Ziggy Stardust Rca Rpl-2102 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpHawkwind In Search Of Space Japan 1971 Original 1st Pressing W/ Obi Rare Mint Lp David Bowie Aladdin Sane Japan Obi Lp Ac/dc Fly On The Wall Japan Promo Obi David Bowie Low Rca Rvp-6154 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpCurtis Fuller "bone & Bari" Jazz Lp Blue Note 1572 JapanTangerine Dream Electronic Meditation Japan 1st Press Red Wax W/ Obi Rare Mint Canned Heat On The Road Again 1968 Japan 1st Press Red Wax Near Mint Us PsychLp Ac/dc Flick Of The Switch Japan Promo Obi Rare Lp - Yuji Ohno - Proof Of The Wild Japan Ost Obi Jazz Funk Lp Thin Lizzy Chinatown Japan Obi Lp Black Sabbath Live Evil Japan Obi 2lpPink Floyd Animals Cbs/sony 25ap 340 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpLp David Bowie Don't Be Fooled By The Name Japan Obi Lp Rush Moving Pictures Japan Obi Lp Rush Permanent Waves Japan Obi Metallica / Kill 'em All - Japan LpLp Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow S/t Japan ObiLp Dire Straits Love Over Gold Japan Promo Obi Lp Ozzy Osbourne The Ultimate Sin Japan Obi Black SabbathLp David Bowie Let's Dance Japan Obi Picture DiscRare Sealed Pink Floyd Meddle Lp Japan 1974 Ems-80322 Toshiba/harvest RecordHawkwind Doremi Fasol Japan 1st Orig Press Liberty Llp-80700 Booklet & Obi Mint Xenakis 5lp Black Box 1970 Japan Og Audiophile Press 2 Books Obi Mint ElectronicPink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon Emi Ems-80324 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpPink Floyd Animals Cbs/sony 25ap 340 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpLp Sweet Give Us A Wink Japan Obi Metallica / Ride The Lightning - Japan LpLp Dire Straits Communique Japan Obi Elvis Presley - King Creole Lp - Victor Ls-5086 Mono Japanese/japan Pressing '58Kate Bush. Them Heavy People 7" Ps JapanBob Dylan Lay Lady Lay Rare Japan Promo Sample Only Ep Mint Vinyl 45 Cbsa-82001Inochi Goulois Asterix Japan 1970 Heavy Psych Fuzz Orig Private Press Pokora Pink Floyd Animals Japan Import W/ Obi Cbs/sony 25ap 340 Psyche Rock Prog Lp Grateful Dead Live Dead Monster Rare 1970 Japan Promo Only Red Wax Bp8899/00 ExMiyama Toshiyuki & Sato Masahiko Monster Rare Japan 1970 Free Jazz Obi Ex~nm Lp Slade Sladest Japan Obi BookLp King Crimson The Young Person's Guide To King Crimson Japan Obi 2lpLp Blackmore's Rainbow Rainbow Rising Japan ObiElvis Presley 'follow That Dream & Viva Las Vegas' Japan Lp Vinyl, Insert & ObiLp Dire Straits S/t Dire Straits Japan Obi Japan Electronic Music Takemitsu Ichiyanagi Moroi Mint 1968 W/ Obi ExperimentalLp Kraftwerk The Man Machine Japan Obi ShrinkBlack Sabbath / Master Of Reality - Japan W/obi Ozzy OsbourneLp Dio The Last In Line Japan Obi