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    

George Harrison With Eric Clapton - Live In Japan - Rare 1992 Vinyl 2-lp +innersTolerance Anonym Lp Vinyl Vanity Japan OrigIron Maiden Maiden Japan 2 Lp Venezuela Sleeve Rare Compleet Tomo Akikawabaya 1985 7" Japan Private Synth WaveJimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland Polydor Mpx9955 Japan Vinyl 2lpPink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon Odeon Eop-80778 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpMirrors Out Of Order 7" Orig Japan Kbd Gozira Records Stalin FrictionExcentrique Noiz Dark Crystal Day 7" Japan Private Wave SynthNormal Brain 7"flexi With Rock Magazine Issue 31 Vanity Japan Synth Avant Wave Dark Mine Fields Traffic From Stillness 12" Japan Private Goth DarkwaveTimeless Legend / I Was Born To Love You / Rare Us Soul Dick Funk Japan 7 / HearPink Floyd A Saucerful Of Secrets Odeon Op-80282 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpRolling Stones Exile On Main St Rolling Stones Ess-50049 Japan Obi Vinyl 2lpAbba - The Best Of Abba - Rare Limited Edition Japan Picture Pic Disc Vinyl LpAunt Sally Lp Vinyl Japan Post Punk Wave Kbd Phew KojimaLed Zeppelin Physical Graffiti Swan Song P-5164n Japanese Pressing Vinyl 2lpAbba - Lp - Japan - Slipping Through My Fingers - Promo OnlySmiths Same Rough Trade 25rtl-6 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpDepeche Mode - Music For The Masses Japan Promo Lp W/obiC.memi Heavenly Peace 7" Japan Private Synth Wave Kojima Iron Maiden Maiden Japan Promo Peru Macchu Pichu Wow , Super Rare Mystery Kindaichi Band Rare Japan Lp Killer Jazz Drum Funk BreaksStalin Trash Original Rare Gism State Children Punk Japan Hc KbdBeatles Revolver Odeon Eas-70136 Japanese Pressing Obi Clear Red Vinyl Vinyl LpBeatles Rubber Soul Odeon Eas-70135 Japan Obi Clear Red Vinyl Vinyl LpRainbow Sweet Silence World Tour 83-84 3lp Live Japan Deep Purple No TmoqHalf Japanese 1/2 Gentlemen/not Beasts Orig. Us Rsd Ltd.1000 4 Lp Box Set SealedTeresa Teng Toki No Nagare Ni Mi O Makase Japan Promo Lp W/hand Signed AutographBeatles A Hard Day's Night Odeon Eas-70132 Japan Obi Clear Red Vinyl Vinyl LpBeatles Yellow Submarine Odeon Eas-70138 Japan Obi Clear Red Vinyl Vinyl LpLed Zeppelin Iv Atlantic P-10125a Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpSmiths Queen Is Dead Rough Trade 25rtl-3015 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpBeatles For Sale Odeon Eas-70133 Japanese Pressing Obi Clear Red Vinyl Vinyl LpCosmos Bourbon Suite Japan Orig Lp Obi Keiko Project Modern Soul Funk Boogie Mp3Beatles Revolver Promo White Label Toshiba Emi Eas-80566 Japan Lp Obi Mega RareRobert Byrne & Brandon Barnes An Eye For An Eye Japan Orig Lp Modern Soul AorPink Floyd Animals Cbs/sony 25ap340 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpElvis Presley- Scarce Original Sixties Japan Release-mint Minus VinylRare! Lot Ultraman Vinyl Records Japan Tokusatsu Ost Picture Sheet Kamen RiderElvis Presley Back In Memphis Japan Lp Yellow Obi Poster NmV.a. Tokyo New Wave '79 Lp Vinyl Japan Punk Kbd Bolshie Sex PainKiss Japan 1-sided Acetate 7" Rocket RideElvis Presley In Person Japan Lp Obi Box Set Booklet Ex+Pink Floyd Relics Japan Emi Edition Lp Obi BookletCream Wheels Of Fire Rso Mwu9701 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl 2lpMarc Bolan T.rex Perfect Japan Only 2lp G/f Insert 1974Rolling Stones Gathers No Moss London L35p1037 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpRainbow London Rainbow Theatre '81 Live 3lp Japan Deep Purple No TmoqJohn Lennon - Live From The Live (v.rare Japan Picture Lp) BeatlesKiss Japan Acetate 7" Hard Luck Woman / I Was Made For Lovin' YouLed Zeppelin Japan 1-sided Acetate 7" Black DogPink Floyd / The Darkside Of The Moon, Japan Lp,very Low Sale!!!Dead Or Alive - Lp - Japan - Youthquake - PromoKing Crimson Red Polydor 25mm0268 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpPaul Mccartney And Wings Band On The Run Capitol Eps-80235 Japan Obi Vinyl LpBeatles Hey Jude Promo White Label Toshiba Emi Eas-80570 Japan Lp Obi Mega RareJohn Lennon Imagine Japan Orig.lp Obi Insert Red WaxJethro Tull / A, Japan Lp,promo White Label,very Low Sale!!!Manfred Mann’s Earth Band Roaring Silence Japan Orig.lp Obi InsertNeil Young Harvest Japan Rare Lp Obi Insert Nm