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]



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]

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    

Kiss Monster Japanese "double Platinum" Box (2006) Japan Obi 10 Mini LpSlayer Reign In Blood P-13433 Japan Lp W/obi 056az19Queen The Miracle - Rare 1989 Japan Promo/test Press 7" (paul Mccartney/yps-048)Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland Polydor Mpx 9955,6 Japanese Pressing Vinyl 2lpBlack Sabbath Paranoid Philips Sfx-7266 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpKiss / Originals - Japan 3lp Complete W/cap ObiAc/dc High Voltage Japan Audiophile -near Mint Nm Lp W/obi Atco Pioneer 1980Pink Floyd Ummagumma Emi Ems-67043/4 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl 2lpLp Album Peter Criss Let Me Rock You Japan Obi KissGuns'n' Roses Ep Geffen P-6270 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl 12Pink Floyd Wall Cbs/sony 40ap 1750/51 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl 2lpAc/dc Back In Black Japan Audiophile / Near Mint Top Nm Lp W/ Obi Warner PioneerDoors, The Self-titled Psych Mfsl Mobile Fidelity Audiophile Japanese PressBennie Green: Minor Revelation Blue Note Lp / Sonny Clark '58 Japan Stereo NmLp Album Peter Criss Out Of Control Japan Obi KissBeatles Revolver Emi/odeon Eas-70136 Japan Mono Obi Clear Red Vinyl Vinyl LpKiss Originals Casablanca Vip-5501/2/3 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl 3lpMichael Jackson Thriller Epic 30e3p-431 Japan Master Sound Obi Vinyl LpBeatles White Album Emi/odeon Eas-67157,8 Japan Mono Clear Red Vinyl Vinyl 2lpJapan Odeon Diff Cover No Obi G/f 12" Red Wax Record / With The Beatles / NmBlack Sabbath Paranoid Japan Audiophile / Ex Clean! Rare Lp +obi Nems Sp18-5011Kiss Originals 1974-1979 Like New (japan)Il Balletto Di Bronzo Ys Polydor 23mm 0149 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpJohn Coltrane A Love Supreme Abc/impulse Imp-88060 Japan Obi Vinyl LpPink Floyd Atom Heart Mother Emi Ems-80320 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpSyd Barrett Madcap Laughs Emi Ems-80636 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpQueen Live Killers (japan) Coloured Vinyl Double Lp With Obi Near MintDoors Same Elektra P-6411e Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpLed Zeppelin 2 Atlantic P-10101a Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpOst Zombie Dawn Of The Dead Goblin Fml113 Japan Promo Lp W/obi 082az18Flower Travellin' Band Satori Atlantic P-8056a Japanese Pressing Pokora Vinyl LpJapan Laser Disc Duran Duran Working For The Skin Trade Obi Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti Swan Song P-5163,4n Japan Obi Vinyl 2lpLightnin' Hopkins Mojo Hand Fire/p-vine Plp-6001 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpFrancoise Hardy Un Recuiel De Mes Poesies Japan Lp Nm VinylLed Zeppelin House Of The Holy Atlantic P-10107 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpAlphataurus Same Magma K22p-328 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpLp Album Kate Bush Hounds Of Love Japan Obi The Beatles - I Should Have Known Better. 1964 Japan 7" 1st Press 45. Or1139. ExIron Maiden Lp Number Of The Beast 1st Press W/poster Japan Ems-91034Kiss Promo Lp Ace Frehley Solo Album Complete W/jigsaw Poster Japan Vip-6579Beatles Sgt.pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Emi/odeon Japan Obi Clear Red LpGrand Funk We're An American Band Capitol Ecp-80857 Japan Obi Clear Yellow LpHidefumi Toki Quartet "toki" Three Blind Mice Japan Press Lp Tbm46 TasLee Morgan-candy-blue Note 1590-japan King Masterpiece Special Replica 15 SeriesKiss -nagoya, Japan 1977 -2lp-ultralimited Edition-yellow Vinyl- Sealed!!David Bowie Ziggy Stardust Rca Rpl-2102 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpLed Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy Japan Audiophile / Near Mint Nm Top +obi PioneerRush Hemispheres Epic 25e3p-269 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpQueen Love Of My Life 7" Vinyl Single (japan Elektra P-423e) Rare Near Mint-Brian Eno Another Green World Polydor Mpf 1153 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpGenesis Selloing England By The Pound Famous Charisma 20pp-69 Japan Obi Vinyl LpIron Maiden Lp Killers 1st Press W/bonus Track, Poster Japan Ems-91016Black Widow Sacrifice Cbs Japan Press Prog Psych LpIl Rovescio Della Medaglia Contaminazione Rca Cr-10058 Japan Obi Vinyl LpKing Crimson Discipline Polydor 28mm 0064 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpLp Album The Beatles Please Please Me Japan ObiJapan Laser Disc David Bowie Ziggy Stardust The Motion Picture Obi Pink Floyd The Wall Japan Audiophile Nm 2x Lp W/obi Cbs Sony 40ap 1750-1 1979David Bowie Same Rca Sra-9412,3 Japanese Pressing Vinyl 2lp