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    

David Bowie Is. Blackstar Japan 12" Single Red Vinyl & Tokyo Flyer. Mint. New.David Bowie Is. Lady Stardust Crystal Japan 7" Picture Disc & Tokyo Flyer. Japan12 Inch Single Iron Maiden Empire Of The Clouds Rsd 2016 Picture Disc Ltd Japan7 Inch Box Set The Clash Singles Japan 8 X 7 InchLp Madonna-true Blue Rare '86 Sire Picture Disc Japan W/ Sticker - Ex++Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon Lp Emi Japan Obi W Everything Vg++7 Inch Single Kate Bush Symphony In Blue Japan Lp David Bowie The Man Who Sold The World Rsd 2016 Japan Picture Disc New/sealed7" 45 Madonna-holiday/i Know It Rare Sire Japan '83 Promo + 12 X 12 Photo - Vg+Shigetoku Kamiya - Mu Lp - Canyon Japan - Cosmic Synth Jazz NmKiss– Alive Ii The Outtakes, Tokyo/ Japan, Budokan Hal Apr. 1977, Color Vinyl Lp7" 45 Madonna-dress You Up/shoo-bee-doo Rare Sire Japan Promo + Gatefold - MintCreedence Clearwater Revival Cosmo's Factory Lp-80054 Japan Obi Promo Red LpPink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon Emi Ems-80324 Japan Obi Vinyl LpPink Floyd "the Great Gig In The Sky" Rare Picture Disc For Japan Fan Club Mint!7 Inch Box Set The Style Council Singles Japan Obi 12 X 7 InchLynyrd Skynyrd Second Helping Mca Mca-6041 Japan Obi Promo Vinyl LpPink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon - Japan Eop-80778 Obi Booklet Poster Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single David Bowie Tvc15 Rsd 2016 Picture Disc Japan New/sealedAlice Cooper Billion Dollar Babies Warner P-8322w Japan Obi Vinyl LpBeatles 14lp Mfsl - Original Master Recordings - Jvc Japan Fully Analog StereoRolling Stones Sticky Fingers Rolling Stones Ess-63001 Japan Obi Vinyl LpEric Clapton Slow Hand Rso Mfsl 1-030 Japan Lp Omr Mobile Fidelity Nm- VinylLot Of 19 Bruce Springsteen Import Collectors Picture Sleeve 45's Uk Spain JapanLed Zeppelin Same Atlantic P-10105a Japan Obi Vinyl LpJudas Priest Rocka Rolla Gull Vip-6554 Japan Obi Vinyl LpBlackmore's Rainbow Rainbow Rising Oyster/polydor Mwf 1004 Japan Obi Promo LpSonny Clark Blues In The Night Blue Note Gxf-3051 Japan Obi Vinyl LpCreedence Clearwater Revival Green River Liberty Lp-8816 Japan Obi Promo Red LpDavid Bowie Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders Of Mars Japanese Import W/obiFrancois Tusques Intercommunal Music Japan 1973 Shandar Free Jazz Sunny Murray MFree Tons Of Sobs Island Ils 80247 Japan Promo Vinyl LpKiss Originals Casablanca Vip-5501,2,3 Japan Cap Obi Vinyl 3lpLed Zeppelin Same Atlantic P-8041a Japan Obi Vinyl LpDavid Bowie Diamond Dogs Japanese Import W/obi Rca Judas Priest Rocka-rolla Gull Gp-479 Japan Obi Promo Vinyl LpLed Zeppelin 2 Atlantic P-10101a Japan Obi Vinyl LpKiss Kiss Killers Japan Lp 28s-58 W/obi+fold-out Poster+insert Nm Wax Free S&hOzzy Osbourne / Speak Of The Devil - Japan 2lp W/obi & 7"ep Black SabbathPink Floyd The Nile Song Japan White Label Promo 45rpm 7" Single Or-2716 MoreTeresa Teng 鄧麗君 Original Best Hits Taurus 28tr-2092 Japan Obi Vinyl LpPink Floyd Wall Cbs/sony 40ap 1750,1 Japan Vinyl 2lpKiss / Double Platinum - Japan 2lp W/obiKing Crimson In The Court Of The Crimson King Polydor 25mm 0261 Japan Obi LpTaste Same Polydor Mp-1473 Japan Promo Vinyl LpLed Zeppelin Physical Graffiti Swan Song P 5163/4n Japan Obi Vinyl 2lpHank Mobley - Slice Of The Top Lp Japan Blue Note King Gxk 8177 Nr MintBeatles Revolver Odeon Eas-70136 Japan Obi Mono Nm Red Vinyl LpSonny Sharrock Steve Marcus Green Line Japan 1970 Org W/ Obi Funky Free Jazz Nm Creedence Clearwater Revival Pendulum Liberty/fantasy Lp-80166 Japan Obi Red LpPink Floyd Meddle Odeon Op-80375 Japan Rock Now Obi Vinyl LpCactus Same Atlantic P-8128a Japan Promo Vinyl LpThe Doors Panel Deluxe Japan Only 2 Lp Set In Big Panel Box Wp-9225/26Iron Maiden Prowler Running Free Japan White Label Promo SingleDavid Bowie Is 7" Lady Stardust & 12" Lazarus W/ Flyer Japan Ltd EditionMega Rare First Japanese Pressing Rolling Stones Let It Bleed Rory Gallagher Same Polydor Mp-2218 Japan Promo Vinyl LpPink Floyd Final Cut Cbs/sony 25ap 2410 Japan Obi Promo Vinyl LpBeatles - Red Wax Hey Jude Japan Lp Obi Ap-8940 Lennon Mccartney Harrison StarrBlack Sabbath Greatest Hits Japanese Import On Nems With Obi