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    

Kiss Monster Japanese "double Platinum" Box (2006) Japan Obi 10 Mini Lp7 Inch Single The Stranglers Walk On By Japan PromoAc/dc High Voltage Japan Audiophile -near Mint Nm Lp W/obi Atco Pioneer 1980Ac/dc Back In Black Japan Audiophile / Near Mint Top Nm Lp W/ Obi Warner PioneerThe Stranglers - No More Heroes 7" Japan Punk7 Inch Single Ep Pink Floyd Big 4 Japan 4 TrackDeep Purple Japan 13 Mini Lp Promo Paper Sleeve & Japanese Obi7 Inch Single Generation X Wild Youth Japan Queen Live Killers (japan) Coloured Vinyl Double Lp With Obi Near MintLp Album The Clash Give Em Enough Rope Japan Obi Joe StrummerLp Album The Clash London Calling Japan Obi 2lp White LabelKiss / Ace Frehley - Japan W/obi & Poster7 Inch Single Led Zeppelin Over The Hills And Far Away JapanPink Floyd / The Dark Side Of The Moon - Japan Complete W/obi OrigQueen Love Of My Life 7" Vinyl Single (japan Elektra P-423e) Rare Near Mint-Japan No Obi Zippo Cover Sample Record / Bob Marley & The Wailers / Catch A FireThe Beatles - Abbey Road -very Rare Original Japan Dark Red Vinyl Lp -obie7 Inch Single The Specials Rat Race Japan Lp Album The Specials More Specials Japan Promo Obi Mega Rare Test Pressing!!! Leonid Kogan Lalo (sax 2329) Japan 1st StereoLee Morgan-candy-blue Note 1590-japan King Masterpiece Special Replica 15 Series7 Inch Single Sex Pistols God Save The Queen Japan Metallica / The Garage Day's Re-revisited - Japan Lp & PosterLp Album The Stranglers The Raven Japan Obi 3dJohnny Hallyday Johnny On Stage Japan Wl Promo 7" Sfl-1759 Que Je T'aime $4s/hThe Boomtown Rats - Lookin' After No. 1 7" W/l Promo Japan PunkGrant Green-idle Moments-blue Note 3178-japan King RareThe Beatles 2 Lp "the White Album" Japanese Import Audiophile W. Poster & Photos7 Inch Single The Stranglers 5 Minutes Japan Lp Album The Clash Cut The Crap Japan Obi Joe Strummer ShrinkLp Album The Stranglers Dreamtime Japan Promo Obi Billy Idol Mony Mony - Rare 1981 Japan Special D.j. 12" Promo (cat No. Prp-8202)Bealtes Revolver Mfsl 1-107 Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs Japanese Jvc VinylLp Album The Clash Combat Rock Japan Obi PosterBruce Springsteen Born To Run Japan Audiophile / Near Mint Nm Lp W/ Obi Cbs '75Queen Body Language - Rare 1982 Japan W/l Promo 7" Vinyl (cat No. P-1650)Freddie Mercury/queen The Great Pretender 7" White Label Promo (japan) Ex++Mari Nakamoto/unforgettable/tbm21/japan Lp!Led Zeppelin Ii, 2 Japan Audiophile / Nm Near Mint Lp W/ Obi Atlantic P-10101aArt Blakey/jazz Messengers-blue Note 84003-japan King Masterpiece Special 15Queen Body Language 7" Vinyl Single (japan Elektra P-1650) Near Mint-Lp Album Siouxsie And The Banshees Join Hands Japan Obi 7 Inch Single Queen Love Of My Life Japan Lp Album The Cult Love Japan Promo Obi Queen One Vision 7" Vinyl Single White Label Promo (japan Ems 17594) ExAbba Fernando/tropical Loveland 1980 Japanese 7" 45rpm Single Discomate 153Led Zeppelin Song Remains The Same Japan Audiophile / Nm 2x Lp W/ Obi Swan SongLarry Young-unity-blue Note 8205-japan KingQueen / Live Killers - Japan Color 2lp W/obiBruce Springsteen Wild Innocent The E Street Shuffle Japan Audiophile Top Nm ObiBeatles Revolver Japan 1986 Uk Cutting Limited Mono Red Color Vinyl W/red ObiThe Beatles From Liverpool 8 Album Box Set. Japan Import Extremely Collectable!!The Boomtown Rats - Mary Of The 4th Form 7" W/l Promo Japan PunkJohn Coltrane-blue Train-blue Note 1577-japan King Masterpiece Special 15 SeriesYes America/total Mass Retain – Japanese 7"/45rpm White Label Promo Single + P/cRolling Stones Japan 7" 45 As Tears Go By Italian Version Mono Japan Promo Only Madonna Spotlight Rare Japanese 7" Import 7" Single Vinyl Sire Y700 Rare Ex-Bruce Springsteen Greetings From Asbury Park Nm Japan Audiophile W/ Obi Cbs/sonyBlondie 1st S/t Same Title Japan Orig. Lp Obi Insert 1977Morrissey - Hairdresser On Fire - Rare Japan 1 Sided Etched Promo 7" The Smiths