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    

The Specials Hey Little Rich Girl Japanese 7" Ska 2 Two Tone Madness SelecterLuiz Bacalov "the Summertime Killer" Rare Japanese Breaks Lp Ost Seven SeasQueen Gettin' Smile - Rare 1982 Japan Vinyl Lp + Obi (cat No. 18pp-1(m))Nirvana Unplugged In New York Geffen Mvjg 25005 Japan Obi Vinyl LpVintage Pink Floyd Piper At The Gates Of Dawn Japan Lp Factory Sealed!The Clash - "i Fought The Law" Rare Original Japan Issue Punk 7"The Quarrymen (beatles) - That'll Be The Day.1988 Japan Rare 7" Flexi. E8099.ex+Pink Floyd~very Rare Nm Lp~meddle~1974 Japan Press~not Sealed~ex Rare Blue VinylStelvio Cipriani "concorde Affaire" Rare Soundtrack Lp Ost Polyor Japan Ex King Diamond / Abigail - Japan Promo W/obiMighty Three's/africa Shall Stretch Forher Hand/japan April LpThe Clash London Calling Japan Pressing 1979 Vinyl Lp AlbumPink Floyd Final Cut Lp Mastersound Japan Import Digital Mastering Very Rare NmJapan - 3 Uk Original 7" Singles 1978 & 1980. Red & Blue Vinyl. David SylvianSlayer - Reign In Blood Japan Lp / P-13433Ennio Morricone "the Hills Run Red" Rare Soundtrack Lp Ost Japan Poo SealedPink Floyd Japan '72 Tour Book+ 2 Original Ticket+original Poster Rare!! PsychNeil Young On The Beach Reprise P 8421r Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpOzzy Osbourne - Randy Rhoads Tribute - Very Rare 1987 Japanese 2 X Lp Obi MintKiss Limited 3lp The Originals Ii W/paper Mask, Booklet Japan Vip-5504/6Iron Maiden Prowler Japan 7" Ems-17075 $4 ShippingThe Clash 'the Clash" Japan Pressing 1977 Vinyl Lp AlbumPink Floyd Wall Cbs/sony 40ap 1750,1 Japanese Pressing Promo Vinyl 2lp Ac/dc Rock 'n' Roll Damnation Japan Press Rare 7" 45 Stock Mint 1978The Rolling Stones - Tell Me/(kawaii) Carol. 1964 Japan 7" 45. Hit388. Vg+Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio - Midnight Sugar 1 St:japan Exc!!Pink Floyd - The Wall Japan 2lp ObiReijiro Koroku "godzilla" Japanese Soundtrack Lp Ost King NmOriginal Vintage 1980 Iron Maiden 12" Single Live + One Japan Play Roud MintTsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio - Orpheus 1 St:japan Exc!!Pink Floyd Pompeii Japan Vintage Movie Program Rare PsychKiss C'mon And Love Me Japan 45 PsGentle Giant In A Glass House Vertigo Rj5131 Japan Obi Promo Vinyl LpJoy Division Substance 1977-1980 Near Mint Original Japanese Green VinylSteely Dan Aja & Inserts Mfsl Recording Pressed In Japan 1979 Near MintThe Beatles - She Loves You. 1964 Japan 1st Press 7" Red 45. Or1058. Vg++Original Vintage 1980 Iron Maiden Lp Iron Maiden Japan MintIron Maiden / Live After Death - Japan 2lp W/obi CompleteKiss / Originals - Japan 3lpOriginal Vintage 1981 Iron Maiden 12" Single Heavy Metal Army Japan MintLed Zeppelin Lp Led Zeppelin Ii 1st Press Grammophon Mt-1091 JapanDcc Deep Purple - Made In Japan Vinyl 2lp 180 Analogue Pressing New & SealedKiss Killers Japan White Label Promo Lp W/ Insert Portrait 28s-58 $4 ShippingPlagio "le Regine" Rare Japanese Psych Lp Ost Seven Seas NmThe Beatles - "abbey Road" - Japanese 1st Issue Red Vinyl Lp + Obi - Near MintThe Beatles ~ Rubber Soul ~ Japanese Red Vinyl Lp + Insert ~ Ap-8156 ~ Ex/ex-The Beatles Abbey Road Mobile Fidelity Pressed In Japan & Inserts Near MintMadness - One Step Beyond/tarzan's Nuts. 1979 Japan 7" 45. Vipx1508. Nm.Jimi Hendrix / Electric Lady Land - Japan 2lpEnnio Morricone "hornet's Nest" Rare Japanese Soundtrack Lp Ost PooKiss / Alive Ii - Japan 2lp W/obi & Booklet,tatoo Seal4 X Deep Purple Vinyl Lp's Made In Japan Machine Head 24 Carat Live Royal AlbertKiss / Same - Japan W/obiLed Zeppelin Whole Lotta Love Japan 45 PsPink Floyd~rare Nm Lp~dark Side Of The Moon~1974 Japan Press~not Sealed~w/bookltJapan 33rpm 12" White Label Record W Obi / Judas Priest / Sad Wing Of DestinyThe Beatles - Michelle/girl/nowhere Man. 1966 Japan 7" 33 Ep. Op4160. Nm!!The Jam - Funeral Pyre/disguises - Japan - Polydor - 7dm 0023 - 1981Guitar Wolf Demo! Japan Garage Punk Kbd Teengenerate Firestarter Oblivians HozacThe Beatles - The Saints/my Bonnie.1964 Japan 7" 45. Dp1351. Misspelt Sleeve.ex-