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    

Mfsl-pink Floyd-dark Side Of The Moon-jvc Japan Audiophile Test Pressing Lp!7 Inch Single Sex Pistols God Save The Queen Japan!factory Sealed Pink Floyd Lp Wish You Were Here Cbs Japan Obi Half Speed MasterMisfits Famous Monsters Lp Yellow Vinyl Japan Bonus TracksThe Beatles Blue Box 14 Lp Collection + Nm + Japan Edition +19787 Inch Single The Specials Rat Race Japan 7 Inch Single Sex Pistols Pretty Vacant JapanThe Beatles 'sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club' Mfsl Japan Lp HotPink Floyd Have A Cigar Japan White Label Promo 7" Sopb-347 $4shippingMetallica - Japanese Justice - 3lp - Rare White Vinyl2 Tone Mega Rare 7" The Specials Rat Race Wws 17022 Japan 2tone Two Tone Ska7 Inch Single Crass Reality Asylum Japan* Audiophile The Who Lp "who's Next" Nautilus Japan Obi 23mm00697 Inch Single Theatre Of Hate Do You Believe In The Westworld Japan StiffGoblin - Suspira Lp Japanese + Insert Prog Psych Cult Soundtrack Japan Lovely!Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland Polydor 28mm 0604,5 Japan Obi 2lp7 Inch Single The Rolling Stones Jumpin Jack Flash JapanJapan 45rpm 7" White Label Single W Pc / Kiss / Shout It Out Loud (live) / NmSiouxsie And The Banshees Hong Kong Garden 7" Single Japanese ImportIron Maiden The Number Of The Beast Japan Orig. Lp Obi Insert Rare Poster Nm* Audiophile Jackson Browne Lp "the Pretender" Mfsl 1-055 Original Master JapanTina Brooks Back To The Tracks Blue Note Bst 84052 Japan Promo Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single The Specials Gangsters Japan The SelecterIron Maiden Heavy Metal Army / Maiden Japan Live !! Ems-41004 Obi 12" At1831Japan 33rpm 12" Not For Sale Sample Record W Obi / Kiss / Hotter Than Hell / Nm7 Inch Single Slade Mama Weer All Crazee Now Japan Promo* Audiophile Fleetwood Mac Lp "self Titled" Mfsl Japan Obi 1-012 Original MasterJapan No Obi 33rpm G/f 12" 3lp Records / Kiss / The Originals / Nm7 Inch Single Madonna True Blue Japan! The Velvet Underground & Nico Lp Self Titled Verve Japan Mv 2060 Obi Warhol M-Freddie Hubbard Goin' Up Blue Note Bst 84056 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single The Clash Know Your Rights JapanBlue Mitchell Step Lightly Blue Note Bn 4142 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpRush Moving Pictures Epic 25e3p-261 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single T-rex Debora Japan7 Inch Single Madness One Step Beyond Japan Genesis The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway Japan Mini Lp 2 X Sacd + Dvd 5.1 SurroundRoger Waters Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking Cbs/sony 28ap 2875 Japan Obi Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single Queen Backchat JapanHank Mobley Roll Call Blue Note Gxk 8097 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single The Beat Hands Off She's Mine Japan Kiss Dynasty Casablanca Vip-6678 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single Blondie Rip Her To Shreds Japan Deep Purple~made For Japan~live Tokyo 12/15/75~factory Sealed~colored Vinyl??Depeche Mode|music For The Masses|ali-28070|japan Lp ObiBlack Sabbath Mob Rules Vertigo 25pp-36 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single Ost 007 James Bond On Her Majesty's Secret Service Japan 7 Inch Single Led Zeppelin Fool In The Rain JapanBlack Sabbath / Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Japan Lp, Low Sale!!!Hank Mobley Same Blue Note Blp 1568 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpThe Beatles - A Hard Day's Night. 1964 Japan 1st Press 7" 45. Or1119. ExJackie Mclean Demon's Dance Blue Note Gxk-8211 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl Lp7 Inch Single Ost The Exorcist Japan Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells Richard Hayman7 Inch Single The Clash Rock The Casbah Japan 7 Inch Single The Jam Going Underground Japan Paul WellerDeep Purple 3lp Lot Shades Of Stormbringer Made In Japan Hard RockLoudness - The Birthday Eve Dutch Lp Japanese MetalDeep Purple - "made In Japan" - 1972 Uk Purple 1st Pressing - Mint PlayerKiss Dressed To Kill Japan Rare Lp Obi InsertPink Floyd Ost More Japan Orig. Lp G/f Odeon Op - 80165 Red Wax