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 Jam - News Of The World Japan W/l Promo Demo 7" PunkThe Jam - In The City Japan 7" PunkBuzzcocks - Orgasm Addict 7" Japan PunkThe Misfits Famous Monsters Lp Yellow Vinyl Japan Limited EditionThe Clash - I Fought The Law Japan Promo Demo 7" PunkStranglers - European Female Japan Promo Demo 7" PunkStranglers - No More Heroes Japan W/l Promo Demo 7" PunkLp Album The Clash Sandinista Japan Obi 3lpGeneration X - Wild Youth Go 7" Japan W/l Promo Punk Billy IdolSiouxsie & The Banshees - Hong Kong Garden 7" Japan Promo PunkJackie Mclean Consequence Blue Note Gxk 8172 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpLp Album Ramones It's Alive Japan PromoCat Stevens Harold And Maude Very Rare Japan Lp SoundtrackLp Album The Stranglers No More Heroes Japan ObiNina Simone/i Put A Spell On You/japan Mercury LpStranglers - Walk On By Japan W/l Promo Demo 7" PunkJapan New L.t.d 33rpm G/f 12" 2lp Records W Obi / U2 / Pop / Top ConditionThe Jam - David Watts Japan W/l Promo Demo 7" PunkHawkwind The Space Ritual Prog Psych Japanese 1982 Reissue With LemmyTemples Sun Structures 2 X Orange Vinyl Lp & Live Japan Cd Unplayed Mint.Led Zeppelin - In Through The Out Door - Orig Japan Obi White Label Promo Lp Ex+Blondie Same Private Stock Ems-80777 Japanese Pressing Promo Obi Vinyl LpBlack Sabbath Live Evil Vertigo 20pp-49,50 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl 2lpExtremely Rare - Cocteau Twins - Scream - Japan 1984 12" Lp.Generation X / Sex Pistols / The Clash- Your Generation -japanese Press 7" VinylDeep Purple~very Rare Sealed 2lp~made In Japan~no Cutout Or Barcode~not 180g~oopJimmy Smith Root Down / Live Verve Mv 2028 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpLp Album Blondie Parallel Lines Japan Obi Stranglers - 5 Minutes Japan W/l Promo Demo 7" PunkLp Album Depeche Mode Some Great Reward Japan Obi7 Inch Single Johnny Hallyday Shake The Hand Of A Fool Japan Sylvie VartanParliament Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome Casablanca Japan Promo Obi LpHerbie Hancock Takin' Off Blue Note Bst-84109/gxk 8021 Japanese Pressing Obi LpMetallica -master Of Puppets Rare Japan Lp +obi Nwobhm Rare !!!Stranglers - Nice N Sleazy Japan W/l Promo Demo 7" PunkPink Floyd Meddle Emi Ems-80322 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpGrateful Dead From The Mars Hotel Mfsl 1-172 Japan Pressing Gorgeous Near MintIggy Pop Idiot Rca Rvp-6189 Japanese Pressing Promo Vinyl LpHawkwind Warrior On The Edge Of Time Prog Psych Japanese W Obi 1981 Issue LemmyLp Album Kraftwerk Computer World Japan Promo ObiEgg The Civil Surface Prog Japanese Press 1980 Issue Pre National Health "the Art Of Johanna Martzy" Japan Angel 8lps Box Very RareQueen A Day At The Races Rare Japanese Import Lp With Obi P-10300eAc/dc For Those About To Rock We Salute You Atlantic P-11068a Japan Obi LpChet Baker&art Pepper Playboys Pacific Jazz Gxf-3103 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpThelonious Monk Septet Monk's Music Riverside Smj-6207 Japanese Pressing Obi LpLp Album Blondie Eat To The Beat Japan Promo Obi PosterMiles Davis Kind Of Blue Cbs/sony Sopl-155 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpDeep Purple ‎– Made In Japan,1972,dbl Lp,purpleBudgie "bandolier" (1975) Lp : Mca Japanese Release / Ex Cond. The Jam - Japan 7" Promo / Mega Rare+++Lp Album Discharge Punk And Destroy Japan PosterSonny Rollins Same Blue Note Blp 1542/gxk 8016 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpRoxy Music Country Life Island Ils-80070 Japanese Pressing Promo Obi Vinyl LpDee Dee Bridgewater Afro Blue Trio Pa-7095 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpMonica Zetterlund Spring Is Here Diw Diw-25026 Japanese Pressing Mono Obi LpTsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio Blues To East Philips Rjd-1 Japan Obi Vinyl LpPink Floyd - Meddle - Japan Vinyl Lp With Obi - Odeon Op-80375Lp Album Va We Are Punk Generation Japan Runaways Ramones New York DollsGrateful Dead American Beauty Mfsl 1-014 Japan Pressing Scarce Great Copy