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    

Original Vintage 1988 Iron Maiden Lp Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son Japan MintUncle Acid & The Deadbeats -- Vol 1 / Picture Lp /japanese Obi StripJapan L.t.d New 33rpm 12inch 5lp Box With Obi + Booklet / Frank Zappa / LatherAc/dc Back In Black Japan Orig. Promo Lp Obi Insert White Label NmIron Maiden / Powerslave - Japan Promo W/obiOriginal Vintage 1984 Iron Maiden 12" Single Aces High Japan Promo MintLed Zeppelin Lp Vienna Vol 2 Japan Acetate Unplayed Undocumented Never Sold B4Led Zeppelin / 2nd Japan Lp / Obi, 1st Issue Gramophone Press Mt 1091, Rare! ExElectric Light Orchestra Japan Lp Discovery Half Speed Mastered Master Sound EloPink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon - Japan 1974 - Superb Vinyl The Beatles Lp "self Titled White Album" Mfsl 2-072 M- Original Master JapanAbba Hasta Manana Japan Promo 7" W/ White Label Sfl-1867 Bjorn & Benny $4s/hJapan 33rpm 12" Not For Sale Sample Record W Obi/ Frank Zappa/ One Size Fits AllLed Zeppelin 2 Atlantic Mt 1091 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpQueen Staying Power/calling All Girls - Rare 1982 Japan 7" (cat No. P-1678) [nm]Dee Dee Bridgewater Afro Blue Trio Pa 7095 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpPink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon Emlf-97002 Mfd. Japan LpJethro Tull Aqualung Japan Mfsl Test Pressing LpThelonious Monk Complete Riverside Recordings Riverside R-022 Japan22lpAc/dc €James Vs Nigo / A Bathing Ape Vs Mo'wax Japan 2lp / Dj Shadow, Unkle, Sticker,Ac/dc - Let's Get It Up / Back In Black (live) - Very Rare! Japan 45' Ps Ac/dcTsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio Midnight Sugar Three Blind Mice Tbm-23 Japan Obi LpQueen Greatest Hits - Ultra Rare 1987 Japan Lp + Obi (cat No. Ems-81801)Ac/dc Highway To Hell Japan Orig. Lp Obi Insert NmDave Brubeck Quartet Time Out Cbs/sony 20ap 1459 Japan Obi LpMiles Davis Kind Of Blue Cbs/sony 28ap 2833 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpLed Zeppelin / Physical Graffiti - Japan 2lpJohnny Hallyday L'aventure, C'est L'aventure Japan 7" Beautiful Sfl-1730 $4s/hKarin Krog / We Could Be Flying / Rare Norway Jazz Vocal Japan LpPink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon Japan Orig. Lp Obi Fat Booklet OdeonBlack Sabbath Vol. 4 Japan Tour Ed Lp Obi Insert NmAyako Hosokawa Call Me Three Blind Mice Tbm-5013 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpWarlord / Deliver Us - Japan W/obiLed Zeppelin ~ My Brain Hurts ~ In Shrink Live In Japan Dec. 1972 Slipped DiscLed Zeppelin / 3rd Japan Lp / Obi, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Rock ClassicsSonny Clark Cool Struttin' Blue Note Blp 1588 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpThe Beatles Lot Of 14 Japan Ep + 7" Collection $4 ShippingPink Floyd Animals Japan Orig. Lp Obi Sticker Complete NmQueen Stunning Live In Tokyo. Very Rare 2nd Issue. Live Japan 19785. Lp* The Band Lp "music From Big Pink" Mfsl 1-039 Original Master Japan Ex/m-Bill Evans Trio Waltz For Debby Riverside Smj-6118 Japan Obi LpSonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus Prestige Smj-6501 Japan Mono Obi LpKiss - Tomorrow / Naked City - Very Rare! Japan 1980 45' PsTsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio-misty-lp Three Blind Mice-pap-20001 Made In Japan Obi NmBillie Holiday Greatest Interpretations Of Commodors Kijj 2061?3 Japan Obi 3lpMadness - In The City / Shut Up - Very Rare! Japan Ska Punk Wave 45' PsJapan Laser Disc Roxette Greatest Video Hits Insert Jethro Tull Aqualung Mfsl Omr Mofi Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs Japan Audiophile +Pink Floyd"dark Side Of The Moon" Mfsl Vinyl-lp 1973 Orig.1-017 Japan PressDoors 1st S/t Japan Rare Lp Green Obi Insert NmKinks "arthur" Japan Lp Teichiku Ups-544-y With Kangaroo Gatefold & Queen InsertOzzy Osbourne / No Rest For The Wicked - Japan W/obi Black SabbathSonny Clark Leapin' And Lopin' Blue Note Bst 84091 Japanese Pressing Vinyl LpMidnight Oil Power And The Passion 45 Japan Epic1983 Aussie Rock John Coltrane Japan Imr-9036c M- 3lp's Box Set In Japan Early '70's Pess Obi!Yamamoto Tsuyoshi Trio Misty Three Blind Mice Tbm-30 Japan Obi LpTakeshi Inomata / Sounds Of Sound / Ultra Rare Japan Monster Funk Jazz Lp / HearIron Maiden / Somewhere In Time Japan Lp / Obi, Poster, 7inch, Booklet, NmZz Top El Loco Japan Orig. Lp Obi Insert Nm