Top 5 Tokyo Jazz Record Shops
Even once you remove from the mix the stores that deal exclusively in non-Jazzy stuff there are well over a hundred record shops in the greater Tokyo area, and that’s without counting nearby Kanagawa and Saitama. While most of them will have at least a few racks of Jazz LPs, for those on a tight schedule, the easiest thing to do is head straight to the Disk Union Soul/Jazz store.
Back in the day, the Jazz store in Ochanomizu, an area known for University campuses and musical instrument stores, was a horrible cramped place up four flights of narrow stairs with peeling linoleum and ratty cardboard boxes full of vinyl, where you could get up close and personal with sweaty middle aged men and their hangovers as you squeezed past to get first dibs on a box full of new arrivals. In other words … record heaven. Now the shop has moved across the road to much wider and airier premises and probably gives the old geezers agoraphobia. You’re more likely to meet the representatives of secretive Russian dealers armed with an A4 list of rare LPs and a burn-after-use credit card than a sleazy salaryman, but rest assured there is something there for every pocket.
Working your way west along the Chuo line, Disk Union Jazz Shinjuku is a short walk from the East exit of JR. You’ll pass a few other branches of the chain, including the Jazz CD store (new releases on the ground floor and second hand upstairs), before you hit this 3rd floor establishment accessible by elevator. A much smaller space this time, but packed with great new and
second hand vinyl. Most of the larger Disk Unions will have listening stations and staff with at least basic English, so just remember to ask before you listen. The staff will remove the records from their plastic covers for you and re-seal them once you’ve finished. Anything you don’t want, just say “cancel”.
On the West side of the station is Hal’s. The west side of Shinjuku station is the place for small collectors’ stores and Hal’s is no exception. Not for the light of pocket, but you will see records in there you never thought you’d see in your life. Hal’s is particularly strong on Free Jazz and more unusual stuff.
Further west on the same rail line, or on the JR Sobu line on weekends, Universounds Koenji is run by two of the nicest guys you could hope to meet. Between them, Yusuke and Ryuhei have the soul/Jazz/funk game on lockdown and are a goldmine of information on Japanese Jazz in particular. Check out the informal library of books and magazines and make full use of their listening station. You will not be disappointed.
Also worth checking is Disk Union Jazz Shibuya. This basement store is where all the foreign visitors/DJs go but also has the fastest turnover of new stock so it’s definitely worth a visit as you might strike gold if something good has just been put out in the racks.
If you’re still not satisfied after that lot, see if you can time your visit to coincide with one of the increasingly frequent record fairs in Tokyo. A good way to keep up to date with these is to check in at oneboxrecordfair.com, where in addition to our own events we post updates on forthcoming record-related news.
Disk Union Jazz Tokyo (Ochanomizu)
Disk Union Jazz Shinjuku
Disk Union Jazz Rare Groove (Shibuya)