Tokyo Record Shop Offers Precious J-pop Memories of Bygone Era; No Age Restrictions When It Comes to Being

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tens of thousands of vinyl records from the 1970s and 1980s can be seen inside Diskunion Shinjuku Showa Kayou Store in Tokyo.

Showa-era idols, American cars and other striking images catch the eye at Diskunion Shinjuku Showa Kayou Store in Tokyo.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The signboard for Diskunion Shinjuku Showa Kayou Store

The record shop carries tens of thousands of vinyl records from the 1970s and 1980s, and store manager Kenji Shinoki, 48, allowed me to listen to Showa idol Akina Nakamori’s 1983 album “Fantasy.”

He placed the LP on a record player, and as I listened to her record through earphones, I realized that she sounded a bit clearer than when I listen to songs on my phone.

“Songs made back then were meant to be played on vinyl, so you can hear them at their best,” Shinoki said.

Showa Kayou Store opened in Shinjuku in 2013, when the popularity of Showa-era (1926-1989) J-pop was growing. The shop moved to its current location last year.

I was expecting the store to be filled with middle-aged men and older customers buying records they could not afford when they were younger. But to my surprise, I saw quite a few foreigners and young people in the shop, too. The shop carries about 20,000 records, including 12-inch LPs and 7-inch EPs.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A record player at Diskunion Shinjuku Showa Kayou Store in Tokyo

Some of the records have lyrics written in the singer’s own handwriting. Others come with posters or concert information. Some even had a note asking for a song to be played on a radio show. The ingenuity of the pre-internet era is fascinating.

Many fans end up displaying the vinyl jackets because of their unique designs.

“The images on the jackets are filled with the worlds of the songs,” Shinoki said. “Many customers say they have listened to a record based on the cover art and happened to like the songs as well.”

The price of a record can range from ¥300 to several hundred thousand yen, depending on its rarity and popularity. The latter part of the 1980s was a transitional period from vinyl to CDs, and LPs from this time tend to fetch high prices due to the small volume sold.

The store also sells cassettes, which were widely distributed along with vinyl in the 1980s. However, because they were easily damaged, those still in good condition are usually expensive. Cassettes are now popular among young people because they are “small and cute.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Various cassette tapes are on display.

Many customers came into the shop that day, their eyes shining as they flipped through the records.

“Music kept alive for a while will eventually become someone else’s treasure,” Shinoki said.


The Yomiuri Shimbun

Diskunion Shinjuku Showa Kayou Store

Address: Yamada Bldg. 2F, 3-31-4 Shinjuku, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

Access: A five-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station’s East Exit or a two-minute walk from Shinjuku-Sanchome Station.

Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. on weekdays, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on weekends and holidays