I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

nikala's Online J-Music Merchant Guide. Part 1: Purchasing Directly

While I haven't been buying Japanese music for as long as J-Canuck here, my 10 years of experience with this hobby has led me to some nifty shops. My current collection is nearing 400 titles, 98% being albums. I only spent one of those years in Japan; otherwise I've depended on online retailers. I figure most readers of this blog are in the same boat and might be interested in buying Japanese music from overseas but have limited resources. Since I'm mostly interested in the oldies, I can't always afford to buy the items in brand-new condition. Even with all these wonderful CD reissues that have graced CDJapan and Amazon over the past few years, a lot of material still remains obscure and out-of-print. More often than not I stick with used items, but it's not much of the issue because the Japanese tend to take good care of their stuff. Almost all CDs I've received had zero scratches, and even records tend to be sold in pretty good shape. Just make sure you check the item grading, looking for key words like M (Mint), NM (Near Mint), EX+/- (Excellent +/-) etc.

My guide will be divided into two entries: A. shops that let you purchase directly and B. middleman services. This one deals with the former.

Let me get these places out of the way first, but I'll be brief because they're fairly well-known and have extensive English-language Help Guides. With the exception of eBay and the marketplace division of Amazon, they deal exclusively with brand-new items. CDJapan is my personal favorite because they offer numerous payment and shipment options and have a handy point system. Their catalogue is very extensive, which can only be beaten by Amazon Japan.

Yesasia is not as popular as it used to be and their Japanese music selection is relatively limited but if you're interested in Chinese and Korean stuff, they're the place to stop by. They also offer free shipping for orders over $39 USD, but from what I know, the CD prices are already a little inflated to include a bit of the shipping charge.

I can't say anything for HMV Japan because I've found everything I looked for elsewhere. Like Amazon, they only take credit cards. Check their help guide.

eBay is self-explanatory. You may be surprised at what you can find there. My only warning about eBay is when you buy from stores based in China and sometimes Japan, please make sure that the CD is not a promo or sample. Those basically have limited resell value in case you ever want to sell them away. They were meant to be played on radio and in shops on the street, yet those stores got them for free and are planning to sell them to you for a profit. I'm saying this as someone who mistakenly bought a few promos myself. You may dismiss this warning if you don't care.

I haven't used Amazon much outside of Japan because their shipping charges are steep and the couple times I bought from them, the local post office has slapped a huge customs charge on top of it all. And all I ordered were a few CDs for each order. J-Canuck apparently didn't have such unpleasant experience, and we both live in Ontario, Canada, so go figure. What I do love about Amazon is their Marketplace, which sells a ton of new and used CDs. Shipping for those is cheap but be prepared for the slowness of SAL delivery because the sellers don't let you choose. Basically, just search for the CD you want in regular search (copy/paste the name in Japanese after googling or just type if you can), and then look for links to the right of the cover image that say something like this:
When you are directed to the page that lets you compare what various retailers offer, look for text that says "International & domestic shipping rates" or "海外向け&国内向け配送料金" in the Delivery column (second one to the right). If it only says "Domestic shipping rates" or "国内向け配送料金" then you'll have to use a deputy/middleman service based in Japan to obtain that item. I'll talk about those in another post.

Otokichi Premium was the first used item shop I had the pleasure of buying from. I even visited the main store in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka this April just for fun. Masa is an awesome owner and sometimes takes the time to write to you about the items in your order. Basically, kayokyoku and 70's/80's aidoru enthusiasts can find many gems at Otokichi, but because the store is fairly well-known online, it's just as easy to miss something before it goes out of stock. The selection is still impressive but not as mindboggling as it used to be a few years back. Being interested in New Music/City Pop and technopop, I don't usually find much there anymore. There are handy FAQ/help links at the bottom left corner of the page, though the "How to Order" guide is old. Just add the items to the cart and go from there.

I found FanFan though Amazon Marketplace and then discovered that they have their own website. They ship overseas, accept PayPal, price the used items reasonably and have a large selection of both CDs and records. I love that store. The only downside is that you need some knowledge of Japanese to browse it without confusion, but you can always use the automatic Google Translate feature on top of the page to help you out. Just make sure that your search keywords (キーワード) are in Japanese.

Besides being a handy resource for information on albums from anywhere in the world, Discogs also contains a huge marketplace full of independent sellers that have those items. Most of them deal with vinyl rather than CDs. As far as I searched, the J-Music sold at Discogs is everything but aidoru and straight pop (with some exceptions) but you can find those elsewhere. If you're looking for something rare, you might be in luck. I purchased an ultra-rare vinyl copy of Mioko Yamaguchi's "Yume Hikou" from there last week, which made me very very happy. All the sellers can communicate in English regardless of where they're based.

If you're into Japanese vinyl, DiscLegend should be the first stop on your list. They carry a few CDs but mostly it's just vinyl paradise. The website is easy to use and the used records on there are usually in M or NM condition. The prices are cheap unless it's something rare, they take PayPal and you can choose from four different shipping methods. One note is that the PayPal process is manual. Just follow the instructions after you confirm the order and don't forget to enter the order number in the message section on PayPal's Send Money page. After that it's all smooth.

Another good place for Japanese vinyl is Takechas Records. They restock items more frequently than DiscLegend and their New Music/City Pop selection is excellent. They carry some 60's rarities as well. The site it mostly in Japanese, but they deal with overseas customers though email correspondence. See the English guide here.

Like Amazon, Rakuten also has an extensive Marketplace. You'll be surprised at how cheap some CDs are. The English version of the page will only let you search through the shops that ship overseas. They only accept credit cards. But please, do not search in romaji if the artist's original name is in Japanese; you'll just get silly irrelevant results because this site tends to translate names rather than romanize them. Just search in Japanese and refer to cover images to figure out the results. Copy/paste if you have to.

Tower Records Online used to be available to overseas customers until about 5 years ago when they decided to limit delivery to Japanese addresses. Which is a shame because they even put Amazon to shame when it comes to selection. They carry a ton of store-exclusive editions that are not available elsewhere, for example, a recent CD reissue of Mai Yamane's "Tasogare" album. Middleman services will help you out if you want to buy from there.

These are my places to go to for buying J-Music directly. Tower Records is an odd inclusion, but I just wanted to highlight them in case you wanted to get something nice via a deputy service. If I missed a store you like, feel free to mention it in the comments.

Part 2 about the middleman services will be posted within the next couple of days.


  1. Good to hear from you again, nikala. And thanks very much for this informative first part on purchasing Japanese music, especially when it comes to the rare stuff. I've enjoyed CDJapan because it does have the PayPal option and the points system. As for Amazon Japan, I may not have had the extra fees slammed on but unfortunately I couldn't even get that far the last couple of times I tried to buy through them. For some reason, neither of my credit cards would pass muster between Japan and Canada (which is why I use CDJapan now).

    Looking forward to Part 2.

  2. thank you for all this great information! i didn't know about any of these places except for amazon and ebay, i hope to find some things i've been looking for for a long time.


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