Insider tips on how to find any Japanese CD or Vinyl Record.

Insider tips on how to find any Japanese CD or Vinyl Record.

Find virtually any Japanese CDs or records in a matter of minutes.

To begin with, the most important thing to understand is how Japanese CDs and records are listed on Japanese websites.

Let’s use Amazon Japan for example and for a truly accurate example, a Japanese CD sold on eBay earlier today, for just over $60:

hl1

 

 

 

Try to find this particular Japanese CD on a Japanese website, like Amazon Japan, and you’ll run into two problems:

  • To find a Japanese pressing, you need to write the title of the CD in Japanese characters.
  • Even if you can find it, chances are, the Japanese vendors will not offer shipping outside of Japan.

The first issue is probably the most difficult to get around:  in Japan, it has been a standard since the advent of the web, to display domestic, Japanese products, presented in Japanese characters, and import (foreign editions) of goods, in the Roman alphabet.

Consider the CD used in this example.  It will be listed on most Japanese websites and databases as follows:

ヒューマン・リーグ デアー

That is how you would write “Human League Dare” using the Japanese katakana alphabet.

Thus, in order to find every Japanese edition of Human League’s Dare CDs and records on Japanese websites, you’ll need to enter the search exactly as above.

If you simply enter “human league dare” into the search box on Amazon Japan or any other Japanese site, you’ll see a result showing mostly imported (non Japanese) editions, in line with how the Japanese catalog domestic vs. import items:

hl2
You can see the title of each result appears in Roman characters (basically, you see “Dare”, demonstrating that each of these results is the import (non Japanese) edition). Now let’s perform the same search using the Japanese characters:  ヒューマン・リーグ デアー

hl3

It’s hard not to notice the difference a little tweak in your search can make.  Every result above shows Japanese editions exclusively.

This, is one way you can find the Japanese pressing of virtually any record or CD on any Japanese website. Now I know what you’re thinking “I’m not Japanese.  I don’t know how to read or write in Japanese.  This… doesn’t sound like a solution.”  Read on, and I will show you how you can execute searches in Japanese, without knowing the language.  But before we get to that, let’s address the second problem.

Most Japanese websites do not offer service to foreign buyers.  It’s wonderful if you can find a Japanese item you want on Amazon Japan for example, but what good is that if no one will ship it to you, or answer your questions in English?

To the delight of many, Kupiku.com, is a relatively new service that not only solved this problem but actually provides users with a number of features that even major websites like Amazon do not offer.  For example, they will soon be rolling out a Snipe It service that enables a user to add any item to their “Snipe List”, set the maximum price they’re willing to pay for it, as well as the minimum condition they’ll accept the item in (for example, Used – Very Good) and their system will scan major Japanese websites for the item you want, non-stop until it finds it.  The moment the item is listed online within the price and condition guidelines you set out, Kupiku’s Snipe It system will instantly buy the item for you (within seconds- not giving any other buyer a chance to grab it before you do, via Kupiku’s Snipe system).  It will search tirelessly for days, or even weeks (however long it takes), and the moment the offer appears on a Japanese website- it’s yours.

Searching for Japanese goods using Japanese text, isn’t the most convenient method for those who don’t speak the language.  Let’s go over several other methods and trick you can use to find those elusive Japanese editions, and purchase them despite the shipping restrictions you’ll face on most Japanese websites.

The easy way to find Japanese CDs and records.

Familiar with barcodes?  Also known as UPC codes, or EAN/JAN codes (in Japan).  This is the single most effective way to find a particular Japanese product.  If you’re familiar with some of the details about the CD you’re looking for, and have access to the barcode, simply plug it into the search engine at Kupiku.com and you’ll find a direct hit.  Note:  if the CD or record you’re looking for was released in the 1980s, the barcode may start with a “T”.  Drop the “T” and just enter the rest of the barcode (remove any spaces, for example, enter “4988555577778” instead of “4 988 5555 7777 8”):

Take a look at the Human League CD in question.  If you look at the back of the CD, you can see the barcode:  4988006847569

Human League Dare CD JAPAN TOCP-53869

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now enter this barcode into the search box at Kupiku.com:

 

Screenshot from 2017-04-30 23-55-42

Click on “Search Japan” and watch the magic unfold.

Screenshot from 2017-04-30 23-57-35

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember that eBay price?  Just over $60.  Compare that with the price this CD sells for locally in Japan- now accessible to you via Kupiku.com.

 

The other easy way to find Japanese CDs or records: catalog numbers.

Familiar with catalog numbers?  Sure you are.  Most CDs issued after 1986 or so, can be found via Kupiku‘s search engine using their catalog number.  The catalog number (usually found on the disc, the OBI, and the side flaps of the tray card), is another relatively easy way to find the exact Japanese edition you’re after:

THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dare CD JAPAN TOCP-53869

 

 

 

 

 

 

The catalog number of this edition is TOCP-53869.  Enter that into the search box on Kupiku.com, and once again you’ll be able to find the CD you’re after.

Another easy way to find Japanese CDs or recods:  the ASIN.

Chances are, if you’re like many- you’ve found yourself staring at an Amazon Japan page in the past, looking right at the CD or record you’ve been after for years… only to see that not one seller offers service outside of Japan and, after your best efforts to convince them otherwise by sending your best Google translated Japanese message (likely met with no response), you finally gave up.  Hopefully, you’ve saved the page.  All you need is the ASIN number, plug into the Kupiku search box, and once again- you’ll now have access and the ability to order that item via Kupiku.

Screenshot from 2017-05-01 00-11-35

 

If all else fails, try this method to find any Japanese CD.

On rare occasion, you won’t be able to find a Japanese CD or record using it’s catalog number, or barcode (and let’s assume you don’t know the ASIN number). The only thing that is left for you to try, is the old fashioned way:  search for a Japanese CD using the artist name and title (for example, Human League Dare).  However, as mentioned at earlier in this article, you’ll need to know the Japanese way to write this.  It’s not that difficult.  First, go to Amazon Japan, and simply type the search string the way you’d write it anywhere else:  “human league dare”.  In most cases, while Amazon Japan will serve up mostly import (non Japanese CD) editions, chances are, they will serve up at least one domestic Japanese CD issue as well.  This will help you get the Japanese text for the artist and title.  After performing a search for ‘human league dare’ on Amazon Japan, we can find several results, one of this is this:

Screenshot from 2017-05-01 00-18-03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the above, simply copy and paste the artist and title field, to get:  ヒューマン・リーグ デアー  and enter this into the Kupiku.com search box (don’t forget to select the CDs & Vinyl category first from the search drop down):

Screenshot from 2017-05-01 00-21-03

 

 

 

 

Now check out the results:

 

The human league Japan Dare CD

 

 

 

Every edition of Human League’s Dare Japanese CD issued available for you to purchase, directly from dozens of humble Japanese vendors offering the Japanese CD at local Japanese prices.

This method also is the most effective if you’re looking for Japanese vinyl records that were released pre mid-1980s (no barcodes, and thus, product pages on Amazon Japan are more difficult to find (usually catalog numbers won’t work, and barcodes don’t apply so this is the only method to find them).

Pro Tip If you’re looking for a particular Japanese CD edition that doesn’t appear to have a page on Amazon Japan, try checking the offers on the nearest pressing.  For example, if you’re looking for a 1983 Toshiba EMI “CP35” series Japanese CD, but can only see a page for the 1987 “CP32” Japanese CD edition, try clicking on that item and check the seller’s descriptions:  that is usually where Japanese vendors will offer an older pressing, if no page exists for it in Amazon Japan’s catalog). 

 

Browsing Series.

Interested in checking out every Japanese SACD, or, Toshiba Jazz (TOCJ) cd?

If you’re curious about certain series, it’s easy to find them.  If you’re interested in Japanese SACDs, simply enter “SACD” in the Kupiku.com search.  If you’re interested in Japanese CDs from the Toshiba Jazz series (TOCJ-xxxx series), simply enter “TOCJ-” in the search box.  Here are a few other suggestions:

Victor Jazz:  “VICJ-”
Zero Corporation Japan: “XRCN-”
FEMS Japan:  “APCY” or “MP32
Alfa Japan: “ALCA” or “ALCB
Avex Japan: “AVCB
Early Victor Japan pressings: “VDP
Early Toshiba Pressings:  “CP35“, “CP32“, “CP25
Early Sony Pressings: “35DP“, “32DP“, “25DP
Japanese MINI LP / Papersleeve cds:  “紙ジャケット

For example, enter “紙ジャケット” into the Kupiku search to see over 16,000 Japanese MINI LP CDs / Papersleeve cds available directly from Japanese vendors in Japan:

Japanese Papersleeve CDs for sale

 

 

 

Still not convinced?

Take a look at a few of the more expensive Japanese CDs and Records you own.

Pull out a few of the more expensive Japanese CDs you picked up over the years.  Remember those auctions you fought tooth and nail to win on eBay?  Pull out a few of those items, and now that you know how to find them- try plugging their barcode or catalog number into the Kupiku.com search box, to see what they sell for domestically in Japan.  Before Kupiku, there were few options (aside from actually flying to Japan) to pick up Japanese CDs and records for domestic Japanese prices.  However, with Kupiku now in it’s second year of operation, there’s very little reason why you should still be paying two or three more times than they need to for Japanese products.

 

Final thoughts

Not every Japanese CD or record can be picked up easily and at low cost in Japan. No market is more in tune with the value of rarities, than Japan. It’s very common to walk into a used Japanese CD shop, and find prices as high as $50…$100… or even $200-300 for a used CD.

You’d rarely, if ever, see that at a CD shop in Europe or elsewhere, but in Japan its quite common. So, you probably won’t find a Japanese CD that sells on eBay for $500-1000 for $5 using these methods. But, you may very well find it for $50-100.

Ultimately, that is what makes this the only sound method you should be using in 2017 to add those coveted Japanese CDs and records to your collection.

Still buying Japanese CDs on eBay?  You’re doing it wrong.

Still buying Japanese CDs on eBay? You’re doing it wrong.

Ask any CD or record collector today: if you could go on a CD/record hunting spree anywhere in the world, where would it be? There’s little doubt, that the overwhelming majority would say, Japan.

If you are like many, who prefer Japanese editions of your CDs or records, you’re usually met with one of two problems: cost (they are pretty pricy) or, access (you’re limited to only the selection that re-sellers on eBay provide or outlets like CDJapan which are limited primarily to readily available, recent, in-print titles).

The question that begs to be asked is, why would anyone, in 2017, still pay two or three times more for a Japanese product offered by a reseller on an auction site like eBay? If you’re looking for airline tickets these days, would you get in your car, and drive to a travel agent? Would you then browse through only the offers he/she has prepared, before selecting one, and paying for it, along with their hefty commission fee- when all they did was press a few keys on their laptop to purchase the ticket?

Or, you could just bypass all that trouble, and order your tickets directly from the source- from the comfort of your home. Who in 2017, would pay a travel agent hefty commissions, for a service anyone with a laptop can carry out in a matter of a few keystrokes?

Odds are, when you buy a Japanese CD on eBay for $50, the vendor you picked it up from probably paid around $10-15 for that CD- if that. To be fair to that vendor, around $10 of that $50, will be donated to eBay and Paypal by way of their fees. The rest however, will cover a relatively standard markup. The question is- why would anyone, in 2017, continue to pay two to three times more for that CD that they have to? Ten years ago, with little other options- it made sense. But today, there are options. Buying from re-sellers on eBay, Amazon, and similar sites is no longer the only way to get rare/expensive items from Japan. Today, there are services like Kupiku.com, which enable you to order directly from thousands of domestic Japanese vendors who offer their goods only to the local Japanese market. In short, you’re going directly to the source: bypassing all the additional fees that are passed onto you when you buy from re-sellers/middle-men. Sort of the same way, as if you actually flew to Japan and went on a shopping spree there. Only, now, you no longer need to pay for that flight. You can do this from home.

Kupiku Cartoon

 

The reflex answer would be “Well, I can’t afford to fly to Japan to go on a CD/record hunting spree in Tokyo”. A more conversative response would be “well, I’ve been dealing with eBay for years, and they’ve always had my back when I faced an issue”. Let’s address these two points.

As long as you have a computer, and an internet connection, you have access to virtually the entire local Japanese market from the comfort of your home. There no longer is the need to fly to Japan to pick up the latest Japanese goods. Kupiku.com offers you the ability to search, find, and purchase, from thousands of domestic Japanese vendors who offer their goods in Japan to Japanese buyers only. Consider that Japanese issued $50 CD you bought on eBay once. Chances are, there’s a small local vendor somewhere in Tokyo, probably on a little side street, who’s had that same CD for sale in his little shop for 1,000 yen ($9) for a few years. He/she probably offers their inventory online (on websites like Amazon Japan). Kupiku.com, now allows anyone in the world to find that listing, and order it.

 

ebay

A sought after Japanese edition of a Joy Division CD sold on eBay (April, 2017).

 

kupiku

Same item, available directly from Japan via Kupiku (April, 2017).

 

 

Then there is the question of loyalty. Let’s be honest: few of us are truly immune to the effects of branding. We identify what we believe in and who we are through branding. We watch certain news networks almost religiously, while completely discounting other networks. We believe one car maker can do no wrong, while believing another might have more success if they started making home furniture instead. Branding is an incredibly difficult barrier to break when faced with making objective decisions. Countless experiments have demonstrated the power of branding. The taste-tests with popular soft drinks often come to mind, where subjects were asked to drink a new, unknown soft drink, out of a can belonging to a major brand, and then offered the major brand’s drink, in a generic, unbranded can. As expected, most said that the drink inside the branded can they recognized, tasted better.

The same holds true for our allegiance to virtually everything. Brand-induced allegiance makes it very difficult to remain objective (whether we’re talking about products, or politics). Consider this:  we continue offering Japanese products on eBay, and Amazon. On any given day, we’ll receive an order for a given CD at a significant markup. Let’s say, we just sold a relatively rare CD for $80. On the one hand, we’re delighted to receive an order with a substantial markup. If the CD generally sells for $80-100, it would make little sense for us to offer it for $50. And yet, this customer could just as easily have used the Kupiku service to find that same CD for $20 or less (simply plug it’s catalog number or barcode into the Kupiku search box).  What is most unusual, is that we have in some cases, gone as far as introducing the Kupiku service to such buyers. We have showed them how easy it is to purchase the exact same products for a fraction of the cost, directly from vendors in Japan. And yet, some, continue to purchase their Japanese goods via the same re-seller channels they’ve been using for years- paying double, or even triple, every time around.

This places me, the founder, in a very unusual position: on the one hand, I certainly don’t mind if people purchase a given product from us on eBay: we’ll earn more from the sale.  But, another part of me understands that if we can serve the long-term benefit of a customer, if we can offer them genuine, demonstrable long-term value, they will benefit. And let’s face it: the foundation of any business, must be rooted in the relentless pursuit of providing value, and demonstrable, measured benefit to their customers.

 

Resealable OPP Sleeves: Proper storage for your Japanese CDs, Vinyl and DVDs.

Resealable OPP Sleeves: Proper storage for your Japanese CDs, Vinyl and DVDs.

So here you are. Many years of collecting under your belt, with a collection of Japanese records, CDs, and possibly DVDs that would impress even most elite collectors living in Japan.  You’ve got first pressings of your favorite albums, the remasters, the SHM-CD pressings, and even a few SACD editions from Japan.

You’ve invested a great deal of money and time into amassing one truly badass collection.  Your wife or girlfriend may not share your enthusiasm for it, but you know that few things mean more to a man than his prized record & CD collection.

And yet, despite all this, something is always missing.  We’re not talking about that set of re-masters with bonus tracks that are slated for release next month.

We’re talking about something a lot more practical and vital to any serious collection of Japanese issues CDs and records: we’re talking about a proper way to store and preserve those albums (especially, their OBI strips).

There’s no need to state the obvious:  if you’ve ever ordered second-hand (used) CDs or records from Japan, you’re familiar with the funky resealable plastic sleeves they often come in (known also as OPP bags or OPP CD Sleeves).  A simple, and brilliant invention.  It’s use primarily comes in handy when you wish to store a record or CD with it’s obi sitting in it’s originally intended place:  around the spine of the album.  Without these resealable sleeves, it won’t be possible to display Japanese CDs in all their originally intended glory. While quite common in Japan, these sleeves are very difficult to obtain outside of Japan (they were never manufactured, as far as we known, on a large scale anywhere else).

Alas, we’ve decided to help all the collectors out there to easily replenish their supply of these resealable sleeves.  Whether you’re looking for resealable CD sleeves for regular Japanese CDs, or paperlseeve (mini lp) editions, Japanese Vinyl, DVDs, or even 8cm CD singles, we’ve got you covered.  Below is a list of all the different types of OPP / resealable CD sleeves available for purchase directly from Japan via Kupiku.com.

Standard CDs

Resealable Japanese CD sleeves

Resealable Japanese CD sleeves (100 per package)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Set of 1000 available here)

 

Package of 100 resealable CD sleeves for Japanese CDs

Package of 100 resealable CD sleeves for Japanese CDs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Package of 100 non-resealable CD sleeves.

Package of 100 non-resealable CD sleeves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINI LP / Papersleeve CDs

Package of 20 CD sleeves for mini lp CDs.

Package of 20 CD sleeves for mini lp CDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Resealable Mini LP CD Sleeves (by Disk Union)

100 Resealable Mini LP CD Sleeves (by Disk Union)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Package of 1,000 CD sleeves for mini lp CDs available here.

 

On occasion, you may have received a mini lp CD without the protective inside vinyl sleeve. Stock up with this set of 100.

On occasion, you may have received a mini lp CD without the protective inside vinyl sleeve. Stock up with this set of 100.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CD Singles (slim case)

Set of 30 OPP Bags / Sleeves for slim case CD Singles

Set of 30 OPP Bags / Sleeves for slim case CD Singles

 

 

Package of 1,000 available here.

 

8cm (3 inch) CD Singles (aka Snap Packs)

8cm CD Single Protective Sleeves OPP Bags

8cm CD Single Protective Sleeves OPP Bags (by Disk Union)

 

 

OPP Resealable sleeves for DVDs

OPP Resealable bags for DVDs

OPP Resealable bags for DVDs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set of 1,000 available here.

 

 

Resealable OPP Bags for DVDs

Resealable OPP Bags for DVDs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPP Resealable sleeves for LPs / Vinyl

 

Set of 10 protective vinyl sleeves.

Set of 10 protective vinyl sleeves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resealable Vinyl Plastic Protective Sleeves from Japan (Set of 50)

Resealable Vinyl Plastic Protective Sleeves from Japan (Set of 50)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resealable OPP plastic sleeves for vinyl.

Resealable OPP plastic sleeves for vinyl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set of 200 available here.
Set of 500 available here.
Set of 1,000 available here.

 

Is there anything missing?  Other types of sleeves or Japanese goods you’d like us to feature in an article? Leave a comment and we’ll follow-up!

Note: to save on shipping costs, we highly recommend picking up several packages and have a larger quantity sent in one order.

 

What is an OBI? A detailed history of the obi strip (spinecard).

What is an OBI? A detailed history of the obi strip (spinecard).

Ok, So What Is An OBI?

Known also as a ‘spinecard’ to video game enthusiasts, but commonly referred to as an OBI (or OBI strip) by CD and vinyl collectors, the OBI has for over 30 years been one of the most recognizable unique features of CDs, records, DVDs, video games, and similar products manufactured and/or sold in Japan.  It is essentially a small piece of paper tha sits (in most cases) on the left side of the jewel case of a CD, book, video game, or DVD, wraps around the case on the outside, and displays extensive information about the product.

In the infancy days of CDs, and Video Games, the OBI strip contained very basic information about the product.  However, over the years, the obi strip has become an integral part of Japanese packaging.  It contains extensive information about the product, including (but not limited to), it’s original release date, official price, details about the artist, their history, and much more.  Naturally, most of the information presented is in Japanese, as it is intended for the Japanese clientele.

Its Origins

The term “OBI” itself, is a Japanese word, written as 帯.  It means, literally, “belt”.  It was originally used to describe the belt that holds together a kimono or yukata (traditional Japanese attire).

It is believed that the earliest OBIs applied to CDs were used by CBS-Sony records in Japan, as part of their 1982 35PD-series CDs (the first of which was 35DP-1, Billy Joel’s 52nd Street release on CD, issued and sold to the public in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, in October of 1982, several years before CD technology hit the shelves in other parts of the world).

Pink Floyd's “Wish you were here” Japanese 24k gold CD edition, issued in 1994, by Sony records Japan. The black obi can clearly be seen on the left.

Pink Floyd’s “Wish you were here” Japanese 24k gold CD edition, issued in 1994, by Sony records Japan. The black obi can clearly be seen on the left.

 

Value To Collectors

To many collectors and the majority of Japanese, a product originally issued with an obi strip, will no longer hold much value if it’s obi strip is no longer present when re-sold later.  If you purchase or own Japanese CDs, DVDs, Video Games, or Books, and they came with an obi strip- be sure to keep the obi and take good care of it.  The re-sale value of most Japanese items if the obi is still present, is exponentially higher.  It’s not at all uncommon to see a given Japanese CD complete with obi, sell for say, $100, while others may have difficulty selling that same CD- without the obi strip, even for a mere $10-20.

As a natural response to the appeal of the OBI strip to collectors around the world, there has been an increase in bootlegging activity over the years of Japanese products with obi strips.  There are extensive operations all over the world these days, dedicated to printing counterfeit copies of CDs that look as close to a sought after Japanese original as possible. While age-old stereotypes will point the finger at the usual suspects (operations in south east Asia, and eastern Europe), bootlegging of Japanese products is by no means limited to these regions.  Sellers operating out of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, among others, offer massive selections of counterfeit editions of Japanese products on major online auction sites today, with general impunity.

A Few Examples

Below are a few visual examples of the OBI strip, insights into the rich array of information they provide.

The Ventures In Japan CD TOCP-67401

The Ventures In Japan CD TOCP-67401 Mini LP replica CD sleeve issued in Japan. Blue and white obi can be seen on the left side of the case.

 

Queen Made In Heaven CD JAPAN TOCP-67390 White & Blue OBI edition.

Queen Made In Heaven CD JAPAN TOCP-67390 White & Blue OBI edition.

 

Below is one of the more sought after video games (Ginka Fukei Densetsu Saphire, or, 銀河婦警伝説サファイア ), released for the PC-Engine system in Japan.  A very rare shot of this game complete with it’s original obi (or, spinecard, as referred by in gamer circles).  Without obi, this game regularly fetches a premium in the range of $500-800 or so depending on condition.  With obi, one will be very fortunate to find one at all, and if so, unlikely for anything under $1250-1500, even in Japan.

 

Ginka Fukei Densetsu PC-Engine Game Japan complete with OBI.

Ginka Fukei Densetsu PC-Engine Game Japan complete with OBI.

 

 

Some of the earliest OBIs released with CDs, were issued by CBS-Sony records Japan.  They are known today to collectors as ‘box obi’ due to their inclusion of a lower and upper tab that effectively render the obi to act as a ‘box’ for the cd case to slide into as seen on this 1984 CD issue of West Side Story soundtrack from Japan, issued by CBS-Sony Japan.

West Side Story Soundtrack CD JAPAN 35DP-59 with BOX OBI

West Side Story Soundtrack CD JAPAN 35DP-59 with BOX OBI

 

pf2

TOGP-15001 SACD Issue from Japan of Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon CD.

 

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon (2003 SACD issue from Japan).  The obi features extensive information about the release as shown below.

 

Example of an obi strip.

Let’s take a closer look at the OBI shown above for a Japanese CD.  The designs vary from release, but generally, most OBIs designed over the last 15-20 years will contain similar information.  As noted in the example above:

1.  The track-listing will often be found on the rear flap of the obi.

2.  General selling points (mention of bonus tracks, or any special extras) will usually be shown on the front flap of the obi.

3.  In the case of this CD (an SACD), a general introduction to SACDs is shown here.

4.  The “catalog number”, TOGP-15001 in this case, often next to the original price, usually found on the spine of most OBIs and, generally on the bottom as seen here.  One of the most effective ways to search for Japanese CDs online, is by using their catalog number, or barcode number (in this case, 4988006809994).  Try entering either into a search engine specific to Japanese products (www.Kupiku.com is a good example) and you’ll find the exact Japanese edition you’re after.

5.  Most OBIs will include the date on which it becomes legal for Japanese stores to offer this item at a discount.  In Japan, laws prohibit vendors from selling new products at a price below the original price, for a set period of time.  Until that second date, the item, if found new in any store in Japan would always be sold at the exact price listed on the obi (in this case, 2,800 yen).  After this second date, it would become permissable for store owners in Japan to offer the item at a discount.  This rule of course applies only to new/sealed goods.

6.  Generally, this is where the artist and title of the CD would be placed.

7.  Probably the most often misunderstood part of the obi:  the release, or, printing date of the product. Often confused with the original release date of the recording, this date tells us when exactly this edition was released in Japan.  On the left side, we would see the printing date, and, usually, in brackets next to that date, we would see the date the original recorded was released.  For example:  let’s say that Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” CD was originally released on January 1, 1986.  To simplify matters, if the a Japanese re-issue of Master of Puppets was released on January 1, 2016 in Japan, you would see a date here of 01-01-2016 (01-01-1986).

Another example can be seen below:

U.F.O. Lights Out CD JAPAN TOCP-3100 OBI

U.F.O. Lights Out CD JAPAN TOCP-3100 OBI

 

1.  We can see the track-listing here.
2.  Artist and title of the CD.
3.  Promotional information about the release.
4.  Original price of the CD, and it’s catalog number, TOCP-3100
5.  The date until on which the price of the CD (if new) can be discounted in Japan.
6.  Printing date of this edition.

Other Styles

There were a few unique designs and styles experimented with in the infancy days of OBIs in Japan.  In addition to the ‘box obi’ style used by CBS-Sony Japan in the early 1980s, Warner-Pioneer Japan devised what is known today as the “sticker OBI”.  When the CDs were sold as new, the obi was included inside the packaging, literally, as a sticker or decal, made from vinyl/plastic material.  When the CD was opened, it’s new owner would carefully peel the sticker paper from the obi and attach the “sticker obi” onto the case.  This style of OBI was most commonly found in Warner-Pioneer’s earliest pressed CDs in the early/mid 1980s (38, 35, and some 32XD, and XP series CDs).  However, as other labels failed to adopt this style of obi, and many buyers likely complained about their lack of durability (if the case the obi was attached to will be damaged, it will be difficult to remove the obi and re-apply to a new case), this style of obi was quickly abandoned in favor of the common “paper” obi.

An example of the sticker OBI, for Emerson Lake & Palmer – Pictures at an exhibition Japanese CD issued by Warner-Pioneer Japan in the mid 1980s, with catalog number 32XD-372.

Emerson Lake & Palmer Pictures At An Exhibition CD 32XD-372 Japan OBI

Emerson Lake & Palmer Pictures At An Exhibition CD 32XD-372 Japan OBI

In rare cases, the OBIs would wrap around the entire back of the jewel case, as can be see in this sought after MFSL CD issued in Japan in 1987.  Refer to the back of the case:  the obi wraps around the entire back:

Jazz Sampler Compact Disc from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab JAPAN UDCD JS-1 with OBI

Jazz Sampler Compact Disc from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab JAPAN UDCD JS-1 with OBI

Jazz Sampler Compact Disc from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab JAPAN UDCD JS-1 with OBI

Jazz Sampler Compact Disc from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab JAPAN UDCD JS-1 with OBI

In some instances (boxsets for example), the OBI’s design would actually be truer to it’s Japanese name (OBI, meaning, belt).  Refer to these examples:

The OBI on this Kate Bush This Woman’s Work Anthology 1978-1990 Japanese boxset, TOCP-6460-67, actually looked more like a belt.  As it was open on the bottom, it could slide up and down the box-set.  This design of the OBI was generally reserved for box-sets.

The Beach Boys History Box Vol. 2 JAPAN Set TOCP-7764

The Beach Boys History Box Vol. 2 JAPAN Set TOCP-7764

A picture of the Japanese Beach Boys History CD Box Vol 2, TOCP-7764, shows a similar OBI design over the box.

There were rare cases, where some CDs were not releases with an OBI in Japan.  Most notably, 8cm CD singles, as shown below.  These highly sought after CD singles, issued in Japan from the late 1980s until approx. 2001, were not released with an OBI strip.

 

 

Examples (above):
Muriel Dacq L’Enfer A L’Envers Japanese 8cm CD Single, catalog CSDS-8139
Madonna Oh Father CD Single from Japan, catalog 09P3-6206
Diana Ross When You Tell Me That You Love me CD Single from Japan, catalog TODP-2363

Additionally, there were cases where a standard obi was not issued with a product at all.  Instead, a “sticker” on the factory seal, would serve the same purpose:  provide detailed information about the release, show the catalog number, often the barcode, and other details.  This was common with digipak editions of CDs, and some boxsets, as can be seen in this example.  The red stick on the seal of this Japanese Pat Metheny More Travels COBY-91019 DVD was the “obi” in this case.

Pat Metheny More Travels DVD Japan COBY-91019

Pat Metheny More Travels DVD Japan COBY-91019

 

The Rolling Stones Black and Blue CD Japan 32DP-605 original 1st Pressing.

 

David Matthews Dune CD Japan KICJ-8065 King Records / CTI Records Japan First Pressing.

David Matthews Dune CD Japan KICJ-8065 King Records / CTI Records

David Matthews Dune CD Japan KICJ-8065 King Records / CTI Records

 

Ultimately, the jury is still out on how important or valuable an OBI is to a CD, video game, or similar product.  Some don’t mind saving a significant amount by buying a second hand Japanese product without the obi.  But, many others (in fact, the majority of those who invest in Japanese albums, CDs, and video games), will pay a premium to have a truly complete product- and won’t touch a CD or video game, unless it is complete with it’s original obi strip.

Ultimately, if votes were cast with wallets the obi would win by a landslide.

Rockingham 2016

Rockingham 2016

Yet another fantastic hard rock/AOR festival has come to a close.  Admittedly, the turnout for this year’s Rockingham left plenty to be desired.  But, when it comes to AOR/hard rock music, quantity seldom takes merit over quality.  I’d rather be surrounded by 100 die-hard enthusiasts, than 1000 passive rock fans wearing Aerosmith or Led Zeppelin shirts to the show, demonstrating little or no interest in anything that happened in the scene after 1992.

From a personal level, there were many highlights related to the show.

Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016

Shortly after arriving at the hotel (the night prior to the festival), it didn’t take long before the reality of where we were again set in.  Only a few minutes after walking into the Crowne Plaza hotel (where most of the bands and VIP guests to the show were staying) we saw the one and only Lee Aaron, passing by, asking where the bar at the hotel is.  First time I had the opportunity to see Canada’s Metal Queen (at least, in the 80s… today she prefers to brand herself as the Rock Queen).  The mood was set.  We were ready to rock out for the next four nights.

Shortly after check-in, we made our way up to our room (it was shortly past midnight).  I couldn’t hold back, and despite being worn out by the journey to get to Nottingham, I just had to head down to the lobby/bar/lounge area to engage with some of the other early arrivals at the show.  It wasn’t long before I ran into the mighty Kandi Andi (aka Andre), along with Jean Beauvoir, his drummer, Hawk Lopez, and a number of other notable names in the scene.  It was 4am before the conversation at our table finally wound down (we covered everything from the heyday of the Sunset strip, to America’s plight (current elections) and all in between.

 

 

Friday, Oct 21, 2016.

Day 1 of the show.  During the early afternoon, I ran into the one and only M. Matijevic (Steelheart) in the elevator.  The man does have a presence about him:  intimidating, tough, and a no-bs attitude.  I briefly spoke to him about music, although… it quickly became apparent I was in the wrong place, the night before:  the place to be, the night before was at the bar across the street, where some allege he got up on stage with the local bar band to belt out a few numbers… that would have been something to see).

First band to hit the stage was Art Nation, featuring former Diamond Dawn vocalist.  Their set, as expected, was short- but well worth the wait.  Their debut is a slab of fantastically executed Scandi AOR. Modern, but only in the most positive sense:  it’s clean, loaded with hooks, dynamics, and slick production.  The group did not disappoint with their stage presence either.

Risa with Art Nation

Risa with Art Nation

The second act of the evening, might as well have been the headliner where I (and many AOR veterans) were concerned:  the one, and only, Robby Valentine.  It was the first time I had the honor of seeing him live.  Sadly, the sound on day one left much to be desired.  The mix was awful throughout day one, and for a perfectionist, musician extra-ordinaire like Robby Valentine, this was especially problematic.  Most of his keyboard and piano runs were barely audible.  The set itself was decent, but nothing to rave about.  His first three albums, considered by many the man’s apex, were only barely covered, in favor for more recent work.  Nevertheless, having the chance to see one of the finest, most talented, and genuinely dedicated AOR/rock musicians of our time perform live for the first time- I was delighted nevertheless.  Having my fanboy moment with him after the show at the party in the hotel lobby, was an added bonus.  I took the time to convey my most humble gratitude to him for his relentless dedication to the music, despite the criminally underrated status he holds in today’s rock music industry.  As expected, he was very soft spoken, mild mannered, and even shy.  A surprise, considering the many years he’s spent performing in front of countless adorning fans all over the world since the late 80s.

Finally getting a chance to meet one of the unsung heroes of our time, Robby Valentine at Rockingham 2016.

Finally getting a chance to meet one of the unsung heroes of our time, Robby Valentine at Rockingham 2016.

Next up, was Lee Aaron.  The second last act of the opening day.  At this point, I was quite hungry… and we decided to run out to get some food, and hopefully catch the last few songs of her set (we assumed they’d be her biggest hits: without doubt, most of which came from her Bodyrock CD, which is to this day one of the best known hard rock albums to come out of Canada).  Unfortunately… while we very much appreciate authentic Indian food, we don’t quite feel the same about authentic Indian service, the result of which we ended up missing her entire set, arriving back in time at the venue to catch Trixter starting their set.  The group delivered a fantastic set, delivering a healthy dose of tracks from their legendary debut, and subsequent albums.  The evening closed off on a very positive note, with Trixter giving everyone their money’s worth on day one.

Stalking Trixter for a few moments outside the venue at Rockingham 2016.

Stalking Trixter for a few moments outside the venue at Rockingham 2016.

Rockin' out at Rockingham 2016

Rockin’ out at Rockingham 2016

Saturday, Oct 22, 2016.

This was the day we were most looking forward to.  The show started early, with doors opening at 12:30.  However, like many die-hard rockers at the venue, we decided to preserve our energy and take our time making our way to the venue, passing on the opening act, Stone Sour.  To be frank, I’m still not sure how or why this band made the bill alongside artists like Robby Valentine, Crazy Lixx, and The Defiants.  We showed up at the venue just as Blood Red Saints were getting started.  Their debut CD, released last year, was easily one of the highlights in the hard rock scene.  No-nonsense early Winger-style hard rock.  Forget the keys, forget the Scandi style AOR hooks and just think of well produced, hard hitting Winger meets Heaven’s Edge style hard rock, with half the calories and twice the power of early Winger.  The gents in the band have certainly seen better days (haven’t we all at this point?), but despite their age, they kicked ass like an unsigned band half their age, opening for the Scorpions in ’91.  Their sound was tight, the delivery on target, and the between-song banter quite entertaining (at least, to the local crowd:  The band is British.  Personally, I couldn’t make out half of it, being Canadian).

Blood Red Saints at Rockingham 2016

Blood Red Saints at Rockingham 2016

Lionheart were up next.  This may put a few off, but, I didn’t find their performance overly exciting. It goes without saying, their Hot Tonight CD is a classic, but their stage presence… lacked. I understand, it’s difficult for some to retain the same energy and presence today as they did 30 years ago.  But, as bands like Trixter, The Defiants, and Steelheart (ok, at least in their singer’s case) proved over the weekend- it’s not impossible.

Crazy Lixx were up next, and by the quick rush towards the stage ahead of the set, it was clear this was the band many were here to see.  Their show did not disappoint.  Every essential track was delivered with authority:  21 ti’ll I die, Girls of the 80s, Blame it on love, Loud minority, Hell Raising women, All looks no hooks.  Their sound was terrific, and stage presence set a new standard for the evening.  After their set ended, we had a chance to catch up with them at the bar.  I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard the singer speaking in Polish to a few friends of ours.  Apparently he’s of Polish origin.  Interesting tidbit I was personally unaware of.

Crazy Lixx & Sexy Chixx

Crazy Lixx & Sexy Chixx

Crazy Lixx

Crazy Lixx

 

 

The Poodles were up next.  As I’ve seen them live a few times now, and the band has a consistent level of quality on stage, their neither impressed nor disappointed.  They delivered exactly what we hoped for: nothing less, nothing more.

Admittedly, we missed most of the next performer’s set:  Jean Beauvoir.  I felt bad, especially considered I had spent a few hours with their drummer, Hawk Lopes, as well as Andre Z, and a few other lads chatting the night away until the wee morning hours two evenings earlier (truly a fantastic guy, one of the friendliest, most humble guys in the scene I’ve ever had the honor to meet).  We did catch them playing Dyin’ for love, and it goes without saying- they delivered the goods.  Jean’s stage presence was nothing short of marvelous.

PJ, Risa, and her sisters.

PJ, Risa, and her sisters.

The headliner of day two, was the (once?) mighty, Steelheart.  The performance was met with mixed reviews.  Mili Matijevic, the vocalist, was one loaded mutha.  He hit stage with more power and conviction than an evangelist in the deep south of the U.S. of A.  I personally couldn’t believe the level of energy he had on stage.  His voice was absolutely incredible.  I wasn’t sure if he could deliver (afterall, he set a standard on their first two albums that were hard to match even in the heyday of the scene).  And yet, he nailed every song like it was ’92 all over again.

Problem is:  it wasn’t quite ’92, at least… in tems of the setlist. My guess is, instead of playing what most of us spent many years waiting to hear them play (at least those of us, who’ve  never seen them live before), they decided to play what they enjoyed playing:  not a single song from their second album, only two from their debut (of course, She’s Gone was a given, along with Everybody loves Eileen), three tracks from Rock Star film (or was it four?) and… get this:  not one, but TWO covers… of the same band:  Led Zeppelin.  Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of Zep, personally, I didn’t pay to hear Led Zeppelin songs. I paid to hear Steelheart, kicking ass. And, while some may have enjoyed 20% of their precious set time devoted to Milli giving Robert Plant a run for the money, I would have gladly heard even the worst song off Tangled in Reins, in place of both covers (or any track from Rock Star).  Then again, was there a bad song on Tangled? I digress.  While Milli’s performance was nothing short of stellar, the setlist was utter rubbish.

I think one of the biggest surprises of the weekend at this point at least for me, was how easily I was able to find my room at the end of the evening.  By day two, at Firefest 2014, if it weren’t for my girlfriend’s help, I not only would have been knocking on the wrong hotel room, but I probably would have found my way to the wrong hotel altogether.  Having her to keep in check throughout the weekend was an added bonus.

Getting ready to head out for day two of Rockingham 2016.

Getting ready to head out for day two of Rockingham 2016.

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The evening again extended well into the night, with a chance to mingle with many of the most respected members of the AOR/hard rock/metal community, not the least of whom included Dr. AOR himself, the esteemed Johan Nylen (who delivered some fantastic news about his new AOR label (Sharp Music Sweden), set to deliver their first release in early 2017).  We also had a chance to mingle with one of Sweden’s best known guitarists (no, not “Elvis” Malmsteen), Janne Stark, of the legendary Overdrive, and a shitload of other respected bands, presently with Grand Design.  No less than a dozen members of the private Facebook group, Collector’s Corner were also at the show and had a chance to engage in person for the first time.  As expected, Kandi Andi missed no opportunity to stir things up, by bringing up a controversial issue from many moons ago, involving three members of the group in an attempt to put me on the spot.  My response quickly diffused the attempt, and in classic fashion left Andi wondering how he foiled yet another attempt to stir up some unnecessary drama.

With the esteemed (and slightly intoxicated) Johan N.

With the esteemed (and slightly intoxicated) Johan N.

Sunday, Oct 23, 2016.

The final day of the festival had arrived.  And, after three days of practice, my girl Risa, finally delivered her most noble attempt to salvage what’s left of my eastern European hair follicles into something that remotely resembles bad-ass rocker hair.

Initially, we weren’t planning on catching the opening act, Martina Edoff.  However, with only about 30 minutes before doors opened and she was to hit the stage, I was informed that three members of H.E.A.T. were performing her set with her (one of them, being Crash, a long time favorite of Risa).  I thought, it’d make for a great surprise for her.  I told her, there was a change of plans, and we were going to see Martina afterall.  Once we pushed our way to the front of the stage (ok… there was only about one or two rows of people standing there at the time…) the band ran on stage, and her face lit up:  sher recognized them right away, and the mood was set for the rest of the evening.  We weren’t familiar with Martina’s work, and… while, neither of us are big fans of Issa (Martina’s vocal style is very similar), the songs more than made up for it.  Her vocals aren’t bad: just… not the style of female vocals we like in hard rock or metal.  Performance-wise, it was difficult not to credit most of the appeal to the three members of H.E.A.T. on stage.  Worth mentioning, was yet another noble gesture by Kandi Andi, in catching one of Crash’s sticks at the end of the show, and making his way over to Risa and I, to offer it to her as a gift.  She was pretty stoked as she’s been a fan of H.E.A.T. (and Crash) for several years now.

Next up, were Angels or Kings.  Admittedly, I’m not all that familiar with their material so we used this time to head upstairs, and grab lunch.  We came down briefly to catch a few tracks performed by the Alessandro Del Vecchio Band (Hardline, Issa).  Admittedly, we both aren’t well versed in his solo material but considering his credentials, we did make our way down to the stage area to check out the last few tracks they performed.  A pleasant surprise was a Hardline track (Fever Dreams) delivered with authority.  The overall performance was solid, and even Alessandro’s vocals were surprisingly easy to digest (I presumed prior to the show he was first and foremost a keyboard player).

At this point, we decided it was time to get some more food in us, so we headed back to the Crowne Plaza hotel where we ended up shooting the shit with The Defiants (Paul Laine, R. Marcello (Marcello/Vestry), B. Ravel (Danger Danger)) at the main lounge area.  Ok- you got me:  by shooting the shit, I mean I simply walked up to them, asked them what time they’re playing at, and… that was about the jist of it.  Although, Paul Laine was cool enough to recall my digital nomad stories I shared with him the previous evening when we ran into them at the nearby Indian restaurant that has become a central meeting point for all hungry rockers who play at Rock City.  Needless to say, the few instances we had to talk to Paul Laine, he was surprisingly in tune with us (his fans) and very receptive.  Considering the amount of people he surely meets when he tours, all the fans who approach him- hoping he remembers them from “that show” back in _____, it was humbling to see how well he remembered the few brief conversations he had with Risa and I, up to that point in the festival.  Truly, a Canadian rocker in all regards:  cool, humble, and modest.  And man, can he hit the bottle- but, that’s another story for another time.

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Paul Laine at Rockingham 2016

Paul Laine at Rockingham 2016

We ended up missing Fortune (US) and From The Fire (I’ve never listened to From The Fire much, despite several recommendations that I do.  I suppose one of the dudes making a modest pass in front of me at my girlfriend a day earlier, left me a little less interested in checking them out (although, I do tip my hat to the man for having the courage to reach so far above his league in doing so).

With only two major league artists left to go before the festival came to an end, we had to savor every last minute.

Pushing through to the front of the stage (just on the side, to the right) we had a great front-row view of the “behind the scenes” or rather, behind the curtain, of The Defiants setting up their set.  I recall Paul Laine mentioning to me a few hours earlier that he’s actually nervous.  I couldn’t believe it.  In my books, he’s one of Canada’s top hard rock singers.  Call me what you will, but I rank his voice up there with the likes of Harry Hess.  Sure, Harem Scarem may have sold a shitload of albums- but then again- so did Nickleback- so what?  While Harem Scarem are without doubt (or… were, at some point, many obi’s ago) Canada’s premiere AOR/hard rock back, I personally feel that Paul Laine’s Stick It In Your Ear CD is as good as Harem Scarem’s debut, or even, their more adventurous sophomore effort.  On a warm summer day, if I’m in a convertible next to my babe, 4 times out of 5, I’ll reach for Paul Laine’s CD and crank We are the Young, or, Dorianna in our car, rather than anything from Harem Scarem’s debut.  With that said, I couldn’t believe this legend, still felt nervous before a performance after all these years.  I suppose, it speaks to his respect and admiration for those die hards among us who continue to revere him, and his music.

In true hard rock fashion, a few hits of Jack Daniels (or, at least, it appeared as Jack from where we stood) took care of any stage fright, and the man was ready to serve us just what the doctor ordered as soon as the curtain fell.  Paul’s performance, energy and vocal prowess was one of the highlights of the entire festival.  The band had a fantastic set, consisting of a good portion of their debut album, along with several Danger Danger classics (Gone, Beat The Bullet, Grind), and two surprise (and very welcome) tracks from Paul Laine’s solo work:  Dorianna, and, We Are The Young (they killed it with that song… the place was in euphoria as soon as that opening riff sliced through the crowd).  Bruno, as expected, delivered plenty of comic relief in between tracks, always keeping the crowd entertained.  There’s little doubt, the man could have been a stand up comedian in another life.

Paul Laine of The Defiants (ex Danger Danger) rocking Rockingham, Oct. 2016.

Paul Laine of The Defiants (ex Danger Danger) rocking Rockingham, Oct. 2016.

Finally, the last performer of the evening, was legend Kevin Chalfant.  He delivered a fantastic set, consisting of classic tracks by The Storm, 707, The Vu, some of his solo work, and of course, a number of classic Journey tracks.  While the performance (and his vocals) were solid, I hate to be the one to state this…  after the massive performance by The Defiants, I felt it was a poor choice to have him go on stage after The Defiants.  While he no doubt is a bigger and more respected name in the scene, all things considered, he failed to rise to the same level as The Defiants in terms of his on stage performance.  I’m sure many will agree, that in retrospect, The Defiants would have been a far better choice to be the final, closing headliner for the festival.

That said, the entire festival was a delight to attend.  The turnout was surprisingly low, and during the entire four days there, I heard various theories on why (it appeared) that maybe a third of the crowd that attended Firefest 2014 in Nottingham, turned out.  However, the chance to meet so many fantastic people (Bernd (Germany), Bjorn (Norway), Mandie (Poland), Martin (Poland), Anna Poley (Poland), Johan N (Sweden), Janne Stark (Sweden), Andre (Australia), the Brazilian/Argentinian duo (you know who you are… I apologize for not recalling your names!), Hawk Lopez (Crown of Thorns), Paul Laine, and countless others).

I’ll be posting a video of our entire time there here within the next few days.

Cheers to everyone we met there, took the time to hang out and engage with us, and even check this article out!

PJ and Risa

Metal CDs with different cover art in Japan

Metal CDs with different cover art in Japan

There’s no doubt it: if you’re looking for the gold standard in CD and record collecting, nothing comes close to owning the original Japanese edition of your favorite album. There’s good reason why Japanese editions of readily available albums, have been demanding premium prices on auctions for decades. Try to sell a Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet 1986 CD edition issued in Europe or the U.S., and you’ll have have a hard time getting $5 for it.  Find the original 1986 Japanese edition (complete with OBI) and even ten times the rate of the U.S. edition would be deemed a bargain by many.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the many hard rock and heavy metal classics that have been released over the years in Japan with completely different cover art.


 

Stryper – To hell with the devil (1986, CBS-Sony records Japan, 32DP-579)

Depending on whom you ask, Stryper’s apex came in 1986, with the release of To Hell With The Devil. Production values that were years ahead of most bands at the time, combined with arguably their heaviest, most metallic riffs contrasted the glam image they featured during this period. The Japanese edition featured the original “angel cover”, and for many years commanded prices in the region of $300-500 for one complete with OBI. These days, one with obi still normally sells in the $200-400 range in Japan, while one without the obi strip can be picked up in Japan for as little as $30-50.

 

 


 

BON JOVI – Slippery When Wet (1986, Nippon Phonogram, 32PD-148)

The original Japanese edition of Bon Jovi’s legendary masterpiece, was issued in Japan with the cover originally intended by the band but in the generally hostile climate towards hard rock and heavy metal bands (remember Tipper?) in the mid 1980s, the band had to opt for a more generic cover outside of Japan. To this day, the original Japanese first edition, complete with OBI, generally moves in the $100+ range. Without OBI, it’s not difficult to pick up one for around $20-25 or so. It is worth noting, the Japanese 1986 edition kept the intro to Let It Rock as a separate track, leaving the incorrect impression of one extra track being included on the Japanese first edition. Additionally, there was a variation of this album issued in Japan on CD format with a “band” cover, in 1986, as shown below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

CRYSTAL BALL – In the beginning (1999, Toshiba EMI Japan, TOCP-65291)

One of the finer hard rock debuts that many who incorrectly assume the hard rock/glam scene of the 80s withered in the early 90s, was without doubt, Crystal Ball’s massive 1999 outing, “In the beginning”. Featuring massive gang backing harmony vocals on tracks like “Magic” and “Shake me” the release sold exceptionally well in Japan. The Japanese edition featured cover art unique to the Japanese pressing.

 

 

 

 


 

DIRTY RHYTHM – Hard as a rock
(1991, Alfa Brunette Japan, A
LCB-666)

If you’re reading this, there’s little chance you’re not familiar with Skid Row’s 1989 debut CD that spawned timeless anthems like Youth Gone Wild, 18 & Life, and I Remember You. However, there is a chance you’re not familiar with one of the best Skid Row clones out of Canada: Dirty Rhythm. The lead vocalist’s style was almost eerily similar to Sebastian Bach, as was the band’s in your face, attitude-driven brand of street hair metal. Not a single weak track blessed this (sadly) one and only release by the band. Japanese edition today is nearly impossible to find and on rare occasion one is found in Japan, it’s not uncommon for it to be sold domestically in the 20,000-30,000 yen range ($150-250) before even being showcased on any site outside of Japan.



FIREHOUSE – s/t
(1991, Epic Sony Japan, ESCA-5178)

Firehouse set the gold standard for hard rock debuts with this monster release. Loaded with (at the time) radio-friendly arena anthems like All She Wrote, Don’t Treat Me Bad, and Love Of A Lifetime, the Japanese issue of the CD featured a cool shot of the band, more fitting to the band’s name. Relatively easy to pick up from Japan via Kupiku, often for as little as $5 or so, complete with OBI.

 

 

 

 


 

EDWIN DARE – The Unthinkable Deed
(1991/1994, Teichiku Japan, TECX-25746)

Released in the U.S. as an indie, and issued properly in Japan on CD a few years later (1994) with fantastic cover art (and layout of the entire release), Edwin Dare’s debut stands as one of the top tier heavy metal releases of the early 90s. The band delivered a brand of melodic hard rock/metal fusion reserved only for giants like Leatherwolf, early Pretty Maids, and Marshall Law. If you consider Savatage’s finest hour to be a toss up between Power of the Night, or Hall of the Mountain King, and equally enjoy early Marshall Law, Metal Church, Radakka, early Leatherwolf, and Pretty Maids, this highly sought after masterpiece’s place in the scene cannot be overstated. An original Japanese issue with OBI, generally sells in the $150-200 range outside of Japan, but can occasionally be picked up in Japan for as little as $30-50 via Kupiku.

 


 

GUNS N’ ROSES – Appetite for Destruction
(1987/1990, Warner Pioneer Japan, WPCP-3690)

Contrary to popular belief, it was not the first edition from Japan that featured the controversial original cover, but actually the 1990 Japanese reissue. A complete CD, with OBI today generally sells in the $250-350 range outside of Japan, but can usually be purchased from Japanese sites directly via Kupiku in the $100-150 range depending on condition.

 

 

 


 

JADED HEART – Mystery Eyes (1997, Teichiku Japan, TECW-25622)

One of the most underrated genuine hard rock outfits to be born out of the ashes of the 80s L.A. glam scene, were Jaded Heart. Formed in Germany, and fronted by vocalist extraordinaire, Michael Borman, Jaded Heart’s fantastic Mystery Eyes CD was released in Japan with the following artwork exclusive to Japan.

 

 

 

 


 

CLIF MAGNESS – Solo (1995, Toshiba EMI Japan, TOCP-8538)

To be honest, neither the European, or the Japanese pressing of this AOR gem had cover art that would excite any AOR fanatic. However, the music contained is pure melodic hard rock heaven. Produced to perfection, fans of Planet 3, Stan Meissner (Undertow), Mark Free (solo work), and Michael Morales would (and do) find this CD an instant hit. The Japanese edition with different cover art is a hit and miss on Japanese shopping sites. However, with due dilligence, a Japanese copy with obi can sometimes be picked up for as little as $10-15 via Kupiku.com.

 

 


 

SKAGARACK – Hungry for a game
(1989, Victor Japan, VDP-1500)

Skagarack- a name as synonymous with quality European AOR in the 1980s, as Kodak was to photography in the same decade. The coveted Japanese issue of their second album came with with an exclusive cover design for the Japanese issue. Today, they can can found on Kupiku.com for as little as $20-30 (without obi). Copies with obi are exponentially harder to find. A general price range for this original issue with obi will clock in, at the 10,000-20,000 yen range ($80-160), and possibly more.

 

 


 

TOUR DE FORCE – World on Fire (1995, FEMS Japan, APCY-8283)

The mid 1990’s were arguably, the darkest period for melodic hard rock/AOR. And yet, one of the most authentic platters of summertime feel-good hard rock to come out of the once thriving U.S. scene, didn’t see the face of light, until 1995. While the band did issue a debut CD two years earlier, it was on this sophomore effort that they began firing on all cylinders. Luscious keyboards, massive backing vocals, and superb guitar riffs from start to finish render this one of the finer albums in AOR collections around the world. Japanese issue featured one studio bonus track, and far cooler artwork, both in the front and back of the CD. Considering it’s massive success in sales in Japan, the CD can easily be picked up from most Japanese vendors via Kupiku.com for as little as $3-5.


 

VAN HALEN – Balance (1993, Warner Japan, WPCR-110)

Only a minor variation renders this Van Halen classic appealing to collectors. The Japanese edition featured only one of the twins on the cover, as opposed to two, as shown on editions outside of Japan. A complete copy, with OBI strip can usually be found for just a few dollars on Japanese websites, and picked up via Kupiku.

 

 

 


CHINA – s/t (1988, Phonogram Japan, 32PD-459 )

China s/t CD JAPAN 32PD-459

Classic outing from the criminally overlooked, China.  Very tough to score on CD today, the original Japanese edition can still be picked up via Kupiku on occasion for around $50 or so.

 

 

 

 

 


DA VINCI – Back in business (1989, Zero Corporation Japan, XRCN-1049)

Da Vinci Back in Business CD Japan XRCN-1049

Top class Swedish hard rock, along the lines of Treat (Dreamhunter), Talk to the town (s/t), Skagarack, Bad Habit (Afterhours) and similar polished Scandi AOR classics.  Japanese edition featured a much cooler cover than the Norwegian pressing.  Worth noting is that their debut from 1987 also had different cover art (it can be found here).

 

 

 


GLORY – Balance (1989, Polystar Japan, P30Z-10003 )

Glory Danger in this game CD JAPAN P30Z-10003No introduction need for this top tier Swedish debut.  A cornerstone of every self respecting collector’s Swedish AOR/hard rock collection.

 

 

 

 

 


EASY ACTION – That makes one (1987/1994, Warner Japan, WMC5-679)

Easy Action That Makes One CD JAPAN WMC5-679

Classic outing by Sweden’s Easy Action, recorded in ’86/’87, just before Kee Marcello joined Europe.  Japanese edition featured different cover art and one bonus track.

 

 

 

 

 


JANSTATE – Shot to pieces (1993, Zero Corporation Japan, XRCN-1058)

Janstate Shot to pieces CD JAPAN XRCN-1058

Nowhere near as well known as most other contenders on this list, Janstate’s debut nevertheless continues to attract the attention of hard rock collectors around the world.  Japanese issue on the now legendary Zero label featured this, arguably much cooler, artwork than the import (non Japanese) indie edition.

 

 

 


JOKER – Joker (1991, Teichiku Japan, TECP-25726)JOKER s/t CD JAPAN TECP-25726

An absolute  monster of a release.  One of the finest hard rock outings to receive… virtually no recognition beyond the few elite/hard rock collectors today who own this.  These guys were on par with the finest and yet, even in the heyday of this music, remained virtually unknown.  Fans of Lillian Axe, Hurricane, Dirty Rhythm, and American Angel will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

 


ROXXI – Drive it to ya hard! (1992, Alfa Japan, ALCB-491)

Roxxi - Drive it to ya Hard! CD Japan ALCB-491

Street hair-metal at it’s finest.  If bad ass hard rock is your ticket to audio bliss (think Skid Row at their finest, Lillian Axe, and Joker… chances are you’ve either had this CD on your radar for years, or… already own it).

 

 

 

 


WILD BOYZ – Unleashed! (1992, Alfa Japan, ALCB-621)

Wild Boyz - Unleashed! ALCB-621 CD Japan

Nearly impossible to find today, Japanese edition of Wild Boyz s/t CD featured cover art as cool as their debut album itself.  You’ll be lucky to score an original these days in the $100-200 range.  But if you add this one to your Kupiku “Snipe List” (Coming Soon) and name your price… you might just snipe the next copy listed anywhere in Japan for the price you deem right.

 

 

 


TWILIGHTNING – Plague-house puppet show (2004, Universal Japan, UICO-1068 )

Twilightning - Plague-House Puppet Show CD JAPAN UICO-1068

It’s little surprise these guys were signed to one of the biggest record labels in Japan at the time.  Twilightning delivered one of the more outstanding melodic metal releases at the time, appealing to fans of top tier outfits like Serenity, At Vance, and even Circus Maximus.  Their Delirium Veil CD also had different cover art in the Japanese edition.

 

 

 

 


SLAUGHTER – Fear no evil (1995, Victor Japan, VICP-5538 )

SLAUGHTER Fear no evil CD JAPAN

Far too often overlooked, Slaugther’s third studio outing featured different cover art than the European and U.S. editions.  Of note, is their Revolution CD which also featured different cover art in Japan.

 

 

 

 


BRONZ – Taken by storm (1989, Teichiku Japan, 18DN-61 )

BRONZ Taken by storm CD JAPAN 18DN-61

Almost criminally overlooked (in the writing of this article).  An AOR masterpiece.  Without doubt one of the most coveted Japanese CD issues over the last 15-20 years or so.  While it has dropped significantly in value (today used ones can be picked up via Kupiku in the $100 range), it wasn’t unheard of for this bad boy to fetch prices in the $1000 range on eBay not long ago.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Did we miss any releases?  We’re sure we did.  Help us out in the comment section, and let us know which albums we missed.  We’ll be happy to add them to our list.

 

Special thank you to Josh Dowdle (U.S.A.) for helping out with this article.

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