Interested in a quick & easy way to find a daily-updated list of all upcoming new Japanese CD & Vinyl releases? Read on. The quick tutorial below will help you find virtually every Japanese CD & Vinyl new release scheduled for release in the coming days, weeks, and months, and provide you with an easy way to pre-order them- even if you live outside of Japan.
First, visit this Amazon Japan page. It shows 1000s of Japanese CD and Vinyl new releases as they are announced in Japan. This list is updated daily.
Once there, scroll down to see the filter below on the left:
Click on any of those filters to browse Japanese CDs & Records about to be (or already) released in Japan.
Once you find a Japanese CD or Vinyl record you’d like, placing an order for it can be done via Kupiku.com. Keeping in mind, the majority of Japanese items offered on Japanese websites like Amazon Japan, do not offer service to customers living outside of Japan. This is where Kupiku.com comes in very handy.
Click on any item you’re interested in. Let’s say it’s this CD.
Next, find the item’s ASIN (it’s a unique code that identifies the item: it’s 10 alpha-numeric characters long, starts with the letter “B” and looks something like this: B000E1KN70 )
There are two ways to find it. You can either locate it within the item’s URL, or scroll down on the item page, and look under Product Details.
Take the ASIN (let’s say we’ll work with B000E1KN70), and either place it into the search bar at www.kupiku.com, or, if you’re feeling bold, simply put the ASIN right into a Kupiku.com item url.
Here’s a random product page on Kupiku.com:
See that “ASIN” in the URL above? Just replace the one you see, with the ASIN of the item you want (let’s say B000E1KN70) to get:
…and now you can order (or pre-order) virtually any item released in Japan.
You can use this method to order virtually any item available on Amazon Japan, for a price similar to what you’d pay in Japan.
Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment, and we’ll be happy to follow-up as soon as we’re done going through the latest box of Japanese CDs we’ve just received. 🙂
Think of that cool Japanese CD you recently picked up online.
You could have picked it up for an estimated 60-80% less.
In fact, if you look at nearly every Japanese CD you have in your home that you purchased on eBay, Amazon.com, Discogs, or other re-seller sites, you could have those for a fraction of the price you paid.
If you physically walked into a store in Tokyo or Osaka.
Ok… well, maybe not that simple.
But, the reality is, most Japanese CDs you buy online today, are offered to you at a significant markup. The price you see for Japanese CDs on eBay for example, will usually include a lot of man-in-the-middle costs in the price: eBay fees alone, depending on a seller’s business model, take up anywhere from 15 to about 50% of a seller’s revenue from a sale. That- is a cost you are paying- it’s included in the price of the CD. Then, there are Paypal fees the seller also must account for, when pricing their items. This is all before we even consider their profit margin which, in most cases, will be at the very least, 20-30% and often as high as 200-300% (a CD which cost them $10 in Japan, they may sell for $60-70).
There are a number of other costs, fees, and adjustments that go into the price of a Japanese product offered on a re-seller site.
Until now, the only way to bypass all these costs and pick up those beautiful Japanese products, was to actually fly to Japan, and engage in the shopping spree of your life. Mind you, once you figure in the cost of flights to Tokyo, the surreal cost of hotels in Japan, and even basic costs like dining in Tokyo, this option may not seem all that practical.
However, a recently launched online service now enables you to do just that-access the domestic Japanese marketplace, from the comfort of your own home. We’re not talking about access to vendors based in Japan who are offering their goods on eBay. Those are re-sellers, and we’ve just covered the no longer necessary additional costs you incur when you purchase from them. We are however talking about giving you access directly to local vendors in Japan- offering their items to people living in Japan. Thereby, giving you access to the same prices you’d see if you lived in Japan.
Mind you, there is always a catch.
Imagine walking into a record or book store in Japan.
If your first instinct would be to try to look for a George Harrison record, in the “George Harrison” section, you’d be out of luck. Why? Well, you’re in Japan. There will not be a George Harrison section. There will however be a ジョージ・ハリスン section (that is, George Harrison, written in Japanese). Similarly, (we hope) you wouldn’t approach a store clerk and begin a conversation in your own language (be it Chinese, Russian, English, German or other) asking them where you can find a certain item. As you’re in Japan, everything will generally be in Japanese.
Kupiku.com however, has invested extensively in making it easier to find Japanese CDs and other products on Japanese marketplaces, without the knowledge of Japanese language. Kupiku provides live chat support in English: their staff will be happy to instantly provide you a link to any items you’re seeking (just like finding a clerk in a shop in Tokyo who speak English, and would point you to the section of the store you’re looking for). Additionally, while searching for Japanese items using Roman characters (English text, for example) will have very limited results, there are a number of effective methods one can use to find virtually any Japanese product, without knowing it’s Japanese name: if searching for a record, CD, DVD, Video Game, or similar media products- try searching using the catalog number, or barcode (known also as the UPC/EAN/JAN), or even- the ASIN, if you know it.
Ultimately, it simply no longer makes sense to continue paying two or three times more than you need to for Japanese CDs or other products by using re-seller websites, when you can access the same prices you would if you lived in Japan (and an exponentially larger selection) via Kupiku.com. Buying direct, simply makes more sense.
1. Not all Japanese CDs are issued with an obi
Despite the obvious benefits that are often part of Japanese issued CDs (bonus tracks, more content in booklets, superior quality of the pressing, stickers, additional booklets, posters, and other goodies), it’s the coveted OBI strip that often creates most demand for a used copy of a Japanese CD. However, contrary to popular belief, not all CDs in Japan are issued with OBI strips. A small percentage of Japanese pressed CDs, were in fact pressed without OBIs. Some of the earliest CDs pressed in Japan by Toshiba-EMI (part of their CP35 catalog series) had a golden round sticker placed on the seal, instead of the traditional paper obi strip seen on most CP35 issues. Earliest pressings of Sheena Easton’s Take my time CD (CP35-3058) are an example. Additionally, many digipak pressings, as well as ‘slipcase’ pressings, did not come with an obi strip. Some examples include Yngwie Malmsteen’s Fire & Ice CD issued in Japan, and several Arch Enemy titles. In many instances where a CD was housed inside a ‘slip case’ (with an additional booklet placed on top of the jewel case, then all housed in a slipcase), an OBI was not placed around the slipcase.
2. Not all new Japanese cds are factory sealed
Here’s a point of contention that has led to some unpleasant results on eBay over the years. The factory seal present in most Japanese CDs when they are new (at least, those that were issued in a standard plastic jewel case) is an easy way to know you’ve picked up an original, factory sealed CD from Japan. But, what happens when the CD you receive, arrives in a re-sealable plastic sleeve? Is it possible that a Japanese label would release a CD, new, enclosed only in a re-sealable sleeve? Absolutely. In fact, virtually all Mini LP (MLPS/Paper jacket) style CDs released in Japan, come in a re-sealable sleeve when they are new. The reason for this is simple: if a hard seal would be imposed on a paper sleeve CD, the corners of the jacket would soon begin to cave, and despite being new- the CD would soon feature damage to the sleeve, caused by the tight seal. To remedy this, most labels in Japan, release their mini lp CDs inside resealable sleeves. To be sure the CD you are purchasing is in fact new, it is recommended to purchase from reliable, established vendors in Japan.
3. There are often two dates on Japanese CDs
If you take a look at the back of most Japanese CDs (or the OBI strip) you’ll often see two dates- and in most cases, they will be exactly two years apart. The first date, designated the date this particular edition was released in Japan (the day it appeared on store shelves). The second date, is the date on which new/sealed copies, can have a reduction in price. To put it simply: no store in Japan, can offer a sealed copy of that CD, for a price lower than the sticker price. It is a regulation put in place in the interest of fair competition.
4. Bootlegs, counterfeits, and fakes
There are loads upon loads of bootleg/counterfeit editions of Japanese cds out there today, littering eBay, preying on unsuspecting buyers who just can’t pass up those ‘too good to be true deals. Most of these cost less than a dollar to manufacture and deliver to the vendor. You might be doing the music scene a greater service by simply downloading the album instead. Whether you download or buy a knockoff, the artist still doesn’t get paid. But at least with a download, you’re not funding a piracy ring.
- The amount of errors and general inconsistencies on this Russian counterfeit (ranging from grammar, to the use of components in OBI design that have been prohibited by Japanese law in 1988) are sufficient in numbers to write an entire article about.
5. “Made in Japan” isn’t always made in Japan
Another common misconception among sellers and buyers alike, of early Japanese pressings, can be found in relation to early European and U.S. CD pressings. You will see something like “Printed in West Germany” or “Printed in U.S.A.” on the inserts, but, “Made in Japan” on the disc. The reference to Japan in this case, does not designate a Japanese pressing (as much as vendors who found that Bruce Springsteen CD with a catalog number that looks something like 808 432-2 to be a Japanese edition). Due to the fact the CD technology was originally developed by Phillips and Sony Japan, a large portion of all compact discs were manufactured in Japan in the early 1980s. Discs were the distributed to other parts of the world, where labels would print inserts, and content on the face of the discs, and distribute as their own domestic pressings.
As the discs themselves however were “Made in Japan”, and correctly noted as such, some incorrectly denote such early pressings as Japanese pressings, when in fact they are domestic (U.S. or European) pressings, that simply used a component (the compact disc) that was made in Japan. To illustrate this another way: there are some indie labels in Japan that do not press or manufacture their own CDs. Instead, they will import European pressings of CDs, then simply print a Japanese liner sheet, add an OBI, seal the CD, and sell it domestically in Japan. The CD thus, is simply a U.S., or European edition, with an OBI strip and lyric poster added for the Japanese fans. Such CDs are properly advertised in Japan as “Imports”, not as domestic Japanese editions, based on the fact they are not domestically produced products in Japan.
6. Japanese CDs however, are made in Japan
Compact Discs are among the last few technologies the Japanese still proudly make in Japan. Much else bearing recognized Japanese brand names is now made in China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and other parts of the world. After all, the reasoning is simple: why pay 3000 yen per hour to a worker in Japan, when similar work, under supervision of Japanese plant managers abroad, can be done for 300 yen per hour, or less. When it comes to music however, Japanese collectors simply have too much pride to purchase what they deem inferior products and as a result, Japanese labels continue ensuring manufacturing of CDs continues in Japan, meeting the strictest Japanese audiophile quality standards.
7. CDs were intended to be replaced in 1992
…by the new MiniDisc format. And, at least in Japan, where new tech is always embraced (at least for a moment), the attempt was met with relative success. In September of 1992, Sony had announced the sale of it’s first MiniDisc players in Japan, and parts of Europe. For a number of reasons (price, being one of them, and the rapid decline in cost of CD-Rs- something Sony had originally bet against) the technology failed to pick up. During the early/mid 90s, a limited number of albums were released in Japan on the MiniDisc format. These days, Japanese MiniDisc releases are as sought after as the top pieces in the CD format. Try finding Michael Jackson’s Thriller Japanese MiniDisc, and see what it may set you back. The same goes for most albums released in Japan on this short-lived format. While few still own MiniDisc players, original albums released on this format in Japan are a prized commodity very few collectors can boast ownership of.
8. CD Babies?
Some interesting spin-off technologies were born from the massive success of the Compact Disc. Among those, the best known of course is the DVD. However, not to be forgotten are LaserDiscs, which, despite their iron-man targeted weight, were quite successful in Japan and among cinema-philes world-wide. While Betamax, and VHS cassettes ruled the home video market in the 80s and early 90s, those who preferred digital quality, opted in for the Laser Disc technology. To this day, there are many releases (movies, concerts, and music-related releases) that had never been re-issued and thus are available only on LaserDisc. Another interesting CD technology in Japan include the coveted 8cm CD Singles, and VHD (launched in Japan in 1983 (and defunct since 1986- but remain highly collectible especially in Japan), and of course the Mini Discs.
CRIMSON GLORY Dream Dancer CD Japan Single 8cm MP10-1
9. Can’t write in Japanese? Might be a problem.
Japanese, domestic released CDs are indexed on Japanese websites in Japanese text. This is a standard, shining light on the most common mistake (or hurdle) people who cannot read & write in Japanese face when digging deep for Japanese rarities on CD: if a search is performed in Roman characters- Japanese websites will only show results of import (non Japanese editions). The distinction has been in place since the earliest days of the web: Japanese issued records and CDs had their titles written in Japanese text, while import editions in Roman characters. Searching for a Metallica CD on Amazon Japan? Type in “metallica” and 90% of the results will be non-Japanese issues. Enter メタリカ instead, and suddenly, 90% of the results will be domestic Japanese issues. If you want to find that ultra rare gem on a Japanese site for a fraction of what those unfamiliar with these tricks will pay on eBay- master some of these tricks and you’ll never pay more than you need to for a Japanese product again.
10. Many ‘first pressings’ aren’t first pressings
An interesting tidbit about Japanese first pressings that many overlooked, is the distinction between the true first editions, and more common later runs. If we look at a given Japanese CD based solely on it’s catalog number (for example, Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son Of a Seventh Son, catalog CP32-5610) and look at the the OBI on two CDs which both have the same catalog number (CP32-5610) with very little if any distinctions- we can see one notable difference: the price.
Second run of the first pressing. Notice the price on the bottom of obi.
True first edition. Notice the 3,200 Yen price on obi.
The reason for the discrepancy in price is actually unintentional. In 1988, the authorities in Japan introduced a new tax system in Japan which forced companies to display the pre-tax and post-tax price of products. Thus, any CDs that were in-print during this transitional phase, gave collectors an incidental method to determine the earliest run of a CD pressed during the mid/late 80s. Let’s say a given CD was ‘in print’ from 1986 until 1989. Under normal circumstances, there would be no difference between a CD you’d pick up in 1986, and one you’d pick up in 1989 (aside possibly from the matrix codes on the inner ring of the disc, which simply specify the pressing plant that particular disc was made at, among a few other details that only the most ‘elite’ purists out there show interest in). However, due to the tax regulation changes in Japan in 1988, CDs which were in-print during this time, suddenly had to change the design of their inserts, and OBI, to now reflect the pre-tax and post-tax price (in case of a CP32 CD, the price would be 3,008 yen pre-tax, and 3,200 yen post tax). Of course, CDs that were released in 1989, after this regulation was imposed, could no longer be differentiated using this method as, all CDs would have a pre-tax and post-tax price. This ‘trick’ works only for CDs which were released before 1988, and continued to be in print throughout 1988. If your CD has a price of 3,200 yen on the inserts or OBI, it’s a true first edition.
(Bonus Tracks for Japan Only)
11. What’s in a name (or a catalog number)?
In line with the meticulous organizational prowess of the Japanese, catalog numbers in Japan (at least, as adopted by most labels in the 1980s) each had a story to tell. To some, a catalog number prefix like, CP32, or, 35DP, or TOCJ, may have little meaning. However, the catalog number system used by most labels had very specific design which served a purpose. During the 1980s, and until the turn of the decade, most labels included the price of the CD in the catalog number. For example, notice something about these:
35DP (CBS Sony Japan issues from 1982-1984)
32DP (CBS Sony Japan issues from 1985-1988)
CP35 (Toshiba EMI Japan issues from 1983-1984)
CP32 (Toshiba EMI Japan issues from 1985-1988)
The numbers in the first part of the catalog number (for example, CP35-3017) would designate the price: 3,500 yen (alas CP35).
The character “C” in the case of Toshiba EMI’s catalog numbers (CP series) stood for “Compact Disc” while “P” stood for Popular (Pop Music).
You may have seen CDs issued by Toshiba EMI with a catalog number like CC38-xxxx for example. This would mean the CD originally cost 3,800 yen, and was part of Toshiba EMI’s “CD” catalog, in the “Classical” genre.
CBS Sony Japan, used a similar system: 35DP for example, designated “3500” yen (price), the letter “D” denoted “Digital” format (CD), while “P” again stood for Pop.
Different record labels used different structures for catalog numbers, but they all followed a similar pattern: price of the CD, genre, and format (remember, the catalog number would often be found in catalogs, where simply looking at the catalog number would need to verify the format of the recording (Vinyl, CD, Cassette, etc).
By the early 1990s these patterns begun to disappear, as CD prices began to fluctuate significantly. A CD issued by BMG-Victor in 1987, might have a catalog number starting with R32P (R = RCA, 32=3,200 yen, P=Pop) however, by the early 90s, the catalog number structure would show a catalog number like BVCP: no longer any mention of price.
Other notable designations included genre-specific designations. For example, TOCJ, designated Toshiba EMI Japan’s highly prized Jazz series (TO = Toshiba, C = CD, J = Jazz). VDJ, designated Victor Japan’s early/mid 1980s Jazz series.
12. Understanding the Japanese calendar system.
While the calendar system used by most western countries is considered to be the global standard, it is far from being the only calendar system used around the world. While Japan has, for the most part, adopted the calendar system used in Europe, they do still use their original calendar system based around what are known as ‘periods’ or ‘eras’. Heisei (平成) is the current era in Japan. The Heisei era started on 8 January 1989, the day after the death of the Emperor Hirohito. In Compact Disc production, during the 1980s, until 1991, an alphabetical letter was generally used to indicate the year a CD was printed/manufactured.
1984 / N
1985 / I
1986 / H
1987 / O
1988 / R
1989 / E
1990 / C
1991 / D
Thus, when looking at the back of a CD issued during this period (or the OBI strip), one can determine the date of issue by using the chart above.
Comments? Suggestions for our next article? Winning lottery numbers? Leave a message in the comments section below.
Special Thank You to Josh Dowdle for assisting with this article.
JAPAN 1ST PRESS CDs
Are they worth the hype (and the nose-bleed prices)?
By now, everyone has seen it: a CD you can pick up at your local pawnshop for a couple of dollars, fetching several hundred dollars on eBay.
The only difference (at least, at first glance) between the CD on eBay and the one in that pawnshop- is where they were made. One was made twenty years ago in a CD pressing plant in Michigan, in the U.S. (a plant that has probably since been converted to a Wal-Mart parking lot) while the other CD was pressed in Japan.
So why would anyone in their right mind, pay for $200… $500… or even $1000 for a CD, which at face value, one might think is available for $10 from Amazon?
Someone once wrote: All CDs are made equal, but some CDs are less equal than others. This holds true not only when referring to CDs,
Over the last decade or so, there has been a significant increase in counterfeit CDs offered online. One need only take a look on eBay to take in a sea of $10-20 “Japanese” editions (or “Special Fan Club Reissues” or “Limited Edition Private Pressings”) of CDs which cannot be found in Japan for under $100. Yet, miraculously, a vendor in say- Latvia, just happens to have 20 copies of the CD- still sealed. The fact there are bootleggers making significant profit off counterfeit CDs ought to be of no surprise.
After-all ‘fool’s gold’ is as old as gold itself.
What is however surprising, is the amount of people who are either ignorant of the facts, or simply don’t care about purchasing cheap knockoffs (worth in actuality around $1 per piece: the cost to print, and ship them in bulk).
It is this the proliferation and dilution of the collector’s market with counterfeit CDs, that has led to a reinforced interest by collectors to seek out the most coveted editions of CDs on the market: the original Japan 1st press editions.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, a person seeking out an original Japanese 1st press CD is not merely ‘looking for the music’. Most, if not all CDs issued by CBS Sony Japan, or Toshiba EMI, in the early 1980s for example, have long since been reissued, remastered, and then reissued again a dozen times. If it were strictly about ‘getting the music’, demand for Japanese 1st pressings would be minimal. Clearly, it isn’t just about the music.
The continued interest in Japanese first press CDs demonstrates two things:
First- that collecting is fun. Despite new technologies being introduced (daily it seems), nothing beats holding a CD, a record, a comic book, a DVD, or really- any collectible item in your hand. No digital file on your mp3 player can match the feeling of finding an original CD in a pawnshop, or receiving it in a package that traveled across the globe to reach you.
Secondly, collecting is more fun, when you don’t have to worry that a possible re-issue (or bootleg) may drive the price down of what you’ve just picked up. While many import (non Japanese) CDs have dropped significantly in price over the years (on the heels, primarily of reissues and bootlegs flooding the market), Japanese first pressings, have continued to rise steadily in value and demand while supply naturally diminishes. There are countless CDs- even those issued on relatively large labels merely a few years ago, which today cannot be picked up (even locally in Japan) for under $50-100. Try finding the first W.E.T. (Jeff Scott Soto) CD with OBI, for under $50. Or, Balance’s Equilibrium CD (issued in 2009 on King Records).
Original Japanese 1st pressings have very little (if any) variance in value with subsequent reissues. An original Japanese 1st press CD of any King Crimson, Pink Floyd, or even, Pet Shop Boys CD, will experience no demonstrable shift in market value, despite the fact all their CDs are reissues in Japan (it seems) every year with new extras. A Japanese 1st press CD, will always be the original true first edition. A true, genuine, first edition cannot be replicated. Sure, some attempt to create knockoffs of these as well. But, until the bootleggers gain access to micro-molecular technology, and will find a way to replicate aging in a product that can pass carbon testing, 1st pressings will remain the safest investment in any music collection. Take any CD printed in 1987 for example, and hold it next to a replica, printed a few months ago. It doesn’t matter if the matrix codes are identical, the artwork is spot on, and every other component looks the same. One thing that simply cannot be replicated- the greatest barrier (and protector) of the collector’s scene, is natural aging of a CD. Even if you own a say, the original Stryper To Hell With The Devil Japan CD 32DP-579 pressing from Japan, issued in 1986. If someone were to print up a counterfeit copy of that original Japanese pressing, a collector will be able to determine the natural aging on the original: the ‘feel’ that a 30+ year old record or CD has, vs. something that was just printed in a basement somewhere in Eastern Europe, or possibly the Nevada desert.
Until technology that can replicate aging in a physical object will become available to the public (I don’t see this happening in our lifetime), Japanese 1st Pressings (and in fact, first editions of anything: books, records, CDs, cars, vintage wines, coins…) will remain the most attractive editions to own. They sound better, they look fantastic in any collection, they’re the envy of other collectors, and from a financial point of view – the last thing you’ll need to worry about is how many times a new label has reissued the album with a bonus track ripped from YouTube, and an all new re-designed 1 page booklet.
A look back.
Looking back at the early 1980s, the infancy stage for the compact disc, the technology was exciting, especially here in Japan, where national pride, stood behind this fantastic new technology (it was, after all, a Japanese technology that unveiled the compact disc to the world in 1978). The first CDs sold publicly, in October of 1982 in Tokyo (starting with 35DP-1, Billy Joel‘s “52nd Street” issued by CBS/Sony in Japan) were a source of pride among Japanese audiophiles. It follows naturally, that a great deal of care, pride, and craftsmanship went into- especially- the first few years of CDs issued in Japan. It’s easy to detect this when holding a 32DP series disc from Japan for example, vs. a reissue from 10-20 years later. There’s a world of a difference, even in how the product feels in your hand. The originals were made from higher quality materials, whereas reissues, despite lofty claims to the contrary, often felt and looked like cheaper grade products. While the sound- some may say is better on reissues or re-masters, many audiophiles disagree. All the new digital techniques, compressions, and studio tricks deliver a very different dynamic than that of Japanese studios in the 1980s.
While Japanese 1st pressings (especially, when the OBI is still present) are generally quite expensive, there is a way to significantly decrease their cost. If you’re familiar with Kupiku, you already know where this is headed: you can use Kupiku’s shopping service to pick up Japanese 1st pressings directly from vendors in Japan. No, not the handful of Japanese vendors you see on eBay, Discogs or Amazon. Those are re-sellers. They buy CDs and records in Japan at local prices, and re-sell at a markup to you (you’ll pay the original price that re-seller paid at a local shop in Japan, plus their eBay/Paypal fees (it’s all in the price) plus a hefty markup to make it all worth their time). This is the very reason Kupiku was conceived not long ago: to enable anyone to access those local prices in Japan, without the need to fly there. Skip the middle-men and buy direct. Pay local prices and ship anywhere.
Try some of these recommended searches for direct access to sought after Japanese 1st press CDs, available to you via Kupiku.com.
CBS/Sony (35DP, 32DP, 28DP, 50DP, 25DP)
Toshiba EMI (CP35, CP32, CP28, CP25)
Warner-Pioneer (50XD, 43XD, 38XD, 35XD, 32XD, 25P2, 22P2, 18P2, 43P2 (24k Gold Discs))
Toy’s Factory (Late 80s/early 90s label specializing in metal): TFCK
Victor (VDP, VDJ)
King Records (K32X, K32P)
Nippon Phonogram (33PD, 32PD)
Canyon (later Pony Canyon) D35Y, D32Y, D25Y, PCCY–
Polydor (P35D, P32P, P28P)
The above should get you started on tying up loose ends in your collection in regards to Japanese 1st press CDs. Leave a comment below if there are any articles you’d like to see, or if you have any questions or suggestions for our team.
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.
Resealable Japanese CD sleeves (100 per package)
(Set of 1000 available here)
Package of 100 resealable CD sleeves for Japanese CDs
Package of 100 non-resealable CD sleeves.
MINI LP / Papersleeve CDs
Package of 20 CD sleeves for mini lp CDs.
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.
CD Singles (slim case)
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 (by Disk Union)
OPP Resealable sleeves for DVDs
OPP Resealable bags for DVDs
Set of 1,000 available here.
Resealable OPP Bags for DVDs
OPP Resealable sleeves for LPs / Vinyl
Set of 10 protective vinyl sleeves.
Resealable Vinyl Plastic Protective Sleeves from Japan (Set of 50)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Muriel Dacq L’enfer a L’envers CD 8cm Single Japan CD3 CSDS-8139
Muriel Dacq L’enfer a L’envers CD 8cm Single Japan CD3 CSDS-8139
Muriel Dacq L’enfer a L’envers CD 8cm Single Japan CD3 CSDS-8139
Madonna Oh Father CD Single Japan 09P3-6206
Diana Ross When You Tell Me That You Love me CD Single TODP-2363
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
The Rolling Stones Black and Blue CD Japan 32DP-605 original 1st Pressing.
The Rolling Stones Black And Blue CD Japan 1ST PRESS 1986 32DP-605
The Rolling Stones Black And Blue CD Japan 1ST PRESS 1986 32DP-605
The Rolling Stones Black And Blue CD Japan 1ST PRESS 1986 32DP-605
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
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.