Looking for rare Japanese items?
Forget eBay. Yahoo Japan is the promised land.
The following tutorial will show you how you can browse, bid, and buy items available on Yahoo Japan auctions- in English, and ship the items you win, to your home, anywhere on the planet.
For many years, Yahoo Japan auctions have been the most desired place for collectors all around the world to shop. Imagine: an online marketplace where thousands of Japanese shops, collectors and merchants offer millions of Japanese goods daily: at domestic Japanese prices (often a fraction of what those same items will sell for on eBay, or Amazon). Even the term ‘ebay Japan’ continues to be entered into Google Search on a daily basis, despite the fact there is no eBay Japan website.
Yahoo Japan auctions, by design, is a domestic market, intended for Japanese shoppers. There are a number of reasons why it remains generally off-limits to foreign buyers: the site is available only in Japanese. Item descriptions and titles are also mostly in Japanese. The overwhelming majority of merchants on Yahoo Japan will not ship to addresses outside Japan. As if that weren’t enough, payment methods acceptable on Yahoo Japan are generally methods only available within Japan (for example, domestic Japanese bank transfers). Paypal remains virtually unheard of in Japan and is used generally by a fringe number of Japanese merchants who sell on sites like eBay.
The difficulty most face in using this Japanese goldmine, remains an opportunity for the few with access. Thousands of rare, sought after Japanese products can be purchased on a daily basis for a fraction of their selling prices on eBay. Mind you, if you’re a CD collector, for example, you won’t find a Monro (self titled) CD a Mama’s Boys (Power and Passion) CD for $10 on Yahoo auctions. Many Japanese collectors are well aware of the value of some items. However, with that said: a record or CD that sells in the $400-500 range on eBay, will often be found in a range like $80-150 or so on Yahoo auctions. Sometimes, if you’re looking for something less obvious (off the radar of most collectors), the savings will be much bigger. Titles that regularly sell in the $50-100 range on eBay, can be found daily for as little as $10. When it comes to well known Japanese rarities, items that sell for a fortune on eBay, they will appear more often on Yahoo Japan auctions and sell for significantly less. All that’s required to find these gems, are a few simple tricks. No need to understand Japanese, just read the following tips carefully, and you’ll be well on your way to scoring one gem after another for a fraction of the prices you’re used to seeing them sell for on sites like eBay, or Amazon.
Searching for items on Yahoo Japan Auctions
(Searching in Japanese is key. Don’t worry, it’s easy to do.)
The easiest way to find a Yahoo Auction on Kupiku:
The simplest way to find a Yahoo Auction on Kupiku to bid on (and if successful, have Kupiku purchase the item for you on your behalf) is using the Yahoo Auction ID, found in every url of a Yahoo auction.
Take a look at a sample Yahoo auction URL:
Notice the special ‘code’ at the end of the url (right after the last ‘/’)? That is the auction ID. Simply copy and paste that part into the Kupiku product URL, as you see below (using the above example) and you’ll see that auction available for you to bid on, on Kupiku:
https://www.kupiku.com/en/product/ + h3128255555
The above link would now take you to the corresponding auction, making it possible for you to bid on the item via Kupiku.
The most challenging part of using Yahoo Japan auctions, is the search. Remember: when you’re browsing Japanese auctions, you’re essentially inside a massive shopping center in the middle of Japan. Now image being inside a massive shopping complex in the heart of Tokyo. Everything will be in Japanese. The ads, the product sections, the artist sections in music stores, the author categories in book shops, the signs in the windows.
Now think about what you see on the spine (side) of a Japanese book, CD, or video game: you see Japanese text. If you try to find a Rolling Stones record in a music shop in Japan, you won’t find much if you look for the exact text ‘rolling stones’. But you will find plenty, if you search for ‘ザ・ローリング・ストーンズ’ (The Rolling Stones, written in Japanese).
Thus, to find the items you’re looking for, it is vital to use the correct Japanese translation when searching Japanese auctions.
We provide a Google translate tool in our Search settings. However, as with many Google translations, their reliability has it’s limits. If Google gets even one or two characters wrong in the translation, it will be like searching eBay for ‘rlling stons’ instead of ‘rolling stones’. Don’t worry, there’s an easy way to find the Japanese text for an artist, author, or title of a product.
Let’s say you’re looking for Michael Jackson related auctions. Go to Amazon Japan, and type ‘michael jackson’ into the search bar. You’ll see a number of results- some of them showing the artist field as ‘Michael Jackson’ and some, showing the artist in Japanese:
Now simply select and copy the Japanese artist field, and use that to perform your search. Entering ‘ マイケル・ジャクソン’ (Michael Jackson in Japanese) will show you results for all Michael Jackson related auctions:
Michael Jackson items on Yahoo Japan
More experienced users, may try to search for items using their barcode, product code, or catalog number. Unfortunately, on Yahoo Japan auctions, this method seldom works, as searches on Yahoo auctions are executed only on the auction title (sellers on Yahoo auctions seldom include barcodes or catalog numbers in the auction title). However, if your search is more general, for example, you’re looking for all CDs issued in the 32DP series, then a search for ‘32dp‘ may bring up a number of valid results. If you’re seeking all Playstation games, you may try a general search like ‘SLPM” or “SLPS” (partial catalog numbers).
Yahoo Auctions vs. Buy It Now Items
There are two types of listings on Yahoo Japan auctions. If you’re an eBay veteran, you’ll be familiar with these:
Auctions, like on eBay, will require for you to place the highest bid, before the time runs out, in order for you to win the auction.
Buy It Now, are items you can win instantly by clicking on the Buy Now button:
Buy It Now items can be purchased immediately on Kupiku. Bids on auctions however, will require sufficient balance in your Gift Certificate on Kupiku to be placed. Read more on bidding requirements in the next section.
What do I need to place a bid?
In order to place a bid on an auction via our service, you will need to have sufficient credit in your Gift Certificate account. When you place bids on auctions like eBay, you are required to pay that bid, only once the auction closes, and if you are the winning bidder. However, when you bid on auctions with Kupiku, we place the bid on your behalf on the Yahoo Japan auction. Once a bid is placed, we are unable to retract it. For this reason, we simply place a hold on the bid amount in your Gift Certificate balance. This ensures, in the case of a successful bid, you will have sufficient funds in your Gift Certificate to pay for the winning bid. If you become outbid by another bidder, the hold is automatically released and the amount previously reserved becomes available for you to use in other auctions or towards any purchases at Kupiku.com. If you win the auction, the amount reserved for your bid will be used to pay for the winning auction. In the case of a successful bid, you will receive an email informing you of the successful bid, and you will then be able to select and pay for your preferred shipping method.
You are welcome to estimate your shipping costs well in advance, using the shipping fee calculator on any auction page:
International Shipping Yahoo Japan Auctions
We place a small amount of your Gift Certificate on reserve, to ensure that in the event of a successful bid, you will have sufficient balance available to pay for the required shipping costs. For example, if you purchase a $100 Gift Certificate and intend to use it to place several bids on auctions, approx. $20 or so of the Certificate will be reserved to cover shipping costs should you win any auctions. Don’t worry: the amount is reserved only while you have active bids on auctions. You are welcome to use your entire Gift Certificate balance any other time to place orders from other sites we serve (Amazon Japan, for example).
What do I need to buy a “Buy It Now” listing?
If you already have a Kupiku.com account, simply click the Buy It Now button, and proceed to checkout. At checkout, you will first pay for the auction only (shipping costs are paid later) and receive a confirmation email with your order details. Shortly afterwards, you will receive a a second email, with your shipping options. Once you select your shipping service, your order will processed by our team, and will be shipped a few days later.
After you win an auction
You will receive an email confirmation, informing you of your successful bid. For your convenience, payment will automatically be remitted from your Gift Certificate (the amount placed on hold when you submitted your bid, will simply be used to pay for the bid). Our team will proceed to check the weight of the item you ordered, following which you will receive a second email with your shipping options. As soon as you select and pay for your desired shipping option, your order will be processed. Generally it only takes a few days for your winning item to reach our shipping department in Japan (centrally located in the greater Tokyo area), following which your order will be packaged safely, and dispatched to your address. Delivery times vary based on your location and selected shipping method, but usually range between a few days up to around 4 weeks for some countries.
Ready to dive into the world of Japanese auctions in English?
It all starts at Kupiku.com.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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
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
Now enter this barcode into the search box at Kupiku.com:
Click on “Search Japan” and watch the magic unfold.
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 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.
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:
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):
Now check out the results:
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).
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:
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.
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.