DiskUnion, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Record shopping in TokyoVince Kelly
I have fantasised about going to Tokyo for such a long time so to get the chance to go there was a dream come true for me. I did as much research/googling as possible online before going out to Japan but to be honest there really isn’t a lot of useful info available on the wonder web. Any info I found online was either out of date or referred to twee records – not much good if you’re a ambientdubtechnofiend like me! I talked to the boys in Eastern Bloc in Manchester before I went and they gave me a few tips which were useful but I really had no idea what to expect.
I was very lucky to find myself booked into a plush hotel in the Yotsuya, Shinjuku area, for as far as I’m concerned you cannot beat this area of Tokyo for culture, shops, food, and DISK UNION – yes it’s worth shouting about, because it’s the best record shopping experience I have had (anywhere) in more than 30 years of collecting records. I mainly stayed around the Shinjuku area because it was so good but did venture out later to explore the different areas of Tokyo via the underground system, worth doing just to have an amazing day out.
Disk Union itself was established back in 1973, and seems to be a sprawling network of a Japanese chain store specialising in second hand vinyl, with a really tall narrow store over some five floors (see the main picture) and several other shops close by – check out the store’s own map: http://diskunion.net/st/shop/e_index.html 
The best thing about Disk Union is that they catered for all tastes, so I picked up fantastic finds such as: Earth – Legacy Of Dissolution, Oracy – Rewound, Monolake – Atlas (T++ Remix), all shown below, and more (plus some Japanese rock vinyl for Simon because I knew he would like them – it turned out he’d designed the sleeve for one, though he hadn’t seen the Japanese edition!).
After work, I spent about three days of my own time doing areas of the Disk Union experience and wasn’t until the last day I tried the Soul/Funk/Jazz basement. I’m not exaggerating; I really for the first time in my life forgot how to breath, I was so overwhelmed by what I found. I don’t know about you but I frequently have dreams about going in a record shop and finding everything I would hope to find in the racks. It really was my dream come true! I totally wigged out and went into some kind of record-shopping seizure. Every Sun Ra record, funk record and northern/modern soul obscurity was there in the racks, ready to be frottaged by your grubby mitts  (Frottage? I would interpret this as ‘record collector rubbing records’, just to avoid any confusion!). Guess what, I walked out of the record shop in a daze without buying anything because I was so blown away by the stock.
Tokyo is a great place for a holiday but to be honest I could have spent the whole time in the record shops because they were so good. I did get the impression that all the good stuff has been bought up by Japanese buyers in the UK and USA and shipped back out to Japan. I would love to go back with friends for a holiday because I just kept thinking about how much they would have also enjoyed the experience.  Toodle Pip.

DiskUnion by day...


DiskUnion by night...


Bringing up new stock from the basement...


Vince Kelly was the driving force behind the wonderful exhibition of Easy Listening album art we did some years ago at the art gallery in Blackpool.

7 Responses to DiskUnion, Shinjuku, Tokyo

  1. Vincent Kelly says:

    That’s driving in 98 degree centigrade heat in a hopefully now air-conditioned art gallery

  2. Derek Sein says:

    Only had great days in this shop, they have a lot of interesting stuffs about japanese new wave and techno co-yo and the people are friendly

  3. Mark Maddock says:

    Only had one day and was a little a) pleased I even found the place! Japanese street numbering is seemingly based on the age of the building so number 1 can be next to number 88 and cetera and b) the 5 storey store I found was indeed 5 floors but…for those who remember the late, lamented Penny Lane in Chester…about 5m square…well maybe 6m square then…per floor…

    Suffice to say…I came away with vinyl but not the mega rares I’d convinced myself I’d “just find”…probably says as much about managing expectations and the time you have available as anything else…

    Did happen across “Recofan” about 30m away which had good basic stock (if I take Deep Purple as my and Simon’s baseline band…) and lots of it…so general area is cool and…so I hear Shibu-yu is “the” area for young folk to hang out in…

    2 Captain Beyond vinyls plus Purple’s 2011 record store day single was my haul…

    • simon robinson says:

      Mark’s right, I hadn’t really thought about it, but knowing Deep Purple’s vinyl output backwards (classic era only m’lud!), I did often check this area of a second-hand stock first, and that would give me a good indication of how well the shop covered stuff in general. And just very occasionally I might find something interesting in the section to buy! If the Deep Purple section was stuffed with tat like Dio 12″ singles because he has once sung for Purple’s guitarist, then you knew the owner wasn’t properly on the ball and scanned the rest of the shop accordingly!

  4. Colin says:

    Just got back to Australia after having spent time in Shinjuku and the great Disc Union. It is hard to find but worth looking for, although the staff are not skilled in English (and my Japanese is crap). I did not find this to be barrier they were all every helpful and I found if you wrote down an artist or album that you were looking for they would find it if in stock. I managed to find quite a few blues and soul cd’s that I’d missed first time around, some deleted for many years, not to mention the secondhand gems lurking on the shelves. So if you are planning a trip to Japan and like your music put these stores on your list. And if you can’t find it look for another collector (you know that we all look the same world over) and ask. Oh and take lots of money…

  5. Pingback: 5 Toko yang Wajib Dikunjungi Para Kolektor Piringan Hitam di Tokyo - Japan List

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s