The impressive number of small, independently operated record stores in Osaka is a testament to the nature of the city’s underground music and club scene. The late-night venues here are fueled by a sincere appreciation for the music-listening experience in and of itself. This interest is cultivated in no small part by the city’s local record stores. While the size of the scene is relatively small, it thrives with a unique authenticity and passion. This perhaps explains Japan’s status as a destination for clubgoers and record collectors alike. For the Japan-bound music fan, a record shopping binge in Osaka is highly encouraged. Here’s a look at some of the best retailers Osaka has to offer.
Compufunk Records is much more than just a record store. In addition to stocking a well-curated selection of house and techno, the space is also home to an evening bar and lounge, a late-night club space and even a dub plate-cutting room. Originally operating out of a cavernous basement in the Shinsaibashi neighborhood, Compufunk recently relocated to a riverside location overlooking Nakanoshima Park, which provides exceptionally green and lush views that contrast with Osaka’s otherwise grey, retro-future cityscape. A particularly motivated traveler could start with afternoon record shopping, move on to evening drinks followed by dancing, and then witness an early morning sunrise view of Osaka’s skyline—all without ever leaving Compufunk.
Suitable for browsing through quality techno and house records, chilling out, drinking and partying.
The work horse of the city’s record shops, Newtone sells new and used records from all notable house and techno labels, along with selections of hip-hop, experimental and world music. Expect to find a handful of records from contemporary Japanese artists as well. The staff are involved in Osaka’s electronic and experimental music scenes, which makes Newtone a convenient place to discover upcoming local events.
Suitable for obtaining new, quality music and finding out about cool parties.
Photo via Foursquare.
Revelation Time trades in rare and valuable used records, particularly those from a brand of experimental new wave pop created during Japan’s 1980s music boom. Are you a fan of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s work? This is where to find all the records he secretly produced decades ago. The owner, Eiji, is also an exceptionally friendly guy who’s willing to assist with new music discoveries.
Suitable for obtaining rare records to make your nerdy friends jealous.
Photo via Empty Sleeve.
Rare Groove Records
Similar to Revelation Time, Rare Groove specializes in the high-quality, rare and used vinyl market, though the shop is more specifically tailored around disco, boogie, soul and world music.
Suitable for disco-leaning DJs and home listeners alike.
Photo via Empty Sleeve.
Run by local DJ Mitsuki, Mole Music is a staple for local DJs and a purveyor of all things house and techno with a particular focus on Detroit and Chicago. This is the place to go to satisfy all your dusty deep house needs.
Suitable for rotary mixer fanatics.
Photo via Foursquare.
Underground to its core, Naminohana operates out of a small, discrete apartment in Osaka’s north side. Devoted to curating the most experimental and underground techno, Naminohana is the destination for those in pursuit of deep, stoic, serious sounds. Despite its pretensions, the owner is a friendly bear of a man, chuckling and cheerfully chatting with the regulars.
Suitable for techno weirdos.
Root Down Records
If Theo Parrish, Gilles Peterson, and J Dilla (RIP) shared an apartment, the records in their living room would probably resemble something like what’s in stock at Root Down: hip-hop, crossover house, boogie and jazz. The store curates their records like a fashion label arranges its clothing, with attention paid to genre, detail and quality.
Suitable for the well-tailored individual who approaches record collecting with the same zeal as a scotch or cigar aficionado engages their passions.
Photo via Candyrim.
Crossover house, jazz and soul are the staples of Especial Records. The small shop is owned by Yoshihiro Okino, who pioneered the crossover sound in Japan in the 1990s with his brother as the production/DJ unit Kyoto Jazz Massive. They gained fame in the UK and Europe with the help of Gilles Peterson, who pushed the genre forward in his radio broadcasts.
Suitable records for classy cocktail drinks and Sunday afternoon parties.
Photo via careyciuro.
Loser is less a traditional record shop and more an homage to contemporary Los Angeles music culture. The owner Mayumi makes the trek to LA several times a year and brings back a selection of records, merch and clothing associated with that city’s “beat” scene. Loser’s devotion to this culture and craft speaks to the Japanese quality of fan devotion and appreciation for authenticity.
Suitable for hip-hop backpacker types, beatmakers and casual record purchasers.
King Kong Records
A swap meet or flea market of sorts for binge record purchasing, King Kong is the place to find $1 record bins, a bunch of junk and the occasional surprise. Record-scratching hip-hop fiends will have a field day scrambling to find something noteworthy among the plethora of random breaks and samples that are waiting to be mined. King Kong is the record store version of dialing random numbers in the phonebook; you’ll occasionally find something worthwhile.
Suitable for stumbling into things you weren’t particularly looking for.