Call me anachronistic, impractical, or obsessed, but when I travel there are three things I must do when I’m in a new country: eat street food, get my head shaved, and shop for records. Carrying around a stack of fragile vinyl LPs and packing them in your luggage is not a backpacker’s sport, but record geeks already know this fetish and the lengths we will go to carry home black treasure. There is nothing I love more than to find a musty, unfamiliar gem from decades past whose mysteries within are practically bursting from its grooves like an impatient genie confined too long in a lamp. The wonderful news for record geeks here is that the Japanese are consummate collectors and archivists and the vinyl culture is alive and well like nowhere else I have been. I have found stacks of records at shrine or temple antique sales and recycle (second hand) shops whose vintage slabs are pristine and unscratched, and at 100 yen or less a pop, are worth it despite not knowing what you are buying. The Shibuya and Shinjuku neighborhoods of Tokyo have some mind blowing record stores meticulously archived and organized by sub-sub-sub-genre, which I will cover at a future time. But if you find yourself by Yokohama Station and you want to flip through some wax, I have a tip for you.
Disk Union: Yokohama Nishiguchi Store
Disk Union has 3 shops in the Yokohama area, and mega complexes of specialty genre stores in Shinjuku. I was lucky enough to feel the urge to shop on International Record Store Day weekend and the store was buzzing with customers shopping for some great deals. The second floor store is just one block down from Yokohama Tokyu Hands, and while not large, is crammed full with an amazing selection of new and used DVDs, CDs, and of course very good quality, excellently curated vinyl LPs. In addition to Western and International music, they have large sections of Japanese wax in different genres. By far their largest sections are Dance (techno, house, classics, nu-disco, drum and bass, dub-step, electronica), Hip-hop, and Gangsta rap geared toward DJs. I was very impressed with the breadth of their collection (Okay, so they were missing country and western!) with very few extraneous or uninteresting pieces. Their outstanding sections include Jazz, Blues, International, Soul and Funk, R&B, Garage, Punk, Rock, Prog, Heavy Metal, and also include Japanese Hip-Hop, Japanese Punk, Rock, and J-Pop. Their prices are more than reasonable, and they have a sale section with some good quality records under 300JPY. The staff are very friendly, let you preview the vinyl, and tolerated my geeked excitement and photo taking. I scored some sweet slabs by Fela Kuti, Pharoah Sanders, YACHT (shout out to my hometown Portland, OR!), and by Japanese noise rockers Melt Banana.
To get to the Yokohama Station Disk Union leave the station via the southwest exit and cross the canal. Head up the main street towards Tokyu Hands, and it is one block down on the second floor.
*If you use a smart phone, type the phone number into your map application to pinpoint their locations.
Yokohama Disk Union: 045-317-5022