On a recent trip to Japan I was walking through one of their many old-school shopping arcades when I stumbled upon a quaint little music store. I walked in to check it out and found they were selling hundreds of different turntables. And I’m not talking about the DJ kind of turntables. I’m talking about record players. You know, the ones that play those ancient vinyl discs. And there are some cool players in Japan.
Actually, I hadn’t seen one of those in many years. My dad had one growing up, since at the time cassette players were the only alternative and they were far below vinyl in terms of quality. Unfortunately, all the records we had back then were crap. My dad and I definitely do not have the same taste in music and I did not have enough money to buy my own records at the time. By the time I started to buy music, CDs were the medium of choice. I did buy a few cassettes before CDs came out, so I owned a couple of those, but only a few.
During my high school and University days I amassed a collection of over 500 CDs. Nowadays they’re all gone. Everything is digital these days and by digital I mean MP3s and other files like that.
But through it all, vinyl somehow held onto a small piece of the market. Of course there were always the collectors, but there are also quite a few others who still prefer the sound of vinyl. Personally, I’m not really one of them, but I do see the appeal.
And I definitely saw the appeal on this day, walking into this record store. Actually I should say music store. They didn’t sell any actual records, they only sold the players. They ranged from incredibly intricately and elaborately designed players to ones that were quite cheap and basically looked like what my dad had when I was growing up. The prices weren’t too bad either. Basically they were what you would expect, ranging from under $100 to many thousand dollars (obviously actual prices were in Japanese yen).
I talked to the shop owner for a while and learned that there is actually a huge subculture of vinyl collectors in Japan. And not just the DJs. Obviously DJs collect vinyl everywhere in the world. But in Japan there are a lot of music lovers who have returned to vinyl. Also many who never left. I found that quite interesting. It sounded like there were definitely more people in Japan percentage-wise who own a vinyl record player than there are in the US.
I can kind of guess why this might be. The Japanese have always had a love for tradition. It is a very traditional culture and they hang onto many traditions. That creates a lot of problems for them in the modern world, actually, but it also makes the country one of the most fascinating on earth. Given all this, it only makes sense that they would continue to have this love for vinyl.
You are probably thinking or wondering: did I buy one? No, I didn’t. I travel a lot and I have learned not to buy anything overseas, because you have to carry it back with you in the plane and it ends up costing you four times what you paid for them due to the baggage fees.
But I am thinking of buying a turntable record player the next time I’m back home. The only thing that’s holding me back is that I don’t have any actual vinyl records. I would have to start a collection and that would get expensive. It’s something I really don’t need and probably shouldn’t buy, but somehow it is just alluring, especially after seeing that record store. In the end, I imagine I will probably get one.