Record shops come in every shape, size, specialty, scale, sort, stock selection, spaciousness, sophistication, sound system, staff service standard, scene, style, and spirit. The “Seventeen S’s”, as I call them. Naw, I just made that up. But it’s kinda true. Sometimes you just choose a record shop based on one of these, or maybe just the one that’s closest, sometimes you choose one cuz you’re looking for something specific. Sometimes, any records store will do, and other times, you’re in the mood for a particular flavor. Record stores are a little like pizza, they’re always good, but some are better than others, but even when they’re bad, they’re still always good.
And while I’m rambling, I’m a New York pizza guy. Fuck this wood-burning, Neopolitan Margarita, no spice sauce, fresh mozzarella, droopy-crust, need-to-eat-with-a-fork pizza. I mean I’ll eat it, it is pizza after all, but gimme burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth, electric-oven, fold-into-a-taco, perfect droop, slices-as-big-as-you-head, pepperoni pizza. Now that’s a little slice of heaven.
You know what else is a little slice of heavy? Coconuts Disk in Kichijoji. Truly it’s what a record shop in heaven would look like, perfect size, perfect selection, decent prices, nice window light, just ratty enough, but also very nice, lots of cool shit all around, overall perfect vibe. It kinda feels like a well-lived bedroom, or a perfect pair of sneakers. Coconuts has an honesty about it. Maybe it’s Japan’s answer to Nick Hornby’s Championship Vinyl. And at the helm, is a sorta Japanese version (and I may be projecting here) of protagonist Rob Gordon, the quintessential effortlessly cool record shop manager, Kazuyoshi Yajima.
Born the same year I was, and having grown up with much of the same, or at least parallel, music, although I haven’t shared a ton of words with Yajima san, judging by his always laid-back vibe, and slacker-but-sometimes-not duds, I know we’re on the same music and life’s-true values wavelength. “What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films – these things matter. – Rob Gordon,” a quote I feel Yajima san could have easily said. Another quote I could easily hear Yajima saying is that one from Bob Marley when asked if he was a rich man: “What do you mean, “rich”?” Interviewer: “Do you have a lot of possessions, lots of money in the bank?” Bob Marley: “Possessions make you rich? I don’t have that type of richness. My richness is life, forever.” Maybe in Yajima’s case, change the word “life” to “music.”
He’s kindly shared with me a bit of the history of his 20 years at “Kichicoco’s” telling me about the original Coconuts in Ikebukuro (where I still have to visit), and always offers an acknowledging “‘Sup” when I walk in, which is weekly. Much has been written about Yajima’s insight into the records store scene (see recent 5-part interview series linked from Fashionsnap in continued comments where he talks about running a record store, the state of the vinyl resurgence, and more). I should, and easily could, write 3-4 more pages about him, but I’ve squandered my chance writing about S’s and Pizza. But I have a feeling we’ll be visiting Coconuts many more times in the future of Tokyo Record Style.
I’ll leave it at this. Hot take here:
For my buck, all indexes considered, and this is bold: By overall metrics, Best record store AND recorded store owner in Tokyo. There, I said it.
Coconuts Disk Kichijoji
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