I’ve read that there are over 100 record shops in the 23 wards of Tokyo. If you add all the recycle and books shops that have decent record offerings, add another 100 shops. If you add in record stores and recyclable shops of the surrounding sprawl of Tokyo Megalopolis, in which 37 million people live, there are another 100 shops. That’s about 300 in total. Pretty insane, huh?
Count Uptown Records in Koenji among them, and one that certainly stands out among the others. Located right in the middle of Koeji’s famous Koshin-dori Shotengai shopping street, its cool DIY-made sandwich-board sign advertises “Records, Zines, Beer” and beacons your eyes up to the equally-eye-catching 2nd-floor signage. You immediately sense you’re about to experience something special, and Uptown Records does not disappoint.
Right as the automatic door opens at the top of the stairs, you’re hit with a panoramic view of the spread, with records, zines, and art curated on the oriented strand board walls, and ceiling that envelop you, giving you a tezukuri (hand-made) gallery feel. To the right are 4 huge ceiling-mounted Diatone DS-1000s above 2 Technics 1200s and CDJs that straddle a beautiful Swiss-made Varia Instruments RDM20 Sotary Mixer. To the left are a reading table, a nice collection of craft beer, the Furby adoption center, and a little bar/kitchen nook, where I met Sophia, the proprietor along with fellow Ameican, Sacco (enjoying a day off), who served me up and nice cold root beer that I drank as I perused the very eclectic selection of mostly independent records.
Uptown Records’ original shop opened in Shanghai in 2011, and then in Koenji in 2020, specializing in Experimental, Synth, Avant-Garde, Post-Punk, and Chinese Underground music. So many intriguing records. Something cool I had never seen before was “Store Copies” among the records that you could “request to DJ” – and with so many records I’d never seen or heard of, it would be a great place and a great way to discover new music, leisurely persuing, listening, and enjoying a drink. Even the Cure’s Robert Smith was inviting me to listen to some records there in the middle of the room.
On this particular trip, I didn’t really have a budget allocated for a nice score, but there were tonnes of things I want to do back for. So much of the music being unknown to me, I thought I would spend some time on Uptown Records website where most the titles are listed, and go exploring. One thing that I did come home with was a copy of the first issue of DOSE, the comic that previous Tokyo Record Style subject, Sean Ellis writes, which I’m very much looking forward to reading this weekend.
A couple more things to say about Uptown Records. Despite Koenji, one of Tokyo’s coolest neighborhoods, being quite close to my home, for some reason I have never spent a great amount of time, always seeming to gravitate more to Shimokita. But I do love the little I know about it, and I know that for those who cherish it for being one of the last bastions of counter-culture, the demo in the streets every year to keep it funky cool and, like Uptown Records, unique. I was really impressed to see Sacco and Sophie, a ways back in their social feed, out on a megaphone in a part making their voices heard for preserving cool places like Koenji and independent shops like their own. Just a hunch but I think that really speaks to the spirit of the shop and the kinds of music and kinds of people you’ll find there. So I salute Sophia and Sacco for that and encourage you all to go support their awesome shop: It’s really supremely cool.
…and two very last things: no more space to mention it, but Sacco and Sophie also do “Dig A Hole Zines” at an adjacent space, which I have to learn more about but it’s a kinda DIY Zine making and exhibiting spaces – seems cool. AND AND AND, Sacco very kindly offered me to someday make use of the DJ booth and bar for a Top 5 or other Tokyo Record Style Related event, so thank you for that, and I will be taking you up on it!
More Tokyo Record Style on the Way!
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