Tokyo Record Style

Tanno

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Going out on a limb here. The Japanese concept that Steve Jobs was so interested in is called “Kaizen” – “continual improvement” that emphasizes small, incremental changes that lead to better efficiency, higher quality, better performance while forging a culture of collaborative team effort. Then there is a lesser known word, ”Kairyo Bunka” 改良文化 – “the culture of improvement” that encapsulates the notion continually refining and enhancing aspects of culture, technology, and everyday life while incorporating and improving upon external influences, often surpassing the originals, Finally you often encounter this concept of “Parallel Imports” here, though not unique to Japan: […]

Tokyo Record Style

Oobasalmon and Kaz USA

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I was recently invited on a photowalk by my friends Keiko Mizuno and Tokyo Record Style regular, Tatsuo Fukutomi AKA bemsha. Keiko is an avid Lomo  LC-A+ camera user, the camera that birthed the Lomographic Society, and she joined my PhotoPeace photo walk and gallery hop two summers ago. Coming back to Tokyo all the way from Gifu, she and bemsha organized this photo around the backstreets of Harajuku-Jingumae with visits to a couple of bookstores plus a coffee break at cool Watarium. Their photo walk was based on them “Tokimeki” which mean the the spark one feels in their […]

Tokyo Record Style

Jake and Kate

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Jake and Kate were coming out of hip Big Love records when I caught up with them for a photo and a chat. They were old college schoolmates both visiting Tokyo from opposite ends of the Globe, Jake from Boston where he’s involved with a local Japanese community and Kate, originally from the Bay area but coming for a rendezvous from Taiwan where she has been living for a year. The three of us had such a whirlwind conversation that covered so much ground from US/Japan history, to Taiwan, to Sweden, to Harajuku-ura fashion, to Kanye and Big Love, to […]

Tokyo Record Style

Tomatsu

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When we look in the mirror, we don’t see our “true” selves, or maybe a better way to put it is that we don’t see our “accurate” selves, but rather a representation of ourselves, horizontally flipped, but it’s close enough to give us an idea of how we look and who we are. But on the other hand, when we look at a photograph of ourselves, maybe a well-made portrait, we see ourselves as the world sees us …and sometimes, even often, the person we see in the photo is not the same person we see in the mirror. I’ve […]

Tokyo Record Style

Joseph

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Little bit of New York in Tokyo. I was recalling my encounter with Joseph and I couldn’t remember if it was indeed Joseph, Joe, or Joey, but as soon as I heard Joey in my head and remembered that he was from New York, my mind immediately went to a masterpiece of one-man-show that I grew up with, Eric Bogosian’s “Sex Drugs, and Rock&Roll” a collection of monologues of iconic characters from all walks of life. It’s absolutely brilliant, truly a work of genius, comedic, dramatic, tragic, and well worth digging around for. One of the funnier monologues is a […]

Tokyo Record Style

Jaden

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You know that feeling you get when somebody says to you, “You’ve never seen that movie?!” or “You’re never heard of so-and-so?!” or “You’ve never been to that famous place?!” or “How can you not know this band?!” I admit having spent much of my life in fear of being asked these kinds of questions. Yeah, just call it what it is: insecurity, but I’ve always strived, mostly futilely in vain, to at least be “in-the-know” about EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD, and it only really has been in my middle age when I’ve stopped caring so much about not knowing […]

Tokyo Record Style

Towa

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Nearly every day on my way home from work, I pass by Manhattan Records, a Tokyo institution of 30 years that mostly Hip-Hop, R&B, Soul, and House. After passing Ultra Shibuya, Hi-Fi Records, several Disk Unions, Tower Records, an HMV, Discland Jaro, Next Records, Mother’s Records, and a couple of Face Records, Manhattan Records is the last record shop on my way out of Shibuya on Inokashira Dori, the road that leads me all the way back home. By the time I’m rolling up on Manhattan, I’ve usually photographed a record collector or two on the way at one of […]

Tokyo Record Style

Miguel

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Meet Miguel who hails from the Catalonia city of architect Antoni Gaudí (of Sagrada Família fam of course, and who I must say to who Miguel bears a striking resemblance san broken-and-taped eyeglasses), Reus, Spain! I’ve only ever heard of Reus by name but have never met and actual Reusenc, so this was quite a prospect! (Side note, Reus is also a famous for its signature Catalan modernism, also as wine-producing region, a rock-climbing mecca, and boasts a millenia-rich history. I wanna go! ) Miguel was carrying a massive haul form Recofan’s new shop in Shibuya Magnet opposite the station. […]

Tokyo Record Style

Marlon

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I met Marlon from Sydney on the back streets of Shibuya in the Udagawa district along with a pal he had just made, Miguel from Spain (who will be featured in the next post.) Talk about friendly, it was easy to recognize that Marlon’s charisma was as big as his heart. He was keen to be photographed for Tokyo Record Style, and chat me up about the records he scored, a rather sizable lot that ran the gamut of genres but mostly 12” that would get your booty shaking on the dance floor. Marlon mentioned that the record store scene […]

Tokyo Record Style

Alan

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I started off the new year up with a midtown meetup in Chiyoda-ku and my dear pal and DJ extraordinaire, Tatsuo Fukutomi, also known as “bemsha” for a burger at BK and a record dig at Disk Union above Ochanomizu’s station. After a loooong chat over lunch and a short obligatory dig at DU, we headed out to the plaza and back towards to the station, but not before we both spotted a camo’d-out character walking down the Disk Union stairs and across the square with what seemed like a record store bag. Bemsha knew exactly what I cooking up […]

Tokyo Record Style

Jeffery Beats

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Hello, Jeffery Beats from Beijing! Nice to meet you and welcome back to Japan. I met up with Jeffery at Ella Records who was being toured around with pal, Ryoki from the last post. They are both DJs in the hip-hop, chill-hop, city-pop-loving vein of what I am more broadly calling “Wamono” henceforth. It wasn’t Jeffery’s first visit to Japan but if memory serves me, it was his first time hanging with Ryoki though have been connected for some time online through music. Visiting from China, I naturally was curious about the record store and music-loving scene in Beijing. Jeffery […]

Tokyo Record Style

Ryoki / Teresahenn

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When I lived in Hatagaya nearly 20 years ago, it certainly had a “neighborhood-in-the-shadow-of-Shinjuku charm” about it, but it had no association at all to sophisticated, classy, posh Yoyogi-Uehara just down the road, nor would I necessarily described it as “hip”, rather quite unassuming and nondescript, salaryman-ish. “Hata-where?” …but all that has changed in these years and now it’s one of the hippest hoods west of the Yamanote, thanks to places like Paddlers Coffee, Freeman Shokudo, and Ella Records. Needless to say, I love zipping through the ol’ neighborhood nearly every day as it’s on my way home from both […]

Tokyo Record Style

Azim and Family

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Do you remember the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when King Arthur and his Knights reach the mysterious and feared “Bridge of Death”? Some of the knights make safe passage by correctly answering the scary and mean bridgekeeper’s riddles of various difficulty (What is your favorite color?) while some don’t (What is the capital of Assyria?) and are magically thrown into “Gorge of Eternal Peril” When it’s King Athur’s turn to answer the riddle “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” King Arthur stumps the bridgekeeper himself by inquiring “Which kind of swallow: African or […]

Tokyo Record Style

Taichi

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A number of years ago I was in the market for a new amplifier. I really debated whether to buy a feature-thin power-amp, optimized for a 2-channel, high-fidelity listening experience, or a feature-rich, multi-channel mainframe Audio/Video receiver for the home entertainment center. As much as I wanted to go for a warm and roaring, analog and VU metered, tube-glowing vintage hi-fi amp for myself, I opted for max HDMI ports, Bluetooth, and the like, to stay in good graces with my growing family. (I’d get the hi-fi rig down the road).  Well, one of the interesting and unexpected features I […]

Tokyo Record Style

Lee Kyong Sung

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Hey there Kyong Sung! Thanks for taking the time to say hello! Kyong Sung and his friend had just paid a visit to Tower Records when I caught up with them on the streets of Shibuya. I don’t know if I’d call Kyong Sung’s visit to Tokyo from his native Seoul part of a growing trend per se, as Koreans have statistically far out-visited Japan than any other nationality, averaging a million per year for the last several, compared to just ~300k of it’s next two rivals, Taiwan and USA, BUT I do keep meeting Koreans on the streets of […]

Tokyo Record Style

Atsushi – BBQ Records

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To be perfectly honest, when I finally found BBQ Records after having driven past it 2-3 times, situated above a Matsuya Gyudon beef-bowl fast-food chain, in what looked like a tiny little 2nd-floor apartment, I pretty much lost all hope that I might have been stumbling upon a Tokyo diamond in the rough. But you never know, and I was keen to check it off the list of shops I’ve visited, and so I parked the bike and headed up those sorta sad and all-too-familiar non-descript apartment stairs. I followed the signs, rounded the corner, and came upon a surprisingly […]

Tokyo Record Style

Daisuke (and Mao)

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I have been dying to visit Coconut Disk in Ekoda for some time, and having a few hours to kill last weekend, I found it on the map, and though it appeared just a short jaunt away in Nerima, Maps was telling it me would take 50 minutes to get there by car on a busy Tokyo Saturday. Knowing that I can split lanes on the bike and work my way to the front of every green light, I can usually shave off about 30-40% of every trip (I’ve insister for years that Tokyo really is best experienced by bike. […]

Tokyo Record Style

Destiny

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Welcome to my 200th Tokyo Record Style post! AMAZING! Thank you all for joining me along this wildly fun journey so far. Here’s to the next 200!  Wow, 2024 will mark my 20th year in Japan and I tell ya, Shibuya is still Shibuya. Yeah, she’s a little shinier, a little taller, a little more electric, but she’s still got that Shibuya “charm” …ok, fine, not for everyone. But c’mon, just admit it, yes she’s crowded, noisy, juvenile, and obnoxious, but she’s darling too, Forever 21, Hysterically Glamourous, Ichimaru-cutey. I mean it’s just who she is, and if you can’t […]

Tokyo Record Style

Markus

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Bumped into Markus visiting Japan for the first time from Berlin where he works for a major record label managing artists and musicians! WOW! It appeared by the contents of his record store bag, which had a smattering of all-genre scores from Disk Union, HMV, and Tower, that Markus was a record-store tear! He was generous with his time with me but I could tell he was keen to get to Face Miyashita before it closed in 30 min. We had a nice short chat and I shot him on the stairs suspended over Organ Zaka that go up to […]

Tokyo Record Style

Bobb

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I caught up with Bobb from Singapore in the backstreets of Udagawa-cho, in that cluster of record stores on Cosmic Zaka that include Next Records, Face Records, Manhattan Records, and Mother Records, four shops that are a stone’s throw away from 4 more shops – Perfect Circle, Jammers, HMV, and Rock and Roll Music Garden, which are a stone throw away from 4 more… In fact, I got a fairly definitive count on record stores in Shibuya. Care to take a guess? 37 Record shops in SHIBUYA ALONE! Insane! Back to Bobb and the record he scored, Nujabes, the beloved […]

Tokyo Record Style

Natsuki

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I’ve just stepped into an alternate reality time machine where I’m looking in a mirror and seeing a 20-something Japanese version of myself, surviving on cup noodles, party beer, cheap rent in a house full of like-minded hippies, spending every last cent on records and concerts, and having just blown through my entire week’s paycheck at the record store in one go, with absolutely no concern or worry that I now have no funds for food. Don’t worry, I’ll subsist on music… Meet Natsuki, who I caught up with outside Coconuts a couple of weeks ago, who in a way […]

Tokyo Record Style

Saqip

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With the pandemic having more-or-less ended, and travelers having postponed their Japan trips for a couple of years now , Tokyo is brimming with tourists. “Over-tourism” is a buzzword being floated around on TV and in conversations, which comes with a plethora of contradictions and complexities. On one hand, it’s great to see business booming, and restaurants and bars full, record stores too, but on the other hand, the streets and train stations are crowded with lost people standing in your way, and every once in a while, you yourself get slightly overwhelmed with a bit of that entitled New […]

Tokyo Record Style

Tokyo Record Style Day Volume 3 – Hatagaya – Thank You!

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Hatagaya has a special place in my heart. It was the first place I lived in Tokyo, two stops from Shinjuku on the microscopic 2-station Keio-Shinsen Line. Little did I know when my pal Taku and I traded places, him leaving Japan on a sojourn of a lifetime, and me ending mine, that when he handed me the keys to his little apartment in Yashiro Mansion, and the keys to his motorcycle, that I would become forever rooted to Japan and that Shimokita/Shibuya/Shinjuku triangle would more-or-less remain my stomping grounds all these nearly 20 years later. Back then Hatagaya was […]

Tokyo Record Style

Temuge

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They say Shibuya Scramble is the busiest intersection in the world. Is it true? Could be. Two things are for sure. 1.) It still manages to impress, no matter how many hundreds (or thousands) of times you’ve crossed it, and 2.) It’s where I spotted Temuge crossing in the sea of people with his pal, both with ice-pops on a Saturday Night. I chatted Temuge there on the corner in a mix of Japanese and English and I began to wonder if Japanese was both our second languages. I asked Temugu where he was from and I thought I heard […]

Tokyo Record Style

Johnny and Bora

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I just keep meeting the absolutely coolest and nicest people in the world on this project. What a brilliant little way to interact with the world that I seem to have just stumbled into. Though every person I meet is unique with totally different taste in music, it kinda feels like I keep meeting members of a sorta Secret Society, “The Illuminadio”, “Knights of the Turntable”, “Order of the Black Circle”, “The Fellowship of the Ringwear”, the “Fraternal Order of Record Collectors” and these two knew the secret handshake. As soon as I started speaking Japanese, I could sense that […]

Tokyo Record Style

DJ Yasushi (Sushi)

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“I can’t believe I just signed an original pressing of 3 Feet High and Rising… History” – Vincent Lamont Mason Jr., AKA Maseo, P.A. Pasemaster Mase, and Plug Three, of the one and only, you guessed it, De La Soul “White Label Test Pressing bought for $2.99 from a random bookstore in Pennsylvania decades ago”, according to whom the signature is addressed, DJ Yasushi of Groovenut Records in Ame-Mura (American Village) in Ōsaka. Good grief! Test Press of one of the most important and influential albums in Hip Hop history, personally signed no less. Talk about treasure… …For the Golden […]

Tokyo Record Style

Taiki

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Hey, Taiki! Nice to meet you! You’re Tokyo Record Style’s 100th post! Thanks so much for chatting me up and being such a friendly face. And thanks for sharing your time and your M.O.P. score with me. I was totally unfamiliar with M.O.P. (Mash Out Posse), American hip-hop duo comprised of rappers Billy Danze and Lil’ Fame but after listening to a few tracks off the Warriors record, I’m taken back to a time in my life, a couple summers in the mid to late 80’s where I listened to nothing but gangsta rap, hardcore hip-hop, the artists that found […]

Tokyo Record Style

Chaz

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Zig-Zagging home through the streets of Shibuya, Chaz’s Supreme Jersey, White Polo bucket hat and record bag caught my eye. Then I noticed that the tote bag his wife, Nana, was carrying was one of those heavy canvas incognito Disk Union bags. “Sumimasen? Disuku Yunion no baggu desu ka? Naka ni rekōdo haitemasu ka? Watashi mo rekōdo daisuki. Rekōdo o katta bakari no hito-tachi no shashin wo toru kameraman desu. `Tokyo Record Style’ to iu boku no insutaguramu desu. Shashin totte mo īdesu ka?” “We’re Korean.” “Annyeonghaseyo!” (Laughter) “…that’s about all the Korean I know …and Gamsahabnida (Thank You). Is […]

Tokyo Record Style

Keesh

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I met Keesh and crew in Shinjuku outside of Disk Union. His lovely wife Tama was waiting outside with a trolly full of vinyl while he and the scratch brothers, Haruto and Keito (stay tuned for the next post) were inside the shop. Right as I approached Tama, who easily looked the DJ part, for the Tokyo Record Style pitch, out came the Keesh with half an eyebrow ever-so-slightly raised in natural suspicion about this strange foreigner chatting up his wife who has been guarding a crate-full of records. (Japan IS as safe as a society can be, but this […]

Tokyo Record Style

Haruto

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Believe it or not, DJ Haruto pictured here is 13 years old. He was hanging out with DJ Keesh when I met them in front of Disk Union in Shinjuku. Despite being just 13 years old and never having lived overseas, Haruto was speaking English with me. When I asked him how he learned English, he answered with cool confidence, “I’m just trying” …man, that alone made quite an impression on me. But Haruto would end up making an even bigger impression on me when he told me that he is a scratch DJ and that he has been scratch […]

Tokyo Record Style

Sara and Tyler

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Slammed on the breaks on my way home from work, and made a hard left to catch these two standing in front of Tower Records, carrying that signature Yellow-red-orange bag. From quickly chatting Sarah and Tyler up from atop my bike, they gladly agreed to a photo, and told me they were cousins traveling together to Japan, from their home in Vancouver, on a trip they’d been planning for years, adding that after a few more days in Tokyo, they’d be heading to Kyoto to rendezvous with yet more family! Well, done team! From their vinyl Tower Records bag, they […]

Tokyo Record Style

Juan and Yvette

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What a supremely cool couple! Meet Juan and Yvette from Los Angeles on a trip they’ve been planning to Tokyo for ages, spotted on the streets of Shibuya. Carrying that unmistakable yellow Tower Records bag, Yvette caught my attention and I approached her for a photo. Immediately friendly, she was warm to the idea of a photo, and asked if she could pose with her boyfriend. “Of course!,” I said, looking over her shoulder to meet the slightly suspicious (read: potentially menacing) glare of Juan who seemed to be carefully, stoically, understandably sussing the situation of some stranger in a […]

Tokyo Record Style

Jeremy Freeman

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After catching a social post that Ella Records had gotten in a Taj Mahal record that I had been looking for for a while, I stopped over with the intention to just pop-in and pop-out with the one record. In the short matter of time that it took me to dig through the New Arrivals section to find it, there was an even faster whirlwind of a fellow gaijin that blazed in, rawking a felt beret, an oversized neckerchief that my bandana-discerning eye suspected might actually be some sorta middle eastern kufiyya, and a heavyweight long-sleeve t-shirt shirt that was, […]

Tokyo Record Style

Nao and Ryu

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I spotted Nao and Ryu, two young buds and college classmates, coming out of HMV in Shibuya with their first records and a turntable in their hands! WOW! “How old are you guys?” “I’m 21 and he’s 22” I think I remember one of them saying. “When you can stream everything, why are you guys suddenly buying records?” I asked. “Well, I tend to listen to playlists on streaming platforms, and that’s fine, but if I listen on a record, then I’ll be forced to listen to the whole album and in the sequence the artists intended. It will be […]

Tokyo Record Style

Riku

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If you don’t know Tokyo Camera Style, on which Tokyo Record Style is based, run by my pal Sypal, I highly recommend again that you check it out. It’s a celebration of old-school film photography love, where when John spots you on the streets of Tokyo, rawking your film camera, he snaps a shot and adds you to the stream. As I’ve said before, in one light, it could be considered quick to dismiss as material camera porn but it is really anything but. Culture is what it is, Street fashion is what it is, individuality and expression is what […]

Tokyo Record Style

Miles and Cameron

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I caught up with Miles and Cameron in the alley outside of Josey’s Records after they had just scored rapper Freddie Gibbs and producer Madlib’s 2014 collaboration, “Piñata”. Something about them reminded me of myself when I started collecting records in my early 20s and I asked them if they were new to vinyl. Miles responded a resounding no, in that he had grown up with a house full of records, and that his mother, if I remember correctly, recently had given him her Prince collection, including Purple Rain and 1999. That must be something! That jogged my memory that […]

Tokyo Record Style

Turistan, Tiger, Keita

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At 17 years old, Turistan (@trippin_tree3) is the youngest person that I’ve photographed so far for Tokyo Record Style. I caught up with Turistan seminal classic “Enter The Wu-Tang” from ‘93, that’s 30 years ago. That would be the equivalent of a 17-year-old me in 1993 buying “With the Beatles” (which I probably did). Thats give me great encouragement to not only see youngsters (Oh, my god do I sound old) interested in records, but interested in GREAT records. Turistan was with his skating bros, Tiger and Keita, (Fellas, Turistan is our-cooling you! Time to score some wax!) They were […]

Tokyo Record Style

Saeka Shimida

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A fellow photographer – Saeka! I caught up with her and a pal with a nice stash of records just scored from Jet Set which, a little like Big Love Records, keeps a highly curated inventory of mostly new-ish records, finds that for the more discerning listener. Maybe I’m imagining things, but walking around with records in a Jet Set bag says to the more basic (in that modern dismissive sense) listeners like me, “That gay/gal didn’t just score some records from Jet Set …that person IS A JETSETTER!” That could actually be true because when Saeka produced the records […]