I’ve been visiting Moonbeam Records for many years but it wasn’t until I was facing a little disaster that I had my first earnest conversation with Takahashi san a while back. What had happened was that I had an upcoming DJ event at which I was meant to spin records. At the previous event, I had used my pals’ personal turntable cartridges rather than my own, and of course, as luck would have it, one of the needles broke on my watch and it was only fair that I replace it. Not wishing to face the same dilemma again, I acquired a 2nd Shure M44G deadstock cartridge from Mercari, a new stylus from JICO, and I already had an extra headshell, so as long ever everything arrived by noon one particular day, I’d be fine to spin later that afternoon. Well, everything arrived in time, but only then did I realize that I had no cartridge wires – those twisty multi-colored red, green, blue, and white wires that always make you feel like you’re diffusing a bomb when you swap ‘em out. Yodobashi’s only set was a premium ¥8000, which would probably be Audio Union’s price too, and that’s when I remembered that there was a big pile of cartridges behind the counter at Moonbeam [Gekkosha]. I actually didn’t know the Japanese-only name of the shop, but I knew right where it was. I knew it had no web presence whatsoever, but I remembered the phone number was on the Showa-style storefront sign. So a quick Google Streetview got me the number and on the phone with Takahashi who invited me to come right down – Sure, he’d help me out. That’s how our connection began.
Takahashi’s Moonbeam Records is one of those “Goldilocks Zone” record shops that I keep talking about. It’s just off the beaten path and PACKED chock full with records, and cheap ones too, so cheap I hesitate to share here. Moonbeam organizes lots of its records by Label, as in the Record Label that produced the music, which is a fun way to search for music. There are heaps of Rock and Roll, Jazz, Folk, Blues and so on, but if you’re looking for that record that everybody else is looking for, you’re likely not gonna find it here. Moonbeam is more for the “Whoa, I’ve never seen this before” shopper. There is also a huge wall of Classical, which is Takahashi’s forte. And if you want to hear his is amazing Garrard Turntable, or either of his crazy analog or digital chains of hi-fi amps on the JBL4311s, just ask him to crank some Mahler or this Tchaikovsky Pathétique.
One more thing I wanted to mention, and I hope Takahashi-san doesn’t mind me sharing, well, first thing he’ll tell you if you go is that his shop has been there a long time, I wanna say 3 generations but I’d have to ask him again to confirm that. I also know Takahashi san keeps a cool electric guitar behind the counter and will bust it out if you ask him. And if you ever try to convince him that he needs a website, he’ll reply with “Naw, too much work” and I gotta admit, there is something about that that I admire. I bring this all up cuz Takahashi san is a real friendly and funny guy if you get him chatting. I always seem to burn up all my time in his shop talking to him and not actually digging for records. But that’s ok.
On my recent visit, he commented on a monopod (a single-leg tripod) sticking out of my backpack, and I explained that I would soon be shooting my son’s hip-hop performance in about an hour’s time and that the monopod helps in dark theatres or long shoots. But I didn’t stop there, I mentioned that I actually bought the monopod years and years ago to shoot my large format Linhoff Master Technika, replete with crazy focal length key-rangefinder, view/depth finder, and hefty grip. Not many people have experience shooting hand-held large format, but I do, and lots of it. I proceeded to tell Takahashi san about Photohoku, my photo-giving volunteer effort connected to the big disaster here 10+ years ago, which in a very roundabout way, the Tokyo Record Style method was born from. I relayed one particularly emotional story, about an elderly woman I met once who lost her daughter in the tsunami, and was tasked to care for her very young granddaughter, for whom she wondered if she’d live long enough to see her come of age. She claimed to be the most sorrowful person living in that particular temporary housing unit. She said to me, “I can’t believe that in this photo you made of me, I’m smiling. And I’m smiling so big. You must have made me laugh right when you took the photo. Even though I’m so sad, I’ll look at this photo every day and remember that I still have the capacity to smile.” I guess I was getting emotional telling the story so vividly but when I looked over at Takahashi san, I saw his eyes were filled with tears too. We both had to wipe some tears from our eyes. He had some really nice things to say to me after that, and I was really touched. It was nice to share such a special little moment. I guess Tokyo Record Style can even be more than music and record-loving. This experience actually really opened my eyes to some new ideas. Thanks, Takahashi san for always sharing your time and your cool Moonbeam Record Store with me! Until next time…
More Tokyo Records Style on the way!
Tchaikovsky – The Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy – Symphony No. 6 In B Minor (Pathétique)
Label: Columbia Masterworks – ML 4544
Format: Vinyl, LP, Mono
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