True Home of Modern Jazz? Japan


Every day,  Ebay sellers in the US and Europe head up to the Post with parcels of  collectible jazz vinyl addressed to Japan. I knew there was a strong interest in collectible Jazz in Japan from my tussles with TokyoJazzCollector, and the much feared ninja snipe of Ahoudori1947, a***4, buyer for Tokyo record stores Disc Union, but I never really understood how strong until I stumbled into the pages of Amazon Japan. What I discovered was more interesting than anything I could have imagined.  The deeper I dug the more I found, a obsessive level of knowledge and detail I have never seen in the English printed word. Jazz, vinyl, audio, the whole sushi bento box.

Blue Note Know-how

To begin, I stumbled on the Japanese edition of Fred Cohen’s monumental Guide to Blue Note first Pressings, translated into Japanese. I wondered if it outsells the US edition? Thanks to Fred’s book, Japanese collectors enjoy a level playing field of information, with language on Ebay no barrier thanks to Google Translate and Paypal obliging in the currency conversion department. The only obstacle I see is the ebay default cost of post, which unhelpfully shows about one third of the actual cost of international postage, which is not inconsiderable.

The Fred Cohen book however was only the beginning . A quick press on those wonderfully helpful buttons “people who bought this also bought..” and even more helpful, “People who viewed this also viewed these” lifted the lid on the Japanese interest Jazz.   Another translation,the Richard Cook book on Blue Note (wave small British flag), in Japanese of course, but still just the tip of the iceberg. Japan is awash with Blue Note collector guides. Volume after volume of encyclopedias of Blue Note, record collectors guides, the history of Blue Note, knowledge knowledge knowledge.

In what part of the world would you find a fortnightly part works delivered to your letterbox on Blue Note artists?

Mission accomplished, Part One, Japan understands and appreciates Blue Note better than most of the citizens of its country of origin. Strange that it should travel so well across cultures and 9,000 miles but music is an international language and improvisational modern jazz is a wordless art form. No language required to understand Sonny Rollins, he sounds the same in Japanese.

Record Labels and Vinyl Know-how

Recently I was lamenting the lack of Prestige and Riverside label guides: ask Japan.

All the crazy stuff I have been struggling with about labels and engravings in the deadwax: ask Japan.

Thanks to Google Translate I found a book magnificently subtitled ” Mystery lurking in the LP record, exploring the secrets of the deepest part of the disk“. Another ” New discovery, LP record close to the monsters that inhabit the abyss of the audio” Thats my kind of talk!

Of course if you want online resources, Japan has that too, starting with the fabulous   Real enthusiasts do not sound enthusiastic at all…

Hi Fi Know-how

The acoustic instruments of modern jazz are the perfect sound source for revealing hi-fi, something which doesn’t work  as well with electric instruments sources and digitally processed sound.

Japanese knowledge about jazz on vinyl is matched by an understanding of the level of hi-fi required to create the ultimate sound. Needless to say, they have books on it. Those Prestige-yellow horns!

Jazz Artists Know-how

It doesn’t stop there. Books on BeBop, books on West Coast jazz, books by every instrument, books by artist, books by any angle you can think of, the Japanese have it covered, all of it focussed on those precious records. Small wonder this interest spills over into lust for vinyl: vinyl porn. Small wonder air cargo is weighed down with crates of the stuff.

Enthusiasm for specific artists who have found a special place in the hearts of jazz of Japanese jazz enthusiasts – example, Bill Evans. Biography, discography, CD collections, piano scores, hard for me to tell what as at a certain point Google translate gives up, but Bill Evans is special.

Confessions of a Record Collector

The ultimate book, only from Japan, confessions of a record buyer, the personal story of three years of buying vinyl overseas. Sort of a hard copy diary of TokyoJazzCollector.

I could produce a book like this simply by compiling all the “Collectors Corner” sections of the blog. The hard bit would be translating it into Japanese., but it has got to be a surefire best seller.  Hold one moment please caller, I have Japan on the line…Its about an advance order

13 thoughts on “True Home of Modern Jazz? Japan

  1. In Japanese listings of record releases many abbreviations which we are familiar with – such as “RVG” and “DG” – are used. There is one that is often used – “GG” – which we are not familiar with. What does “GG” stand for? This question recently arose in the forum. Any suggestions?

    Here are some examples of its use for some Savoy releases (taken from LJC)
    12141 Red,RVGs,DG,GG/NewJer,non-lam,paste 12141 Red, RVGs, DG, GG / NewJer, non-lam, paste
    12143 Red,RVGs,DG,X20e,GG/NJ,non-lam,paste 12143 Red, RVGs, DG, X 20 e, GG / NJ, non-lam, paste

    • GG/____ is not an industry-recognised abbreviation like WOL and WOC. It relates to the form of the company postal address on the back cover, but it has no obvious meaning to me. You will have to get Disk Union or one of the other record stores in Tokyo’s Shibuya district or similar to explain.

  2. Pffff… What an unbelievable amount of information. I know that knowledge is power, but what you show us here is almost a nightmare. You wish you could read all these books, mags, encyclopaedias an the rest and then check every paragraph with the actual record in hand to step by step go over all the details. That, however, is something that I can file under “perhaps in a next life”… 😉

  3. If you are going to Japan this book is brilliant as it lists all the record stores locations & I reviews them

    Unfortunately it’s only in Japanese so you need to find someone willing to translate for you (unlike my wife!) But if you have the web address you can at least stick it in to Google translate.

    There is also an English website spin off of the book but it doesn’t seem to be updated very often so some of the stores may have moved /closed.

  4. The Blue Note Japanese magazine you listed above was TV advertised when I was there Iast year, can you imagine that in the UK! But in general the majority of Japanese are equally ignorant about jazz but in a population of 120 million that still leaves a pretty large number of Jazz obsessives who obsess on ever little detail and have a very powerful Yen to defeat you in online auctions.

    Saying all of that japan is the only country where you can pretty much got into any coffee store and hear jazz being played

    • Thanks for the comments DB, I see where you are headed. I make assumptions about scale without repeating them. Population of planet 3 trillion, population of countries with infrastructure for jazz, 50m – 200m each, number of people interested in Jazz in any country – 25,000? watchers on popular ebay Blue Note Auction 20-50, number of bidders on collectible record, 2-20, number in battle for one record 2-5? I take it as read 99.9% of the population in every country are entirely absorbed buy the mass culture of the moment. Our world is within. Are there 8 people or 12 people in the world that wants this item?

    • Correction, Dot. Only two that we know about.

      I struggle to understand why so many of our friends from the East have such good taste whilst – present company excepted – we as a culture appear to have very little, despite having (apparently) the same number of ears.
      I have met many outwardly intelligent people who, when it comes to music, put on a mechanical repetetive beat, where the main differentiation is whether the artist wears his baseball cap backwards or sideways, or opts for a woolly hat. Perhaps it’s genetic.

      • could be but, Japan has been a sort of isolated Country for 1000’s years, I guess for music too.
        after World War 2, every one has been more projected into western culture, music and arts, American and European.
        They chose the best and unique original music form from the States, Jazz.
        they backed the right horse. do you remember a previous chat about our wives buying too many shoes? when I told mine: “you’ve got two feet only” she candidly replied: ” and you’ve got two ears only!”. ok, you said: try to sell ’em on Ebay….

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