My research into Osaka’s record shops amounted to a quick Google search whilst simultaneously throwing a few shirts into a suitcase. Organization has never been my strong point and once again it would turn out to be my downfall. The search turned up the Jagged Visions Zine blog and a second hand record shop called King Kong. A shop that by all accounts [well, Jagged Visions anyway] deserves to be at the top of any serious record collectors list. Not that I’m a serious record collector in a rabid Pink Floyd fan way whose life isn’t complete without every version of Dark Side of the Moon [238 according to Discogs since you ask], I’m more of a leisurely afternoon browsing kind of rummager, the kind that likes to be surprised. I like to ‘dig’ as the parlance has now become. Crate dig. And there’s nowhere better to crate dig than in Japan.
There were three nights in Osaka at the beginning of the trip and one night at its very end in which to discover King Kong and those as recommended by Jagged Visions. Armed with my Jagged Visions knowledge I now knew that the Amerika Mura district of Osaka, in which numerous record shops lay, was to be found just north of the very hotel in which we were staying. So after some fitful sleep and numerous cups of strong coffee a map was consulted and the Amerika Mura district was located.
Its warren of gridded streets bear comparison to London’s Camden Town in that there appears to be no end of people wandering around countless shops looking for something to buy that's cutting edge and probably costs a fortune. Fashion victims abound. I saw one chap with odd shoes on and a baseball cap with the word FUCK writ large on its brim in two inch thick white perspex letters. There were Tartan frock coats with holes cut in them and skateboards and whilst it all looked ‘right on’ and ‘free’ and ‘fun loving’ the arms of big business had already made themselves felt in the guise of Red Bull sponsored surfboard painting and Grand Theft Auto XXII promos. At least the record shops were indie. If I could find them.
But I didn't. I consulted the notes I’d made back home and realised I didn’t have an actual address, just something in the nature of 'opposite this' or 'near that'. With Mrs Fisher in tow I knew my time was limited and whilst it was fun watching the fashion victims visit shops like honey bees on overtime there was always going to be the jet lag and a certain lassitude that was never far away.
In the end I gave it up as a bad job and off we trotted to Osaka Castle or was it the Aquarium or the Sky Tower, somewhere on the tube miles away. All was not lost though. During the coming days I would add to my Cornelius collection in Kochi whilst in Takamatsu the Mimosa Bird Jazz cafe would reveal unplayed copies of Coltrane’s Ascension and The Albert Ayler Trio’s Spiritual Unity both in the same box and both for a fiver. Around the corner in a crammed to the roof ‘Voice’ there were boxes of singles including many a Led Zeppelin Jap only 45 which I knew were worth money but for the life of me I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to buy and resell them when I got home. And all the time I was wondering if I’d ever find King Kong records during my last night in Osaka.
And there it was. We passed it by sheer accident. Thirsty and hungry and looking for somewhere to slouch with a few beers and a bowl of noodles for company we passed it right there on the right. Where ever it was. I still don’t know. But after spending a good hour in there and not even scratching the merest surface of a micro surface I can tell you that King Kong is the best second hand record shop I’ve ever been in. It is vast, enormous, ongoing, mind boggling in size and scope and breadth of genre, format, style and content. They even have their own cardboard boxes made up and at the back of the shop piles of them awaited sifting and sorting. Books and t-shirts abound. There was even stuff spilling out into the street. There must have been a bazillion records in there. I saw one person browsing records and couldn’t work out how he’d actually got to where he stood. There were dark corners that you just knew held some hidden gem but there just wasn’t the time. And then Mrs Fisher asks ‘don’t you know these people?’ and waves a flyer about for the recent Sudden Infant/Rudolph eb.er show that I missed by a month or so. I felt like an explorer following in the footsteps of those who have gone before me.
I was never going to leave empty handed so I bought one of the first things I saw ‘The World’s Worst Records!’ on Rhino Records with the sick bag still attached all for a 1000 yen [£6.50]. Just about everything I picked up was reasonably priced with the thinking being sell it and shift rather than sit on it forever looking at it gathering dust. I found the noise/experimental box [tucked away in the bottom left hand corner if you’re in a rush] and found two Schimpfluch related releases [got, got]. It was like bumping into old friends. Mrs Fisher found something she liked and I paid for them and the nice lady at the counter slipped a flyer into my bag that if I’d have had on day one would have led me to no less than 15 record shops all within the same area, all of which I failed to locate those two weeks earlier. I reproduce it here to save all further travelers the same trouble.
Having looked at the websites of each one of them I get the feeling that they like to specialize, be it reggae, hip hop, soul, 50’s & 60’s rock ... but I think I found the best one first.
Earlier in the day we ventured south of Namba station into the densely packed streets of Den Den town in search of further obscure Jagged Visions recommendations but found nothing but Tower Records and a quirky beer shop cum cafe. We tried a couple of bottles of pale ale from the Osaka brewery Minoh and deemed it one of the best bottled beers either of us had ever had but at a 1000 Yen a bottle [yes that's £6.50] our thirsts were somewhat tempered. Paying the bill I picked up a flyer that said ‘I Love Craft Beer’. On its reverse was a map showing the whereabouts of a craft beer shop not ten minutes walk from the Sky Tower where Minoh’s full range of beers were there for all to try. I tried to hide my tears as best I could.
1 - Newtone Records www.newtone-records.com
1 - Afro Juice www.afro-juice.com
1 - Rootdown Records www.rootdownrecords.jp
2 - OX - www.ox-z.com
3 - Waxpend
4 - Sakura Records - www.sakura-records.net
5 - Vinyl Chamber - www.vinylchamber.com
5 - Nightbeat Records - www.nightbeatrecords.com
5 - Morpho Records - www.morphorecords.com
5 - Rare Groove - www.raregroove.jp
6 - Voxmusic www.voxmusicweb.com
6 - Perfect Pitch Records www.perfectpitchrecords.com
7 - King Kong www.kingkong-music.com
8 - Groovenut Records www.groovenutrecords.net
Jagged Visions Zine