Our exploration of Japan wasn’t over after a week in Tokyo, so the other day we boarded the bullet train to Kyoto for a four day stay. I knew the music store scene wasn’t going to be as big here as it was in Tokyo, but I had a line on a shop called Jet Set that I wanted to check out and figured I’d see what else I might find along the way.
It turns out there is a Tower Records here too… though it didn’t appear to be nearly as large as it’s Tokyo sibling, being limited to one floor. We decided to forego a visit since we figured they were unlikely to have vinyl, so alas I can’t give you a review of that location. What I can do, though, is give you some info on two very cool stores in the city.
We ran across this place totally by accident while meandering through a pedestrian mall, and truth be told I decided to not bother heading up to the third floor to check it out since the sidewalk sign seemed to indicate it was CDs and DVDs only. But curiosity got the better of me and I went back, thankfully, to take a look.
It turns out most of the floor space in Happy Jack is taken up by vinyl – mostly 60s/70s rock, psych, garage, jazz… you get the idea. There was a nice small punk section, including a subsection of Japanese punk bands. The prices were reasonable (at least to my eyes), and I made some random purchases – Japanese acts M-Band, Kai Band, and The Mods, along with a sort of punkish compilation called Straight Ahead – Tokyo New Generation. The shop was well organized by genre, subgenre, and down to some specific bands. There were also some CDs, but I didn’t look too closely at those. Definitely worth the stop, especially since it’s in a huge shopping area – set your girlfriend, wife, or partner loose for half an hour and go visit Happy Jack.
First let me just note that Jet Set has one of the coolest logos of any record store, anywhere in the world. I know – this shouldn’t matter, and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t. But their old school, Pan Am Airlines inspired design is retro cool and makes for some nice buttons, stickers, etc.
Jet Set’s selection is heavily weighted towards all kinds of electronic (broken down into lots of subgenres), jazz, breaks, reggae, and hip hop, but they do have a smattering of other stuff as well. I was hoping to find more on my visit here, but I was sort of out of my depth given the stuff they specialize in. I did, however, find a couple of Japanese vinyl nuggets including Les Rallizes Denudés and a comp called Ongaku 80: Alternate Waves From Japan, featuring material from 1979-84.
I’m coming home from Japan with a full record bag, and even a handful of CDs (but no cassettes… though there was a display of them at Jet Set). Since I wasn’t looking for “collectible” items and focusing almost strictly on Japanese bands the prices seemed decent – I spent anywhere from 300 yen (about $3) and up, and the quality was good. Japan gets the thumbs up for vinyl fans.