For music lovers Tokyo is something of a paradise in that there are still a lot of retailers who sell large selections of CDs and LPs. In America, at least, unless you happen to live in a community where some gallant nerd still operates a “record store” you can only buy CDs and LPs in person at so-called big box retailers like Walmart and Target, and those places tend to only deal in records that are expected to shift lots of units. Tokyo, on the other hand, still has HMV and even Tower, which closed all its stores in the U.S. some time ago but apparently still has a mail-order business there.
Even more, there’s Recofan, a chain store that sells new CDs at discount prices and tons of used CDs. Below that are dozens of niche record stores, mostly in Shibuya.
Record stores are as much about browsing as they are about buying, and if you buy a lot of music you obviously look for bargains where you can. For the most part, records in Japan are considerably more expensive than they are in the U.S. Common sense says that imports should be more expensive than domestic product, and that’s generally true overseas, but until about 10 years ago imported CDs were cheaper than the same CDs sold in Japan on Japanese labels, mainly because retailers have to sell Japanese-made records at fixed prices. Eventually, the prices of Japanese records of foreign artists came down in order to compete more readily with imports. (Big label CDs of Japanese artists are free from such competition so they’re expensive as hell — ¥3,000 usually — though several years ago local labels sicked their lawyers on companies that tried to “reimport” cheaper Asian versions of J-pop acts.)