Magical Mystery Tour of Japan's Sole Beatles-Only Record Store
Set in the ancient capital of Nara, B-SELS is a shrine to John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Saturday 4th November, the day after The Beatles’ “last song ever” has landed, and I arrive in Nara, Japan’s deer-dominated, sleepy ancient capital, to catch a gig by a jazz quartet featuring Takeo Moriyama. I have no intention of exploring Nara, but as soon as I leave the station I happen to see this sign:
Curious, I climb three flights of stairs and wander into what is apparently Japan’s sole Beatles-only record shop.
This shrine to John, Paul, George and Ringo sells nothing but Beatles records and paraphernalia, including old magazines, posters, and bizarre trinkets. The records are mostly rarities, original and early presses from all over the world, and each Beatles album has its own section within which you can dig through multiple iterations. Solo material is equally well covered, and the singles come from places as random as Denmark and India. Of course, Japanese presses are plentiful too.
Speaking with the store's owner, Kenji (pictured below), he explains that he spent his whole working life as a civil servant, until five years ago, when he packed that in and opened B-SELS. The name is not simply a pun on “sells” but rather an acronym: Beatles, Singles, EPs, LPs, Shop.
Given the fortuitous timing of my visit to Beatlesland, I ask Kenji for his take on “Now And Then”...
“I cried. It was very emotional. I found it so moving to hear John’s voice like this, and the way Paul brought it all together with the chorus makes it such a fitting finale. I'm just happy it was released.”
B-SELS is open Eight Days a Week. Except Mondays.
Jazz Club Postscript
At Blue Note Naramachi—formerly Blue Note Kyoto, neither of which are affiliated with the label but have somehow evaded copyright infringement lawsuits for decades (the original Kyoto club opened in 1962 and started putting on shows in the late 1970s, including visits by Jimmy Smith, Elvin Jones, Mal Waldron and Nat Adderley)—a quartet of the great drummer Takeo Moriyama (check out his East Plants album for jazz on another plane), 84-year-old legendary pianist Takeshi Shibuya, saxophonist Eiichi Hayashi, and bassist Hiroshi Funato played a sensational set weighted two-thirds in favor of their own material. The venue, set in an old sake brewery with exposed beams and superb acoustics, is one of a kind: