Acoustic Sounds
Sapporo's best record stores
By: Jonti Davies

November 8th, 2023



Our Man In Sapporo, Jonti Davies Explores the City's Finest Record Stores

Japan's Northernmost Major City Is A Completely Different Proposition to Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo

The capital of Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, Sapporo is home to Precious Hall, the club world-renowned for its Loft-inspired sound system; a central park lined with beer gardens and the iconic Sapporo Beer factory; and for you, dear vinyl-lover, record shops overflowing with bargains.

Not as clued-up as Osaka in terms of shops specializing in the genres and scenes popular with young listeners today, nowhere near as vast or exhaustive as Tokyo (but also nowhere near as exhausting), and more down-to-earth (read: cheaper) than Kyoto, Sapporo's record shops are largely unfashionable and untidy with no time for pretense.

In no particular order, these are the places to visit.

Cricket Record & Sapporo Onzoh

A specialist in original-press, sought-after classical records, Cricket Record is a store in the suburbs of Sapporo that operates in tandem with a vintage audio retailer and repair shop (Sapporo Onzoh), doubling as something of an old boys’ club where local audiophiles mingle and show off their prized possessions. The price tags on some of the records here turned the pupils of my eyes into dilated ¥ signs. Fancy an original 1952 copy of Schubert’s Sonate Für Violoncello Und Klavier A-moll (Arpeggione) for ¥250,000 (just under $1,700)? (This is half the price of the only copy currently for sale on Discogs, so maybe it’s a bargain in some parallel universe.) Other examples of what Cricket has to offer in this realm of silly money can be seen here. Cheaper records are also available, mind, with a whole section full of mint Japanese pressings of classical music at ¥550 a pop.

And there is more. For one thing, Cricket Record has a pair of Western Electric speakers playing from antique Tannoy tube mono power amps that were custom-built as a one-off by Tannoy to drive a pair of Autograph speakers way-back-when, and which later found their way here by the most circuitous of routes. Other museum-worthy relics are on display at Sapporo Onzoh, Cricket’s partner audio store next door, which has been going since 1988. Meticulously restored and enhanced Garrard and Thorens idler drives sit next to a wall of pristine, mostly McIntosh amplification facing out onto a selection of legendary speakers dominated by the JBL Paragon (an enduring status symbol in Japan). In storage upstairs and subject to occasional telephone bids from wealthy collectors in Korea and Hong Kong, but as-yet-unsold because the owners are stubborn, is a pair of Tannoy Monitor Black speakers, Tannoy’s prototypical dual concentric model from the late 1940s. At both Cricket and Onzoh, the passion for pure vintage sound runs deep. As 10cc almost sang, “I don’t like Cricket Record./I love it.”


Just a few streets away from Cricket Record, and warmly recommended by the chaps at Cricket, is Bunkyodoshoten, half used bookstore, half used record shop, half bric-a-brac depository (that's right, it’s more than the sum of its parts). The friendly middle-aged woman who has owned and run this place since 1985 asks where I’m from and how I found her shop, which is a good question as this one is very much off the tourist trail. At one point while I was browsing the uniformly underpriced records, a very elderly woman, and clearly a regular, entered and explained that she was looking for a Ventures album. “The one with ‘Pipeline’, please…” I smiled and contemplated the eternal relevance of the Beach Boys’ “Add Some Music to Your Day”. As the store owner helped the customer search for a copy of Surfing (I assume), I kept hitting the jackpot in the jazz and blues sections, picking up a stack of superb albums—including Hi-Nology by the Terumasa Hino Quintet; Mr. Fulbright’s Blues, a double LP on P-Vine; and a 1956 Japanese mono pressing of Dave Brubeck And Jay & Kai’s At Newport—for prices so low that I began feeling the first tinges of something like guilt.   

Fresh Air

At Fresh Air I had to ask for a stepladder to check out the Mingus records! The records-to-floor-space ratio here is definitely top-tier (much like the Mingus discs) and there are even stacks outside the shopfront, guarded from the elements by the translucent roof of Sapporo’s famous Tanukikoji shopping arcade. Jazz, rock, and soul are the order of the day here, and given that it’s been thriving in this location since 1995, it’s fair to say that Fresh Air is giving the people exactly what they want. Bowie’s Low was playing as I digged, and among the records I took away was a 1976 Japanese mono pressing of Mingus’ Pithecanthropus Erectus (¥1,500) whose jacket looks extra cool thanks to the wabi-sabi touch of its now slightly faded obi

Disk Evans

Turns out the 75-year-old owner of this tiny jazz record shop in the suburbs of Sapporo is not an unlikely Evans-san but rather a lifelong fan of the great Bill Evans who started collecting the pianist’s records as a teenager and has ultimately amassed a “perfect collection” (his words) of Evans originals. That means he literally possesses at least one copy of every record Bill ever appeared on. And all original presses! Of course, this collection is stored safely at home, out of view, but what you’ll find in the Disk Evans store is a fine array of jazz records mostly mint or near-mint at prices so reasonable you’ll be saying “Good Evans!” and cursing yourself for such a terrible pun. The in-store sound system, a vintage Kenwood direct-drive deck and a pair of ancient Altec speakers, will massage your ears as you browse.  


Beat Records

Beat Records is owned and run by a friendly English-speaking local who travels around the world from Sapporo to buy stock (Portland and London are among his preferred destinations). His shop is a short flight of steps down from street level but has windows poking above, giving the place a kind of subterranean mezzanine situation. The owner explained that he aims to recreate the vibe of down-to-earth record shops he’s visited in traditionally roots reggae-driven areas of England like Peckham (London), Bristol and Birmingham. And he succeeds. When I visited, the place was abuzz with conversation (not always a given in Japan) and there were temptingly under-priced records everywhere. I ended up taking home a mint copy of Pressure Sounds’ long-out-of-print Burning Spear: Spear Burning double-LP compilation for a mere ¥2,000.  


ROOTS RECORDS (stylized like that, CAPS ON) is fronted by the charismatic DJ Keiji, who plays regularly at Sapporo’s legendary Precious Hall club and is an old friend of house/disco legends like François K and Ron Trent. Keiji has probably forgotten more than you or I will ever know about his preferred musical niches. Despite the store’s name, though, this is not a reggae specialist. ROOTS RECORDS is in fact a bar as well as a record shop dealing exclusively in twelve-inch disco and early house singles—“Only twelves!” Keiji grins—all used and rough around the edges. “Well-loved” is probably the term. With a couple of SL-1200 decks behind the bar, a UREI mixer, and a pair of huge JBL speakers clamped to floor and ceiling because they once toppled over during an earthquake, Keiji’s place has a unique energy and a soupçon of Precious Hall’s own famous sound.  

Oven Universe

More of an in-store concession (permanent, not a pop-up) than a store in its own right, focusing on quality over quantity, Oven Universe is crammed with brand-new left-field records, cassette tapes, and visually arresting printed material, much of which is created by the long-haired proprietor, who is a Risograph/silkscreen printing expert. Oven is described on its website as “cool culture shop, creative platform” and I’m not going to argue with that. Particularly cool is how the records here are sorted, with sections including Fantastic, Mysterious, Party/Groove, and Soft, and how the content of each record is visually described with a cobweb chart that maps attributes such as Experimental, Power, Meditative, and Brightness. Everything here is nicely baked.  

Page One

Named after the label run by Larry Page, Page One has moved premises within Sapporo a few times over its 30-odd years in the business. Toshihiko-san, who runs the shop with his wife, is a Steppenwolf fan whose demeanor is very much “born to be wild”. (He owns 35 copies of various presses of Steppenwolf’s first album.) Page One is a goldmine for rock music of all flavors, covering both mainstream and underground, and there’s a decent jazz section too (I picked up a mint copy of Ryojiro Furusawa’s classic Kijimuna LP, which had been on my list for a while). Like Cricket Record, Bukyodoshoten, Disk Evans and Cycle Record (below), you’ll need some form of road transport to get here from central Sapporo, but it’s definitely worth the trek.  

Cycle Record

Bit of an odd one, this shop, with an excellent selection of records at fair prices (original copy of Tatsuro Yamashita’s For You just ¥5,000, Happy End City comp ¥2,000, which I nabbed), but a proprietor who spends his time not engaging with the clientele but rather watching television, mostly local comedy, and chuckling away to himself. (This was verified as a matter of habit by a Japanese friend who has visited the shop many times.) There’s also a range of hair products, largely pomade, for sale at the counter. So, um, yeah.  


My most frequently-visited record shop during the years I lived in Sapporo back in the late 2000s, Rakuonshya is run by a chain-smoking music lover who also has good taste in audio equipment, with a Luxman L-505uX driving a pair of Tannoy Stirling speakers. One caveat: if you’re averse to cigarette smoke, you might want to limit your time here. But that would be a shame because Rakuonshya has plenty of gems in everything from jazz to heavy metal, including boxes upon boxes where every record is marked at just ¥500. I even found a stash of Blue Notes in one of said boxes, so who knows what you might find?  

Takecha’s Records

What started out as an online store run by one guy, Takecha, has expanded into a physical store showcasing the highlights of his inventory. Set on the fifth floor of what appears to be a partly converted office block, Takecha’s Records covers rare groove, soul, funk, exotica, and modern offshoots of those musics. There’s a “For Beginners” crate offering the uninitiated a reasonably-priced entrance to the forgotten underground, and the shop’s bags are a parody of the artwork from Cornelius’ Shibuya-kei classic Fantasma

King Kong Sapporo & Face Records

With other branches in Tokyo and Osaka, King Kong Sapporo benefits from a high turnover of stock and the ability to keep prices low. The same applies to the new Sapporo branch of Face Records, which is located in the STELLAR PLACE shopping complex connected to Sapporo Station and is the fourth non-pop-up Face Records store to be opened in Japan (Face even has a branch in Brooklyn that specializes in Japanese records). 


  • 2023-11-08 04:49:54 PM

    Anton wrote:

    Thank you for this, it is great! I am going to keep this one in my mind and read it multiple times...what a nice tour.

    • 2023-11-08 08:22:52 PM

      Jonti Davies wrote:

      Thanks Anton, glad to be of service!

  • 2023-11-09 02:58:21 PM

    NLak wrote:

    What a great read, thanks for this. Holy cow, those prices at Cricket are $725 for a Backhaus/Bohm/Mozart record and a Ferras/Bruch record for USD 2,000. Yikes!! I gotta go there.

    • 2023-11-09 07:21:28 PM

      Jonti Davies wrote:

      Yeah, needless to say I didn't buy anything at that level! But it has a similar appeal to visiting a Ferrari showroom (for those of us who can only afford Volkswagen).

      • 2023-11-10 12:06:16 PM

        NLak wrote:

        Well, the Yen keeps plummeting so there is hope. BTW! All albums i have ever purchased from Japan are in pristine condition, so don't mind paying a bit more for like new records. Thanks again for the great read.

  • 2023-11-09 06:04:59 PM

    James Blast wrote:

    This is solid gold. I'm going there in january. Thanks a lot!

    • 2023-11-09 07:15:54 PM

      Jonti Davies wrote:

      That's one of the best months to visit, James. Have fun!

  • 2023-11-13 01:35:43 PM

    Eugene Harrington wrote:

    This is the best article of its type that I have seen, better than the video efforts I have watched on You Tube even. Sapporo, on the island of Hokkaido, is a vinyl enthusiast's paradise with the abundance of record stores in the city! In actual fact, I have purchased many records from PAGE ONE over the years. I only stopped due firstly, out of necessity, to COVID, and later due to the change in the importation rules to the European Union which requires specific documentation. In the early days of its implementation, the Irish Post Office was acting very harshly and would send records back to the Sender if the correct documentation had not been completed. I am not sure if the smaller shops are equipped to deal with this? I have bought from Japanese stores on Ebay and everything went exceedingly well. PAGE ONE is an amazing source of really high quality records and I have never been less than thrilled with my purchases from that particular store. You cannot go wrong purchasing records from Japan. The grading is excellent and right on cue and the attention to detail is first class! I must check what PAGE ONE has on offer and order from that store again in 2024. A great vinyl buying experience!

  • 2024-01-21 10:21:44 AM

    Thrassyvoulos Papadopoulos wrote:

    Dear Jontie, like the one on Kyoto this one is just amazing! But could you please recommend good Tokyo based vintage classical LP dealers both online or bricks and mortar?