TRAVELING TO JAPAN! Recommendations for shops for cartridges?

Hi all,


I'll be traveling somewhat unexpectedly to Japan this week. I will be spending a couple days in both Kyoto and Tokyo. 


I'm wondering if anyone has any recommendations for shops I should stop into? Record Stores? 

Specifically i'm seeking a new cartridge under $1500 along with records and cds.

I'm good with both new and vintage cartridges that would pair with with a VPI Prime Scout. 

As for what kind of sound I'm looking for from my cart, I've only ever run the Ortofon 2m Bronze and Black on the VPI, both of which I've liked. Between them I prefer the detail, space and speed from the black over the warmer rounded edges of the bronze...but it could be fun to get two carts with different sound signatures. I'm all ears!

Thank in advance!




Nagaoka MP-500.  It has a warm musical character with stellar midrange clarity and fatigue free natural open airy treble.  Very dynamic too. 

The single best store for choosing among many many different cartridges that are all "in stock" and ready for immediate sale is Yodibashi Camera, which is located in the Akihabara section of Tokyo.  Brands include Audio Technica, Grado, Ortofon, Shelter, Ikeda, and now my mind is going blank but there are more. Go to the 4th or 5th floor of the enormous building, as big as Macy's in NYC, and you will see a myriad of cartridges, as well as all other imaginable audio accessories and basic equipment.  There are even 2-3 different listening rooms where you can mix and match components you might want to hear.  Akihabara is a major train stop for many different lines; you almost cannot miss it.  And Yodi is right outside one of the main gates of the massive train station.  For LPs, I would go to Disc Union, which is near the Ochanomizu train station, one stop away from Akihabara on one of the train lines. (Maps in English are all over the place in train stations.)  Across the street from DU is a boutique audio salon, Audio Union, part of the same business, if you want to look at gear in a very quiet setting.  Yodibashi is a bit unique in that they will discount the Japanese tax beforehand, if you present your passport, whereas if you do business elsewhere, you have to pay the tax and then get a refund at customs (or so I am told).

I preferred the MP-200 over the 500 in my system, either are wonderful cartridges and I am sure they could be acquired for a reasonable sum in Japan vs US. 

There you go; Yodibashi sells Nagaoka, too.  In fact, I bought an MP500 there in May for about 60% of US price.  Don't know why I forgot Nagaoka in my post above. The bargain price is mostly because of the very favorable exchange rate, yen to dollar, that still prevails, not because of a greedy importer.

it is also necessary to evaluate the price ratio in the country of origin/and price in the country of residence.
When years ago I went to the USA for some time I had brought with me a list of cartridges with the costs in my country; arrived in N.Y. I inquired about the costs at a large and well-known shop in the city.
I bought some top-of-the-range Grado for me and some friends and a Krell, the cost was about 7 times lower than in my country, the savings were considerable; it would not have made sense to buy European or Japanese cartridges in the USA.
If you go to Japan, the savings are on Japanese-made cartridges, not imported American or European brands.

But the vast majority of all cartridges are made in Japan or elsewhere in Asia.  In fact, Grado is the only exception I can think of, even assuming Grado cartridges are made in USA, which may not be the case. Along the lines of what you say, best-groove, I notice repeatedly that Japanese re-issues of LPs originally pressed in the USA or Europe are far cheaper in Disc Union than are the original pressings.  This is no bad thing as Japanese pressings are typically superb in quality.  Also, I buy "pre-owned" LPs in Disc Union, without trepidation, because the Japanese appear to take meticulous care of their LPs.  DU uses a rating system of A, B, C, etc. for used LPs.  Any LP rated "A" can be bought sight unseen; it will be like new mint. "B" rated LPs are usually just as good but may have a blemish on the jacket.

Disc Union has great inner sleeves on the Craftman reissues of Three Blind Mice stuff. Some of the great ones, e.g. Black Orpheus, have not been reissued out of Japan.

To me, I’d love to visit Japan with someone who is connected. I know one such person. To get into some of the privately owned systems in standalone "temples" to hear esoterica that we don’t get in the States; the horn/low powered SET thing did take hold as a fringe element here at one point, but the Japanese have this ethos of perfection (which may be a myth but it is a cool objective). The jazz listening rooms for the salarymen would also be something I’d hit.

That's BIC Camera's and Yodobashi.

Yodobashi has probably the best choice. you will need google translate as its in Japanese

For LP's Disc Union flagship store ( they have a few branches) is outside Shinjuku station. A 100 metre walk.

Most of all enjoy the audio eye candy.

For CD’s look for a second hand store called ‘hard off’. Unfortunately I can’t recall which one but they are all over the place and some of them have a very large selection of pre owned cd’s, and since the Japanese tend to take care of their belongings, most are in like-new condition. Some hard off’s even carry vintage hifi gear so keep an eye open. -In fact, I bought a Marantz model 8 tube amp from a hard off.

... the vast majority of all cartridges are made in Japan or elsewhere in Asia. In fact, Grado is the only exception I can think of, even assuming Grado cartridges are made in USA ...

Grados are made in the USA. Soundsmith, too. VAS Audio carts are made in NJ.

Thank you so much everyone! So excited with these great recs. 

Will report back when I return! 

BIC Camera is strictly for kids who want cheap, digital, and portable, based on my tour of the store in May. But maybe I missed something. Anyway, as a serious audiophile, I wouldn’t waste my time there.

rushfan et al, Lyra cartridges are not sold up front in any store I’ve ever been in over the course of 15 years since our son took up residence in Tokyo. Maybe if you know the right person (and can speak Japanese) you might purchase Lyra there.

@lewm I think it depends on the store, since they have several, but the one I visited had a strong game with HiFi and prices were 50% lower than US, obviously mostly Japanese brands for example Luxman, which I don’t think its for kids since prices can go up to 20K here. 

@sammyshaps there are a couple of stores on Akihabara neighborhood that also have a strong game on HiFi, Dynamic Audio is one of them, watch out because they have 7 floors if they do not have what you are looking for they can guide you 


That was my experience in Japan in July 20023, I was able to buy some of the best cables at 50% less price than USA but you have to look for things 


Look for DS Audio optical cartridges. I have the entry level DS E1. FANTASTIC.

dave, I went into the BIC that is near Yodibashi in Akihabara.  I made a quick tour of every floor, but the emphasis is on "quick"; I might have missed something, but I saw no evidence that they were selling the TOTL gear of any well known manufacturer.  Which is to say they might have been selling Luxman products, but not the TOTL ones.  Whereas, you can walk into Yodi and buy a TOTL Luxman preamplifier right off the shelf.  I was specifically looking for a Viv Float tonearm; Yodi sells Viv, but they were out of stock and did not expect any product for two months.  I never visited any other BIC store, and I certainly yield to your personal experience if yours differs from mine.  Good to know Dynamic Audio still exists.  Ten years ago, I bought a Koetsu Urushi from Sound110; they seem to be kaput as of May.  They were alive and well prior to the pandemic.  I am fearful that the Japanese high end businesses are having a bit of a struggle, just as many of our brick and mortar stores had 10-20 years ago, before going under.

@lewm all good man, you are right the one on akihabara is not that good I visit that too but the one I recommend is on Yurakucho, that one is very centric very close to Gynza. I bought so many good things there and a lot that I could not buy because the power is 100 V 

@sammyshaps I just listen digital I am not into vinyl but I am sure you can find anything in Tokyo from what I saw. 

100V is no problem at all. You just use a 120V to 100V step down transformer. Those are cheap on eBay. I’ve got 2 turntables running off 100 V here in my listening room. Step down costs ~$50 each. I’ll keep in mind the other BIC for next visit. Thanks for that and Dynamic Audio too.

Thanks a lot Sammy! Now you have me all amped up to want to go to Japan. I'm afraid it'll never happen unless we all charter a trip there. I've dreamed of going to Japan for a long time. Keep us posted on your success and details. Joe


.. the vast majority of all cartridges are made in Japan or elsewhere in Asia. In fact, Grado is the only exception I can think of, even assuming Grado cartridges are made in USA ...

Benz Micro are made in Switzerland

Clearaudio are made in Germany

Ortofon are made in Denmark




And yet, the vast majority of all cartridges are made in Japan or elsewhere in Asia, and I wouldn't be so sure that Clearaudio cartridges are all made in Germany.

And yet, the vast majority of all cartridges are made in Japan or elsewhere in Asia,


Do you have any data or just guessing? I'm going with guessing.

Ortofon is the largest in the world

Rega is made in the UK

BUT... this debate is really pretty stupid. You made a claim you can’t back up yet you steadfastly stand by it. And I can’t completely refute it, but in any case, you can’t back up what you said so why do you keep defending it ?


Good Day


so back to the original question. You also need to consider the compliance of your arm.

You say you are using MM cartridges so do you have a phono stage that  can handle the moving coils some are recommending? If the phono stage can take an MC, does your system have enough gain to work with a much lower output MC than your current MM? 


it's a system


Thanks @herman! i do have a phono stage that can handle lower compliance and adequate gain for the few cartridges suggested so far. 



Look for DS Audio optical cartridges. I have the entry level DS E1. FANTASTIC.

+1.  It's in a totally different price class than Nagaoka, and needs a proportionately top shelf system to really be heard, but I've heard the DS W3 on a great rig, and it's performance is something special.

Herman, why are you so agitated? Maybe I’m wrong. So what? The statement is totally inconsequential. No need for conniptions. It would be hard to prove or disprove because many brands outsource their cartridges. If you want so badly to be right in saying I’m wrong, I give. You’re right.

 i do have a phono stage that can handle lower compliance 

Compliance of the cartridge is related to how it interacts with your tonearm, not the phono stage. If you have a mismatch between cartridge compliance and the effective mass of the arm you can end up with a resonant frequency that is either too high or too low. This link covers it very well.

From what I can find your arm has an effective mass of 10.2 grams 


Have fun in Japan. Fascinating country to visit.


I did a little internet searching on the question of where most cartridges are manufactured.  Ortofon is listed as the largest producer of cartridges, and so far as I can find out, all their cartridges are made in Denmark. I had previously assumed that at least some of their top of the line cartridges are made in Japan, based on the fact that you can buy them in Japan for bargain prices.  Since also Rega are listed as a top 3 or top 5 maker of cartridges, and since they are made in the UK, I have to say that my generalization was probably incorrect.  Suffice to say you can buy Ortofon, and even Grado cartridges, in Tokyo at good prices.  Also, all sources say that Ogura and Namiki are the nearly sole sources of styli and possibly cantilevers.  Therefore, if you look at it that way, at least parts of most cartridges come from Japan.  Then there is Hana, Koetsu, Lyra and other cartridges made for various brands by Scantech, Audio Technica, Etsuro, MSL, Nagaoka, Miyajima, and many others made in Japan. 

Hi all!

Reporting back. 

I returned from Japan with a Nagaoka Mp-500, a replacement stylus, a suitcase of records and some chef knives :) 

The cartridge and stylus ended up being $700 USD, so quite a good buy over there versus in the US.

I've been incredibly happy with it so far and would like to thank everyone for their recommendations!


How did you get knives past airport security? Presumably in checked baggage I guess. Decades ago, when I bought a Zerostat in the UK, security at the airport gave me a hard time until I convinced them it was not a gun.