japanese portable record players (top)

all photos by Chika Takami

The 1960s ushered in the golden age of record players as affordability made them a staple in almost every household. In Japan however, quality stereo sets remained unattainable for most, who then gravitated to a smaller, more affordable gadget: the portable record player.

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The devices were cheap, mass-produced players that were made, not only by electronics companies, but also toy companies and even industrial companies. Looking back on all the unique designs that came out, each was more groovier than the next. And it’s understandable why Fumihito Taguchi, a record shop owner in Tokyo, took an avid interest in these players and began collecting them.

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Taguchi’s collection has grown to over 100 different varieties of portable record players. Last year he even put out a photographic book of his collection, accompanied by several essays. In the book (sample pages viewable here), Taguchi explains that most people couldn’t afford to collect records based on musical preferences. Instead, they played phonosheets that were produced locally or given away as freebies. They were sometimes not even music at all. But that didn’t matter – it was the commodification of sound and people were simply looking for something to play on their portable record players.

Taguchi’s collection is going to be on display at an upcoming exhibition in Tokyo at the Lifestyle Design Center. The exhibition opens on July 30 and runs through August 28. Taguchi is the owner of the Koenji record shop Enban, which was included in our Koenji Guide.

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