Japanese Record Store Tributes To David Bowie
David Bowie passed away a month ago, but I still haven’t fully processed the news. It’s still hard to believe that he’s no longer with us. He was such a presence in the pop world. And his music meant more to me than anyone else’s.
And his death wasn’t just a shock and tragedy in the Western world. David Bowie was huge internationally, especially in Japan. Even before his death, it was hard to miss Bowie’s section in most record stores here, and even less well-regarded albums like Never Let Me Down or his output with Tin Machine seemed to be held in at least some esteem here. Not a week goes by where I don’t see a rare Bowie LP go for an insane amount of money at any of the multitude of record stores here in Tokyo.
In Japan, record stores have a bit more personality than their Western counterparts. Even in major chains, it’s not uncommon to see handwritten recommendation notes by the staff, and custom tailor-made displays dedicated to more obscure artists and genres. With Bowie’s passing, many of these same stores have taken to commemorating his legacy with similarly DIY, custom-made displays. In the days and weeks in the wake of Bowie’s death, I visited several Tower Records and other stores to see how they were handling the Starman’s passing. I was pretty impressed.
And now I know how to spell David Bowie in katakana – デヴィッド・ボウイ。
I first visited record stores in the days immediately following Bowie’s passing, and was surprised to see just how quickly they got memorial displays up and running, and how elaborate they were. This one was at the Tower Records in Shibuya, and located front and center on the first floor. Most of the time that space is reserved for brand new releases by Japanese acts, so it’s prime real estate. I thought that alone was a pretty substantial bit of floor space dedicated to Bowie, but it was just the beginning.
The Tower Records in Shinjuku is smaller than the Shibuya one, but they still managed to dedicate a fair share of their floor to Bowie as well. I went there just last week to take these pics.
While the Tower Records have the biggest tributes to Bowie, a few other stores showed their respect in smaller, but no less meaningful, ways as well. Disk Union, a very popular and prolific record store chain in Tokyo, had tributes up in many of their stores.
HMV still maintains a presence in Tokyo as well, and they had a mini-tribute at their Shibuya location, which is a pretty great store by the way. They deal mostly in used product, so I think they had a little less to work with than the other stores, still a nice little showcase nonetheless.
Sure, you could write off these displays as nothing more than cash grabs, slick moves by retail outlets to cash in on a tragedy, but I refuse to see them as such. Bowie was a legendary figure among so many people, and making it easier for those just now discovering his back catalog to get into his work and discover even more music by him can’t possibly be a bad thing. And seeing such tributes in a land so far from his home made me feel a little happier in the weeks following his death.
Below is a full slideshow of all the pictures I took from the various stores. Rest in peace Starman, hope someday I meet you, I think you blew my mind.