The high art of the Japanese box set

Steely Dan / The Royal Scam box set
Steely Dan's The Royal Scam box was issued in 2005 (click to enlarge)

When it comes to music box set packaging, no one does it quite like the Japanese.

For decades they have been perfecting the art of ‘vinyl replica’ CDs. That is catalogue CD reissues that come packaged as miniature versions of the original vinyl, with a card or ‘paper’ sleeve.

For the Japanese music industry, this is now something of a fine art, and although other territories around the globe have occasionally reissued albums in similar ‘vinyl replica’ form, the quality and detail in Japan can rarely – if ever – be matched. Original textured papers are reproduced, any stickers on the original vinyl are re-created, inner sleeves mirror the originals and if your 1970s vinyl came with a poster (Wings’ Venus and Mars for example) you can be sure it will be recreated perfectly.

Swing Out Sister's 2010 Japan mini-LP CD reissue

It is no surprise that EMI turned to Japan for The Beatles’ Mono Box set in 2009 for the exquisite replicas of the original mono albums.

These paper sleeve reissues are very popular in Japan, and they are normally issued in sets – often a selection of work from one artist, or sometimes all their albums. They have a niche, collector appeal throughout the world.

What is less well known is that a company called Disk Union in Japan have been producing highly desirable, very limited ‘promo’ boxes in which to house these CDs.

The Police / Japanese box set
A Regatta de Blanc box containing all five Police albums (click to enlarge)

These boxes are produced with the full cooperation of the record company – artwork is licensed, allowing for a very high quality of finished product.

Even better, these boxes are ‘free’ (hence ‘promo’ boxes) but only for those who purchase the complete set of the mini-LP CDs which can run into hundreds of pounds or dollars.

The other problem is that these cannot be ordered online. You actually have to physically go to one of the Disk Union stores in Japan in person to get hold of them. Technically, these mini-LP CDs and the boxes are not allowed to be sold outside Japan.

David Bowie / Disk Union 2007 boxes
The 2007 David Bowie reissues came with these FOUR superb boxes (click to enlarge)

Inevitably, this has lead to a brisk trade of both the boxes (sometimes empty) and the mini-LP CDs, on eBay from Japanese sellers who buy locally, and offer to the international community.

As can be seen from the photos in this post – particularly with the multi-box David Bowie set from 2007 – these boxes are superbly made, with pin-sharp reproduction of original artwork and normally with a high gloss presentation.

For more information on Japanese mini-LP CDs and these Disk Union boxes visit this superb online resource minilps.net

See the gallery below for more pictures and annotations of these Disk Union boxes.

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