CDs for a Song

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Bunkado has a wide selection of enka and Japanese pop and rock, mostly from the 80s and 90s, such as Southern All Stars. (Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Arts & Entertainment Editor

C’mon, admit it: you were always secretly a fan of Southern All Stars or Mr. Children, or maybe even those squeaky-clean, roller skating idols, Hikaru Genji.

Perhaps your tastes run toward some of the better-known enka stars of the past three decades.

Whatever your Japanese musical proclivities, you may very well find them at an irresistible price, at the Bunkado gift store in Little Tokyo.

Compact disc sales have fallen sharply worldwide in recent years, as music is increasingly distributed in digital formats over the internet. Bunkado has not been immune to the shift in the way consumers purchase their favorite tunes, so the shop has permanently cut the prices on all CDs by at least 50 percent, and all cassette tapes by 75 percent.

“CDs are getting harder and harder to sell,” explained Bunkado owner Irene Tsukada Simonian. “We had such a huge overstock and we weren’t moving too many, so I just stopped buying anything new around 2006.”

Below, store employee Maki Solomon shows how the store even still has some 8-track tapes in stock.

The store has thousands of titles, mostly from the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, but a good selection from the 50s, 60s and 70s as well. Fans of what has become known as J-Pop will find fairly recent music by famous artists at a price that simply can’t be beat, in store or online.

They also have what is likely the biggest collection of enka CDs of any brick-and-mortar store in Los Angeles.

Simonian, whose family opened the store on First Street in 1945, said that there was no music section there originally, but that they sold a few records at other locations in the neighborhood. Over the years, they consolidated their inventory and the records eventually wound up at their main store, but that her mother didn’t really want to advertise about music.

Bunkado's enka selection may be the largest of any brick and mortar store in Los Angeles.

“Anyone who was a fan of enka, or a music teacher, or later, people who got into karaoke knew all about it,” Simonian explained, “But she didn’t want all kinds of riff-raff just hanging around.”

Bunkado is located at 340 E. First Street in Little Tokyo. Call (213) 625-1122 for information and store hours.

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