Warning: the focus of this guide is (obviously) buying BUTAOTOME albums. It can be applied to Japanese albums overall (both doujin and major). Other types of stuff you can purchase on the shops mentioned here (comics, adult goods, etc.) are not taken in consideration and there are many other and better guides about them in the web.
First of all, what’s the difference between a “doujin album” and a “major album”?
Doujin: self-published by the circles/artists themselves, sold at the so called “doujin events” (like Comic Market or Reitaisai) but also in some specialized shops. Most of BUTAOTOME’s doujin releases are derivated works of Touhou Project, but they also used to publish albums with their original music, back when they didn’t have the label.
Major: published by a major label (in our case Avex Trax), which also has a partial, if not total, control over the distribution methods. They are available in the mainstream Japanese shops and they are also more expensive than the doujin albums.
Doujin: 1200 yen (this is the general price for BUTAOTOME releases, but some albums with less than 8 tracks can be cheaper)
Major: 1500 yen (CD only version) / 2000 yen (CD+DVD version)
These prices don’t include taxes. To convert yen prices into your local value, use a converter like Xe.com.
BUTAOTOME’s doujin albums are officially sold on various doujin shops, with the most popular ones being Melonbooks and Toranoana. Each album page of this website has its list of buy links.
However, except for Akiba-Hobby (be sure that there is “ovs” in the URL and not “ec”) these shops don’t offer overseas shipping. You must rely on proxy/forwarding services.
Proxy service: you send them the links of what you want to buy and they’ll buy them for you and then ship them once they arrive to their warehouse. You have to pay them twice: the first time when they give you a quota for your purchases and the second time for shipping. There are lots of services of this type in the web, all of them with an English interface and their fees: when I started to buy BUTAOTOME albums in September 2012, I used Noppin, then I switched to OtakuRepublic (the items they have “in stock” actually come from the doujin shops and while they look overpriced, the prices include shipping and fees. and they can also accept particular requests pretty much like a proxy) after some years. Recently, I’ve also started to use Zenmarket or just asked my friends in Japan to buy and ship for me.
Forwarding service: they give you a Japanese address to use when purchasing in the shop yourself. Then it’s very similar to the above mentioned proxy. The most well known example of this type of service is Tenso. (Toranoana and other shops have partnerships with Tenso: when they write “we can ship overseas!!11” it’s actually “use Tenso”)
A few tips:
– Importing stuff from Japan is almost never cheap. You should buy more than a couple of albums.
– If you order from a proxy, try to include links from exclusively one shop. Also, for most orders, (at least from my experience with Melonbooks) pre-ordered items are treated separately from purchases of older albums, so if you want to do a bulk order of new and old stuff, I suggest to only order from there at the release date of your desired album.
– useful words: 在庫あり = “in stock”, 残りわずか or 在庫残少 = “few copies left”, 売り切れ (or if you don’t see any “add to cart” button) = “soldout”,
There is not much difference on which shop you buy from. It depends on the album availability: you might decide to buy from Melonbooks due to its larger selection of albums (see note below about the Melonbooks exclusives), or go with Toranoana or others instead.
There are rumours that Melonbooks doesn’t ship to forwarding/proxy services if they spot them. As for me, I’ve never had this problem and same goes for a friend who made a purchase by using Tenso during summer 2017. [EDIT 22nd December 2017: Melonbooks recognizes Tenso and Buyee as services you can use to buy outside Japan]
A special mention goes to proxy services who can also go to Comiket/other doujin events and try to buy the items for you: you can get some exclusive stuff, but in case of BUTAOTOME they are mostly freebies like clearfiles, bamboo fans etc.. They rarely publish event-exclusive discs (which are distributed exclusively on that day) and most of their limited discs are live-related or were sold at very minor doujin events.
– EMS (Express Mail Service): faster, with tracking and insurance, but also more expensive and easily subject to annoying custom fees (they mostly depend on your country and you can try to avoid them by asking your middleman service to mark the package as gift and/or lower the declaired value – from my experience, OtakuRepublic does this by default and I also never got fees by purchasing from Mandarake, but I don’t know if that was because I purchased a couple of albums there)
– SAL (Surface Air Lift): cheaper, less subject to custom fees but also slower and without tracking and insurance (unless you pay for it, the so-called “registered SAL”).
There are other shipping types, but those two are the most popular ones. The main rule is “the more you pay for shipment, the faster your package arrives”
What does “Melonbooks exclusive” mean?
Some albums (mostly minor releases) are exclusively sold on Melonbooks and can’t be found in other shops. They are marked with the 専売 kanji in their shop page and they are the following:
– Long Skirt Panorama Girl (reprint)
– Tasogare Elegy (reprint)
– En (reprint)
– Folie à deux
– I LOVE CHERRY
– Neko no Anmin
– Piano to Uta “Tasogare Elegy” version
– Piano to Uta “En” version
– Touhou Peace
– ICHIGO TRAVEL in HONGKONG
– Miscellaneous goods (those listed in this page. Live goods are not sold online)
What does “reprinted album” mean? Should I expect any difference from the original?
The following albums got a reprint some years after their original release:
– Kouseki Radio
– Touhou Kaiten Mokuba
– Gensou Homo Ludens
– Long Skirt Panorama Girl
– Tasogare Elegy
However, don’t worry: except for possible minor differences in the booklet, they are the same exact thing of the first press, from the album artwork to the music. These reprints are exclusively aimed to those who don’t own the album.
I want this album so much, but it’s sold out everywhere!
The following albums are currently out-of-production and you can’t get them at all by regular means:
– Touhou Nekokenban
– Kaen Ranzen
– Bowling [apparently some copies are still on Akibaoo, though]
If you are desperate, you can check second hand shops like Suruga-ya or Mandarake (the latter one ships overseas). The stuff is also cheaper, but keep in mind that by buying from these shops you don’t actually support the artists, so this guide won’t focus too much on them.
I only recommend to use them as last resort, for these above mentioned albums or if you are a crazy collector who wants rare event-limited stuff (do not try this at home!!!).
Now, everything I wrote until now is limited for the doujin albums. For the major albums is a different situation. You can buy them on Melonbooks and co. along with the doujinz, but they are also easily available on international shops centered on Japanese music, with Amazon JP, CDJapan and HMV Japan being the most popular ones. They are also in English, so everything is simple (and in case of Amazon you can switch language). In addition, most of these shops also offer the BUTAOTOME Fanbook.
A couple of notes about Amazon JP:
– yes, you might see some doujin albums as well, but they are unauthorized resales with larger prices.
– Furubokko can’t be shipped outside Japan. That’s because in February 2017 Avex applied an export ban for all their product in the Avex Pictures sub-label. While this is completely unrelated to BUTAOTOME (Avex Pictures is centered on the anime stuff), Amazon JP applied the ban to every single Avex product. However, this hasn’t been extended to future releases, so Trauma Recorder is purchasable there from overseas.
A last note about the DVDs: all of BUTAOTOME’s DVDs (PV collection, Jump Otome, major albums’ extra dvds) are coded to be Region 2, except for Pig Video Desu, which is Region All.
The major albums are available on pretty much every Japanese website centered on digital music (mora, Rekochoku, dwango to name a few). However, most of them need some workaround (Japanese credit card, VPN etc.) and every shop only offers AAC files for BUTAOTOME’s releases (except Amazon JP, which has MP3 files), so in the album pages I only list iTunes and OTOTOY because they are “overseas friendly”. iTunes doesn’t need to be introduced: you can easily purchase the albums on the store of your country as well as the full versions of the music videos (but no other videos from the extra DVDs). In case you can’t/don’t want to use iTunes, OTOTOY is a good alternative (though it doesn’t have the videos): the site is partially in English, but it should be easy for you to buy from there and it also accepts Paypal.
Since October 2018, BUTAOTOME’s Touhou albums are easily purchasable on iTunes and Google Play Music! Note that they use a different artist tag from the major albums.
All the Touhou albums are available except for the following ones:
– Kaen Ranzen
– Touhou Peace
– Shoujo Rengoku 4
– Touhou Nekokenban 16
– Yuusei Hakurankai
– all the live/event-limited releases
In the past, the only way to digitally purchase the doujin albums was Melonbooks DL. That website has only the first five Touhou vocal albums and it’s entirely in Japanese, but if you follow this guide you will be able to buy from there. (note that it might give a “403 forbidden” error)