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  • Please note that the purpose of this guide relates to the purchasing of both digital and physical doujin music, you can however apply everything here to buying games. The main consideration regarding the acquisition of doujin music is that the target audience is Japanese locals and event-goers inside of Japan. This attitude has been changing over the last couple of years, with many artists and stores opening up to international distribution and making their music available digitally on platforms such as Booth and Bandcamp. If you are outside of Japan and looking to purchase a circles release, remember that you are not the target audience and you may need to jump through many hoops to acquire the albums that you wish to buy. While this guide is centered around purchasing doujin music, the same information is also applicable to the purchase of doujin videogames and software.

    NB: If you have any specific questions or issues, please feel free to visit the #help channel in the DoujinStyle Discord.





    While this guides intentions are to provide guidance and aid in buying doujin releases, it is worth mentioning certain pitfalls that may affect new or naive fans of doujin music.

    Keeping track of your finances is key for newcomers to doujin music buying, it's easy to get swept up in new releases and forget that in a few months there will likely be more you want to buy. Knowing when the events your favourite circles attend are held and saving up a little in advance is a good habit. Taking your time to listen to and later review crossfades is another good habit that will help ensure you don't regret any part of your purchase.

    If you're uncertain about a purchase, remember that if it's a well-known or active circle you'll likely have other chances to buy it. But conversely, keep in mind that if the circle doesn't normally sell albums online, or actively attend events, you can find yourself out of luck should you pass on the opportunity.

    DO NOT donate money to any website that provides direct album downloads, as these sites aim to prey upon unsuspecting users to make a monetary gain off of the albums from various circles. These websites often steal CD Rips from various locations online and offer them up on a generic website or platform that may also be riddled with ads or ad-links for further gain.

    Only buy digital album downloads from the recommended storefronts in the Digital Storefronts section.

    Never purchase from Otaku Republic or any of their alternate domains. Otaku Republic has gained notoriety in the doujin/hobby scene for its reputation as a web crawler and resell platform. This means that they use automated services to scrape listings from Japanese storefronts to relist these items on their website using the same images and data, with a price mark-up for naive foreign buyers.

    As a general rule of thumb, most doujin releases cost between 1000-1500 yen (9-14 USD). The listings of these same CDs on Otaku Republic range from $20, to over $50 USD! This doesn't include the shipping cost and wait times that come with them ordering these items from Japan before shipping them to the customer. This guide will advise you on how to purchase doujin items from the original outlets that carry these items so that you can avoid paying for the unnecessary mark-up these sites charge to unsuspecting users.





    The first method of buying doujin music is digitally, the selection of available albums is smaller compared to other methods, but it's generally cheaper, quicker, and easier to buy music this way. You'll only need a valid credit card or PayPal account, and a basic understanding of the storefront you're using. The one major drawback of this method besides the relatively small selection is the fact that lossless audio and booklet scans aren't always guaranteed. Digital distribution appears to be increasing in popularity among doujin circle and the selection of available albums increases every year, common websites used by doujin circles for digital distribution include: Bandcamp, BOOTH, DLsite, and Melonbooks DL (Japanese IP address required).

    The second method of buying doujin music is physically from storefronts, the selection of available albums includes almost every well known circle and many lesser-known circles, but is more expensive, slow, and difficult than buying digitally. You'll need a valid credit card or PayPal account, a good understanding of the storefront you're using, and potentially a mail forwarding service since not all stores offer international shipping. This might sound like a lot of work, but it's only tricky the first time and you will have the benefit of receiving the physical CD which guarantees lossless audio and the album booklet. The trend among doujin stores seems to be towards more accessibility for foreigners, meaning more cooperation with mail forwarding services and even international shipping in some cases. Common websites used by circles for CD consignment include: Melonbooks, Diverse Direct, AKIBA HOBBY, Toranoana, and TANO*C STORE.

    The third method of buying doujin music is physically at Events, the selection of available albums is the best of all three methods in most respects, but a bit more expensive and slower than buying digitally, although not much more difficult than using storefronts. You will just need to know what you want to buy before the event is held, and either attend it personally in Japan or know someone who's going and can buy what you want for you. Depending on which circles you like this may never be a method you need to use, but if you ever find yourself wanting something difficult to acquire otherwise, some people offer their services to foreigners in your situation. Because of the nature of doujin music, there will likely always be niche artists whose work is limited to convention-goers, luckily you needn't attend in person to enlist the services of a proxy buyer.





    Bandcamp



    Overview

    Bandcamp is one of the primary sites online to purchase digital music. Incredibly popular in the west, less popular in the east but still a very big platform. Bandcamp provides downloads in all the most popular formats. Bandcamp has a generous revenue model, taking only 10-15% for digital sales and 10% for physical sales. The site has a huge selection of music, and a lot of doujin albums can be found on there. Bandcamp offers physical albums as well as digital, but the overall majority of releases are in digital form. Bandcamp has gained popularity with doujin artists in recent times, due to the Covid-19 pandemic forcing physical events to go from the real world, to cyber space.

    Pros

  • Payment methods are very diverse. You are able to use all manner of credit cards, as well as being able to use PayPal.

  • There is no need to register and account on Bandcamp. You can purchase albums with never having to log in, which greatly speeds up purchasing. Creating an account however will allow you to make collections, comment on artists albums and more.

  • Ease of use. Bandcamp has a very clean layout, and every album can be listened to in it's entirety before purchasing. All album covers can also be enlarged. Browsing the site is very simple, and it is not hard to find music.

  • Bandcamp has a fair trade policy, which can be viewed here.

  • Cons

  • There are not any cons for using Bandcamp. The only con that there could be is that the range of doujin music is very limited in terms of what is available on other digital doujin stores in the east.

  • Conclusion
    On the whole Bandcamp is a very reputable platform, it's secure, it has a great range of music, and it treats the the artists fairly. We definitely recommend Bandcamp when purchasing doujin music.


    BOOTH



    Overview

    Booth is a branch of Japanese art posting website Pixiv, and an online store which offers physical mail order goods and digital downloads, some of which are only available for purchase during their bi-annual digital convention APOLLO. Booth hosts a wide range of digital albums compared to other digital storefronts, and has an international site making it fairly foreigner friendly, although users have found the interface and search function lacking. BOOTH also has no guarantee about lossless files being available on purchase, however mostly all purchases will contain a lossless version.

    Pros

  • BOOTH has a lot of doujin albums that aren't available on other digital platforms. Because of their APOLLO event, quite a few exclusive digital albums are published on BOOTH before other digital stores.

  • The English language is available as an option on BOOTH. This makes the site very accessible to people not living in Japan.

  • Lossless audio quality is generally guaranteed. For those who collect lossless audio formats, BOOTH will 99.9% of the time provide lossless audio files upon purchasing.

  • PayPal is accepted as a payment method.


  • Cons

  • Some digital albums that are only available for purchase during the digital convention APOLLO will be listed as “out of stock” when an APOLLO event is not happening (although they may again become available during future APOLLOs)

  • When downloading a full album, if the album is big in size it may fail and never start downloading (as your browser zips the files), forcing you to download individual songs.

  • When downloading individual songs, the song file names need to be renamed, as they are not named correctly upon downloading.

  • Conclusion
    A good site that has an English version. A lot of doujin albums can be found here, and they sell digital albums as well as physical. The interface and search are not very well made and are serviceable at best. However due to the site being quite easy to use and being friendly to non Japanese people, we recommend this site if the album is not already om Bandcamp.


    Melonbooks DL



    Overview

    MelonbooksDL is the digital download companion to Japanese hobby shop Melonbooks and features a fair selection of doujin music. The website which hosts the downloads is currently blocked for all non-Japanese IP addresses, but if you are able to mask your IP with a VPN you will be able to get access. MelonBooks has a vast array of doujin goods, and is considered one of the best place to get doujin goods in new condition, Click here for an in-depth guide to buying on Melonbooks DL.

    Pros

  • Huge array of doujin items.

  • Doujin items appear on Melonbooks very quickly after an event has finished.

  • Easy to use site layout


  • Cons

  • VPN required.

  • Audio quality usually unstated with no rules guaranteeing lossless, examining the listed file size is often your only clue before buying.

  • Site layout can be confusing and has bad design decisions. No English language so you have to rely on Google translate, and items open in a new tab.


  • Conclusion
    While Melonbooks may have a massive selection of doujin items, the way in which the site is structured, and the fact that you cannot see the quality of music you will be downloading before purchasing, are massive issues. You may end up spending what will be the cost a new album, but only have the choice of downloading at 128 or 192 kbps quality. If you are fluent in Japanese and don't care about quality, then this site will be fine. We recommend using other sites for downloading.


    DLsite



    Overview

    DLsite is a store that sells a wide range of Japanese goods. The site contains a lot of doujin music, as well as doujin games. DLsite rarely provides lossless downloads, it does however provide 320kbps MP3's. The site is relatively easy to use, and even has an English version of the site (it does not contain as many items as the Japanese site however). In regards to games, DLsite contains a lot of doujin games, some contain special DLsite DRM, but this is only for their biggest most popular games.

    Pros

  • Large selection of doujin items. The japanese site contains more than the English version of the site.

  • English version of the site is accessible to those outside of Japan. The site is also very easy to use and nicely structured.

  • Doujin games are available to be bought.

  • DLSite has exclusive items. You will sometimes come across items with an exclusive banner on the cover art, showing that this can only be bought digitally on DLSite.

  • Payment methods include all major credit cards and PayPal.

  • Build coupon points the more you buy. These can then be used for money off future purchases.

  • Cons

  • Rarely provides lossless downloads. Most audio is downloaded as MP3 320kbps.

  • Selection is lacking when compared to something like Melonbooks.

  • There is no way to know what quality of music you are downloading before purchasing.


  • Conclusion

    DLsite is a strong option for buying doujin music and games digitally it contains a wide range of content, and although it may not always provide lossless, it does provide MP3 320kbps. One downside is you don't know what quality of music you are getting, you have to gauge that by looking at the size of the download, which luckily DLsite does show. The English version of the site whilst does not have all the same items as the Japanese site, it still has a large selection and is very easy to use. We recommend using DLsite, especially as you are able to build up coupon points and get money off your next purchase.


    Touhou-Music (iTunes, Google Play etc)



    Overview

    Many popular Touhou circles have signed an agreement with the official digital music distribution group for Touhou works, known as "touhou-music". This organisation is responsible for releasing many Touhou albums digitally on international platforms such as iTunes and Google Play. You may find many Touhou album and circles listed digitally on these platforms as distributed by touhou-music.

    You can find the full range of albums on offer through Touhou-Music on BOOTH.




    Melonbooks



    Overview
    Melonbooks is a hobby store in Japan with both physical locations throughout the country and an online mail order storefront. Melonbooks carries the widest variety of doujin music releases compared to other storefronts and is the easiest website to use and navigate. The biggest downside to melonbooks is the lack of any international shipping, meaning you will require a forwarder or proxy to ship the items internationally.

    Pros

  • Massive range of goods.

  • Easy to use site layout.

  • Cons

  • Domestic shipping only, requires a forwarder if shipping overseas.


  • Conclusion
    A great site with a ton of goods. One major drawback is the fact that there is no shipping to countries outside of Japan. Luckily there are many forwarders you can use to ship from Melonbooks easily. When ordering doujin physically, Melonbooks is our number one choice. They also have great customer service and all items are packed with very good care.



    Diverse Direct



    Overview
    Diverse Direct is an online storefront run by the independent doujin music label Diverse System. Diverse Direct is popular among foreign buyers as they generally carry the most popular releases that are sought after by international fans. While the storefront is popular, they do not have a wide selection of releases available to purchase, as they mainly focus on releases from Diverse System and associated artists.

    Pros

  • Stocks the most sought after doujin albums.

  • Beginner friendly with English support available.

  • Cons

  • Although they have, high quality stock, the selection is very limited.


  • Prices for items and shipping may be higher than other online storefronts.


  • Conclusion
    Diverse Direct is one of the most popular ways to get doujin music that you generally won't be able to find elsewhere. As they are a label with a lot of high quality artists under them, their artists albums go straight to Diverse Direct. At every event Diverse System always has some of the most popular artists releasing albums, so it is only natural for them to be the go to place to purchase them. The customer service is very good too, and have official places like Discord where you are able to chat to them and other users if you ever need help. We highly recommend Diverse Direct as a place to buy doujin albums.



    AKIBA HOBBY



    Overview
    Akiba Hobby is a hobby store in Japan in the same vein as Melonbooks. However, Akiba Hobby also runs an international website that ships worldwide. While the shipping costs from Akiba Hobby are reasonable, it is worth pointing out that the individual prices for each item are about 25% higher than that of the Japanese site.

    Pros

  • Large variety of releases.

  • Cons

  • Individual items are marked up in price on the international site.

  • International site may not be updated as quickly as the Japanese site.


  • Conclusion
    Akiba Hobby can be considered an alternative to melonbooks, with an international storefront that caters to foreigners. While the international website may not be updated as quickly as the Japanese site, it provides a simple and straightforward method to acquire the majority of doujin albums available physically, provided you do not mind paying a premium for the ease of service. Oftentimes you may even find albums listed on Akiba Hobby that are not available on other storefronts, so it is worth checking their website if you cannot find the album you would like to buy elsewhere.

    AKIBA HOBBY (Japanese site)
    AKIBA HOBBY (International site)



    Toranoana



    Overview
    Toranoana is another reputable store that sells a wide range of doujin goods. Toranoana has 30 stores across Japan. The official statement of Toranoana from themselves reads as follows:

    Comic Toranoana is the first leading dojin shop opened in Akihabara Tokyo in 1994 that mainly deals with "Dojinshi" in the industry. Reknowned as the first pioneer in the domestic dojin mail order service, and the world's biggest otaku shop. There are over 100,000 circles of creators registered in Toranoana. In particular, the number of works for women is top-class in the industry, and more than 50,000 works are always available. Toranoana deals with the numerous works of many creators, so you could find works that you can not find anywhere else.

    Toranoana has approximately 30 shops located in Japan including major cities such as in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Kyoto. There are Taipei stores at oversea. Furthermore, the e-commerce site is also developed, and handles CD, DVD, Blu-ray, Hobby, Game, Antique, and etc besides of Dojinshi. There are many overseas customers using the purchase service for the shopping.


    Pros

  • Partnership with Tenso for forwarding (click here)

  • Wide range of doujin goods.

  • Cons

  • More focussed on commercial goods than doujin.


  • Conclusion
    Toranoana has always been a massive player when it comes to selling doujin goods. Although it may have a stronger focus on commercial goods such as doujinshi, it still has a ton of doujin goods too. Toranoana also compiles what's called the "ULTIMATE OTAKU BOX" specially for overseas customers, which contains goods recommended by the shop themselves, which does contain doujin items. They are aware about overseas customers using their shop, so they have gone to lengths to work with forwarding companies to accommodate that. Toranoana is a strong choice for doujin music and games.



    HARDCORE TANO*C



    Overview
    HARDCORE TANO*C have been around for a very long time in the doujin scene (over 10 years) as a music label, and have in recent times not only still stuck with their music creation and publishing of albums, but have a store directly centred around selling doujin music. HARDCORE TANO*C are one of the most popular labels in doujin music, often appearing on rhythm games made by the likes of Konami. Whilst having nowhere near the same sort of range as Melonbooks or Suruga-ya, they do have sought after albums and give prominence to albums that are published under their own label. HARDCORE TANO*C forwarding page can be viewed here

    Pros

  • Sought after range of albums.

  • They are a music label and regularly release albums that are some of the most popular in the doujin scene.

  • Cons

  • Album range is very limited in terms of other stores.


  • Conclusion
    A high quality label that always produces great albums, is also a very good choice for doujin albums. It doesn't have a big range, but most albums it has are some of the very best you can get, and become sought after relatively quickly. HARDCORE TANO*C are very trusted, as they have their label on the line when dealing with things like sales, so you can expect the very best service.



    Suruga-ya



    Overview
    Suruga-ya is a large online storefront that specialized in used goods (though new items can also be found on their website and in physical locations). Residents in Japan can sell their goods to surugaya, which are in turn listed in-store and online on surugayas website.

    As the items being sold on surugaya are used, they may not be in good condition. In my own experiences of buying items from surugaya, the jewel cases may often be scratched, marked or cracked and missing the OBI. The main purpose of surugaya in relation to doujin music is often to find rare or out of print CDs that are no longer being sold by circles, or from now-defunct circles. There is also an abundance of releases that are sold cheaper than retail, though it is important to remember that none of the proceeds from these sales go to the artist as they are used items.

    In 2019, Suruga-ya launched an international storefront, which ships directly to many regions around the world. This has eliminated the need to use a forwarder or proxy with surugaya, however you may want to browse both the Japanese and International site when looking for specific items as the international site uses machine translation which often results in imperfect or incorrect search results. Please keep in mind that items on the Japanese website have buy and sell entries, if the color scheme is teal rather than blue, and the “お売りください” tab on the far right of the navigation bar is highlighted you are viewing items Suruga-ya will buy from customers.

    Pros

  • Absolutely colossal range of circles and releases.

  • International storefront that ships to most regions.

  • Cons

  • Used items may be lacking in quality and the proceeds do not reach the artist.

  • Wait time can be around 1-2 weeks for Suruga-ya to confirm stock and ship the order.


  • Conclusion
    Suruga-ya is the best place for used doujin items. It has a massive catalogue of works, and any doujin album or game you can think of is either listed on there or has been listed on there before. The international storefront is great for overseas customers. One thing to keep note of is that the international site has stock and prices that can be outdated, so it can be better to use a proxy or forwarder for the main Japanese site. We absolutely recommend Suruga-ya for finding rare doujin music and games, and as a storefront for purchasing in general.

    Suruga-ya (Japanese site)
    Suruga-ya (International site)





    You may have found that the release(s) you are intending on purchases are only available on websites that ship exclusively to Japanese addresses, in these cases, you will require a forwarder with a Japanese address to forward the item to you. If the release you are intending on buying is an event exclusive, you will either need to go to the event yourself in Japan or pay a proxy buyer to purchase the items for you.

    While it is true in the past that Japanese sites used to block known forwarding addresses, it is important to note that every website mentioned in this guide either has an international website or advertises forwarding service in some capacity on their website. Forwarding may incur extra costs such as handling fees or commission on top of the shipping costs, prices vary between different forwarders.

    There is a great guide maintained by users from /a/ and /jp/ that details many aspects of buying and forwarding goods from Japan.

    The section in particular regarding proxy and forwarding services is useful for doujin music forwarding. This section details multiple services that can provide a Japanese address for you to forward items back to your own country from Japan.

    Proxy and forwarding services we recommend:

    Big in Japan, Tenso, Blackship, and Buyee are services often used within the doujin music community for forwarding packages





    Q: What's the best way to learn about a given doujin circle in general?
    A: Databases and wikis like VGMDB, Touhou Wiki, THBWiki & VocaDB are good places to start, and will usually lead to circle websites and social media accounts which are how doujin artists primarily self-promote and make announcements.

    Q: What's the best way of knowing what will be released at an event before it's held?
    DoujinStyle's Discord server is a great place to learn about new albums being released, checking an event's website will let you know which circles are attending and you can then check their social media for announcements too, but while many album announcements are perfectly timed, some appear the night before or even during events so some guesswork may also be required.

    More dedicated fans will often read the entire attendance list for any given event to see whether their favorite circle(s) will be attending.

    Q: Why doesn't this or that album show up on a circle's websites?
    A: In most cases, website maintenance simply isn't prioritized and will usually be out of date, in some cases a circle will streamline their displayed discography effectively removing a few albums, and in some rare cases a circle will regret releasing an album and scrub from their website.

    Q: Even if an album isn't for sale online anywhere, is there still a chance to get it?
    A: Yes, circles often carry old stock when they attend events and announcements will commonly list them under 旧作 meaning “old work”, some circles even accept requests so don't be afraid to politely ask if an artist plans to stock a given album if they're already attending an event.

    Q: What events do doujin circles usually attend?
    A: Of the larger conventions, circles who primarily release original music regularly attend M3 and Comiket (冬コミ), while circles who primarily release Touhou arrangements regularly attend Comiket in addition to Touhou specific events like Reitaisai (例大祭) and Touhou Kouroumu (東方紅楼夢). Please visit the What is Doujin page for more information.

    Q: Why is there such a big difference between event and consignment store prices?
    A: Consignment stores usually take around 30%, meaning the price has to increases roughly 42% for the circle to make the same as event sales, some stores also include the 10% sales tax in the listed price.




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