Understanding: Japanese Album Sales

As the snow falls... / Kinkaku( The Golden Pavilion) - Rokuonji-Temple

There’s still plenty of work to be done on France Album Sales and CSPC Analysis categories. This being said, it is now time to introduce a new Master Series, the Understanding one.

The aim of this new category will consist in explaining both technical and functional subjects usually misunderstood by the average music follower and chart watcher. The first piece of this new series will treat a technical issue, the album sales of a very atypical country, Japan.

Not many foreigners made it big there, but some still achieved it. The most obvious examples are the Beatles and Mariah Carey, along with others a la CarpentersMichael Jackson, ABBA, Billy Joel, Celine Dion, Aerosmith and more. As a chart watcher for very long, what strikes me the most yet isn’t who’s big and who’s weak in Japan, but the huge lack of understanding of the raw data we have been getting for this country.

To fix this issue, during the next few pages I’ll be first presenting the known sources of Japanese sales figures and then on a second time detail every limitation – and they are utterly strong – of them. By the end of this article, you should be able to much better gauge how much your favorite artist shifted there once you know the raw data. As concrete examples are always much better than too much literature, on a third part we will be highlighting all limitations by checking cases of some artists and albums, let’s start!

3.7 3 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I have another question concerning the RIAJ certifications. What about previous ones ? It seems that in the sixities and part of the seventies, companies used to give “indoor certifications” to foreign artists. But in the 80’s and even late 70’s there are RIAJ certifications. Am I wrong ?

In the end Oricon’s figures created confusion and today, every where , on wiki or on the net, people really think that Bowie sold 5 000 copies of “young american”.


It’s really fascinating ! I didn’t realize that all certifications by RIAJ started with post 1989 figures only. The Billy Joel exemple made it very clear.
In the end real sales of The Carpenters should be impressive.


Hello! Just wanted to say that I’m in love with your site and this article. Very well explained. I didn’t know The Beatles sold more than Mariah Carey in Japan. Still, both acts must have outstanding sales there.

When you have the time, could you please estimate Britney Spears’s sales in Japan, including imports? That would be very much appreciated. Thank you so much for all your hard work as always! Looking forward new posts. 🙂


You’v done a beautiful job explaining this, it’s a pleasure to read such a detailed explanation concerning Oricon. I’m more into the sixties and seventies and all I could ad is that Oricon datas are not as accurate as people think they are. One reason, as explained on the first page of Oricon Book, is that some part are missing. December 1974 to february 75 for exemple. At times, there is only a Top 50 even a top 30. I also noticed that depending on the month or specific period, being 90 or 270 is almost the same. About 1000… Read more »


Could you estimate Mariah Carey’s album totals for Japan. I know that she hasn’t outsold the Beatles, but her total must still be outstanding nonetheless. I would really like to know what her huge albums have shipped (Music Box till #’1S have all sold more than 2 million per piece).

Thanks in advance.


Oh thanks! Even though Mariah’s imports might not be as big as for other artists (she has been pushed heavily by Sony Music Japan), her #1’s compilation album must have shipped huge amounts. As a greatest hits compilation, i refuse to believe that it completely stopped selling ever since it left the Oricon Top 200.

I’ll remain excited for her work 😉


More details on Queen’s Greatest Hits, including its multiple versions with their respective catalogue numbers (although the chart weeks are only while inside the To0 100 before 2001): —————————————————————————————————————————————————- Cat: CP32-5381 Rel: 1987/04/22 Sales: 2,700 1994/08/22 – 95 —————————————————————————————————————————————————- Cat: TOCP-8284, TOCP-65861 Rel: 1994/06/22 Sales: 14,430 1996/02/26 – 90 1996/03/04 – 65 2000/05/15 – 87 2000/05/22 – 84 —————————————————————————————————————————————————– Cat: TOCP-65861 Rel: 2001/11/21 Sales: 41,727 Peak: #39 (24 weeks) 2003/05/12 – 252 2003/05/19 – 253 2003/05/26 – 257 2003/06/02 – 292 2003/08/25 – 291 2003/12/22 – 240 2003/12/29 – 229 2004/01/12 – 221 2004/01/19 – 201 2004/01/26 – 74 2004/02/02… Read more »


I tend to be as conservative as possible with my sales estimates, but Japan is the one market where I try to be more “liberal” with numbers, knowing all these little intricacies that make it so different! I won’t ask you about the whole Queen catalogue, as I know it would take a long time, but I would be very interested in their Greatest Hits album. This is how it charted from 1991 to present in the biggest chart available: Vynil: 1981/11/10 Greatest Hits # 9 , 23 wks, 102,120 Cassettes 1981/11/10 Greatest Hits # 32 , 18 wks, 38,050… Read more »


Thank you, buddy. Very interesting. Beats what I was assuming, although I thought 1 million was possible.

I wish I had more information for A Night At The Opera to calculate its sales.


Years ago, I read Nana Mouskouri had had incredible success in Japan between the 70s and the 90s and I know she’s the kind of artist who spends most of their time under the radar of charts so it’s very hard to gauge her actual sales. Throughout her career she has realeased several Asia-only records – especially greatest hits albums. Is it possible to know what her best-selling record in Japan is ? I’m sure she has at least one of her greatest hits albums over the one million mark there! Thank you very much for the great quality of… Read more »


MJD, Harvest sold 83.000 copies (Oricon) in 1972, in its first release.
A lot of years ago you estimated 400.000 copies sold.
Now, as for 2016, what is your estimate?


Thanks for reply to my question!

And, about “BTW, thanks for all your shares of chartmasters link, on each of them the traffic increased greatly, it pushes the motivation up to continue working on it”:
you’re doing a GREAT work!


wow, such a detailed and carefully explained article about the sales in Japan, this is amazing work. I am interested in knowing the sales of Celine Dion if you ever get to that. Keep up the fantastic work, have been following it closely for years since you had the fanofmusic website 🙂


Honey, Céline has the best selling INTERNATIONAL single by a female artist in Japan of ALL TIME lol [to love you more]

1 2 3
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x