While the calendar system used by most western countries is considered to be the global standard, it is far from being the only calendar system used around the world. While Japan has, for the most part, adopted the calendar system used in Europe, they do still use their original calendar system based around what are known as ‘periods’ or ‘eras’. Heisei (平成) is the current era in Japan. The Heisei era started on 8 January 1989, the day after the death of the Emperor Hirohito. In Compact Disc production, during the 1980s, until 1991, an alphabetical letter was generally used to indicate the year a CD was printed/manufactured.

1984 / N
1985 / I
1986 / H
1987 / O
1988 / R
1989 / E
1990 / C
1991 / D

In line with the meticulous organizational prowess of the Japanese, catalog numbers in Japan (at least, as adopted by most labels in the 1980s) each had a story to tell. To some, a catalog number prefix like, CP32, or, 35DP, or TOCJ, may have little meaning. However, the catalog number system used by most labels had very specific design which served a purpose. During the 1980s, and until the turn of the decade, most labels included the price of the CD in the catalog number. For example, notice something about these:

35DP (CBS Sony Japan issues from 1982-1984)
32DP (CBS Sony Japan issues from 1985-1988)
CP35 (Toshiba EMI Japan issues from 1983-1984)
CP32 (Toshiba EMI Japan issues from 1985-1988)

The numbers in the first part of the catalog number (for example, CP35-3017) would designate the price: 3,500 yen (alas CP35).

The character “C” in the case of Toshiba EMI’s catalog numbers (CP series) stood for “Compact Disc” while “P” stood for Popular (Pop Music).

You may have seen CDs issued by Toshiba EMI with a catalog number like CC38-xxxx for example. This would mean the CD originally cost 3,800 yen, and was part of Toshiba EMI’s “CD” catalog, in the “Classical” genre.

CBS Sony Japan, used a similar system: 35DP for example, designated “3500” yen (price), the letter “D” denoted “Digital” format (CD), while “P” again stood for Pop.

Different record labels used different structures for catalog numbers, but they all followed a similar pattern: price of the CD, genre, and format (remember, the catalog number would often be found in catalogs, where simply looking at the catalog number would need to verify the format of the recording (Vinyl, CD, Cassette, etc).

By the early 1990s these patterns begun to disappear, as CD prices began to fluctuate significantly. A CD issued by BMG-Victor in 1987, might have a catalog number starting with R32P (R = RCA, 32=3,200 yen, P=Pop) however, by the early 90s, the catalog number structure would show a catalog number like BVCP: no longer any mention of price.

Other notable designations included genre-specific designations. For example, TOCJ, designated Toshiba EMI Japan’s highly prized Jazz series (TO = Toshiba, C = CD, J = Jazz). VDJ, designated Victor Japan’s early/mid 1980s Jazz series.

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