Obi Strip

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An obi strip is a piece of paper wrapped around the spine of Japanese CDs, DVDs, movies, or books sometimes referred to as a "spine card".

They started in Japan as a way of providing Kanji translations to overseas CDs imported into Japan, but have since become a standard part of a new CD providing labels, catalog numbers, barcodes and other information that usually clutters the back of a CD. Most people simply discard and ignore them after unwrapping the plastic from a CD since the info contained on them are mainly for the seller and not the buyer. But to the collector market they’re a rare commodity that can increase the collector price of the CD; and in the case of MusicBrainz they provide a wealth of information that isn’t reproduced on the album itself and often more info that most western CDs contain (such as price and original release date).

The term obi (帯) designates the sash around a kimono (着物の, Kimono no obi). The term is nowadays applied to this paper around CD, games and the edge of books as a neologism (CDの帯 and more generally 書籍の帯 [Shoseki no obi] in publication business).



Standard on all obis is the barcode. It's not always reproduced on the album so an album missing a barcode isn't necessarily a bootleg or pirated CD in Japan.

Label name and catalog number are also on the obi, usually on the spine like a normal CD.

The price is usually listed both with tax and without.

A few dates are usually on the obi. One is the official release date that the CD first hit stores (usually the most prominent); nearby another date that the retailer is allowed to start selling at a price different from what is officially listed on the obi (usually next to the price). Occasionally for re-masters and re-releases the date of the albums first release will be listed. This is common when an old vinyl album is first released on CD.

Of course the artist and release names are both listed and sometimes the producer and additional staff (usually those with a large influence on the songs).

Track listings are usually listed especially if they aren’t on the back of the album or if the album is imported the track listing on the obi will be the transliteration to Kanji or Kana. It will also sometimes point out any special/bonus/hidden tracks that don’t show on the back of album.

Enhanced disc features and requirements are often written on the obi if the disc supports them.

Any extra space left on this thin piece of paper is usually given to advertising upcoming tour dates, or albums from the rest of the artist's discography, and web links to artist, or label websites.


Standard obi Two CD obi
red2.jpeg move2.jpeg
Obi with matching art Green Day obi with transliterated tracks.
otome2.jpeg greenday2.jpeg

Final Notes

For local Japanese releases the obi strip has become an integral part of the packaging and not just a place to put transliterated info. In true modern Japanese form the obi is information overload with flashy text; the background of the obi strip is colored to blend with the cover as it overlaps the black or clear CD tray on the left of the cover to create seamless art from front to back. And even when the CD case is packaged in a cardboard sleeve the case inside often still has an obi wrapped around it with additional information.