Japan Hasn't Given Up On The Mini-Disc Just Yet

Illustration for article titled Japan Hasn't Given Up On The Mini-Disc Just Yet
Photo: Kuha455405

The Mini-Disc never caught on in the U.S. But during the 1990s, the format did in its native Japan, where MD isn’t yet dead.


Launching in 1991, MD was the coolest format. It was like a compact disc, but smaller (hence, Mini-Disc). Unlike CDs, it didn’t skip. You could also chuck Mini-Discs in your bag because MD was encased in plastic. According to a recent LiveDoor News article, the Mini-Disc peak in Japan was the year 2000.

The following year, the iPod launched.

The iPod didn’t take off initially in Japan (neither did the iPhone). When I arrived in Japan in 2001, I bought a Sony stereo with an MD deck. Sick of having CDs skip on my in college, I imported an MD player from Japan and made MD mix discs. It was awesome. It was also very 20th century.

When digital music began to dominate, MD faded away with its niche no longer needed. MDs were unable to match CD’s quality for tangible media—though, the gap has closed in more recent years.

While Sony stopped selling MD players in 2013, it continues to make blank MDs and support its Mini-Disc players. Teac is currently the only Japanese company making and selling MD players.

Illustration for article titled Japan Hasn't Given Up On The Mini-Disc Just Yet
Screenshot: Teac

Though, MD’s days are numbered. Teac expects its Mini-Disc deck production to end in the next several years.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.



Oh man.  I LOVED MD back in the day.  I used to use it to record live shows in college (with permission of course) by plugging into the sound board.  I loved the versatility of the format.  I even went so far as to put a MD head unit in my car at the time.  It was a shame it never caught on here.  Just another great device squandered by Sony not knowing how to properly market it.