Category: Japan

Greco TE-800

Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981Greco TE-800, Made in Japan by FujiGen 1981

I finally found my “Nancy“, this has taken forever or at least four years. I used to have an amazing sounding and looking late 1980’s Japan made Fender Telecaster TL52-75, a great ’52 re-issue that I could never get used to the thin neck on. Then I found myself a 1979 Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500, equally great sounding but not in a mint state like the Fender, same problem there the neck was way too thin. So since 2013 I’ve been trying to find a nice Japan made ’52 re-issue with a thicker neck but without any luck. I don’t have large hands or anything, it’s just that since I mainly play old Levin acoustics from the 1960’s I’m kind of used to thicker necks than what’s standard on Japanese electrics. The solution turned out to be a an early 1980’s Greco TE-800 since they came with a pretty decent V-neck. It’s not the thickest neck I’ve seen or anything, it’s actually quite shy in thickness even though it’s a V-profile, but it’s far better that all the other Japan made Telecaster necks I’ve tried from the 1970-80’s. I’ve seen a few Crafted in Japan Fender ’52 re-issues from the mid 2000’s that has nice V-necks but nothing before that. The USA made Fender American Vintage ’52 Telecaster didn’t have it’s fat U-shaped neck until 1998 either, so this seems more like an 1980-90’s problem than purely a Japanese problem. I blame all the slick fast playing guitarists in the 80’s that wanted super thin necks, the ruined everything for the rest of us. The previous owner of the Greco TE-800, a really nice German man called Lennart, and I have had quite long mail conversations regarding this mythical creature, the unicorn of necks, the V-neck on Japan made Telecasters. In his expertise the V-profile appeared on the high-end Tokai, Greco and Fernades models around 1980-82. Something that I have had confirmed from early 80’s Tokai’s, both Strats and Teles I’ve seen for sale on eBay. This Greco TL-800 lost it’s original bridge at some point, with the serial number, but according the Lennart it must be from 1981. He has had a few other Greco TL-800 in his life and they apparently stopped with the V-shaped necks in 1982.

♪ ♫ ♪ Roy Buchanan – CC Rider

Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981
Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981I really don’t mind how worn this Greco TL-800 is, it’s so beautiful in my eyes. Everything from the chipped fretboard to the cigarette burn on the back of the neck, I’m not sure how someone managed with that. The only part I don’t like is the Wilkinson bridge, it’s actually what I use on the Claescasters but on this guitar I would have preferred something older, more worn and perhaps Japanese. The Greco TL-800 has, beside the V-neck, Nitro lacquer and a Maxon neck pickup and the legendary DiMarzio Pre B-1 in the bridge. I’m not 100% sure that the DiMarzio is for me, it seems a bit too hot for my liking but I will try it with the band first and see how it works in a louder setting.

VOX, Made in Japan

VOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sVOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970’s 

I recently found a nice looking VOX Les Paul copy that I couldn’t resist. I had decided not to buy any more Les Paul’s after I sold my Westone a few weeks ago but this was just too nice to miss out on. It has a bolt on neck, which you could either hate or love, I’m fairly indifferent myself and you can read why here. The good part with bolt on necks is that they are so easy to adjust. It’s fairly common that older Les Paul and SG guitars with set necks gets a hump over the neck joint, something that can cause buzzing and you have to either raise the action or level the fretboard to get rid of it. The bad part with bolt on necks is the second hand value, a lot of people are still a bit racist when it comes to Gibson copies with a bolt on neck even though Gibson built a few themselves in the early 1980’s. What I fell in love with on this VOX was the flame top and the thickness of the neck, it’s so nice. It feels even fatter than my Tokai Love Rock LS-55 which has a fairly accurate 59′ Les Paul neck. This VOX even have the small head as the real Gibson of the late 1950’s and the pickups sounds pretty close to my old Westone. The only thing that is annoying me a bit is that I haven’t figured out who built it yet. There is no info about VOX in my list of Japanese guitar brands, well there is a Magnavox and a Univox but that’s not the same. The only thing I know is that when VOX stopped making guitars in the UK they moved to Italy before they ended up in Japan. The build quality is not as good as my 1991 Tokai Love Rock LS-55 or my 1980 Greco EG-600C, but it’s easily on the same level as the Westone which was built by Matsumoku. Even though I really enjoy this Les Paul I have too many guitars and is therefore up for sale.

VOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sVOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sIf anyone happens to have more information about Japanese made VOX guitars please get in touch


Japanese guitar brands: Greco

Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500The Greco family, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979

I’m so in love with my Greco‘s, every time I pick one up it hits me how good they feel to play. They might not be the best built guitars to ever come out of Japan but they all have something special, here is a list of Japanese guitar brands. I only have 3 in the 500-series and I have never tried anything in the 1000-series so I can only speak about the cheaper Greco models. I would say that the best built Japanese electric I own is my Fender TL52-75 and the best acoustic would be the K.Yairi TG-40 or my Morris W-40. Having said that, there is something that makes me like my Greco’s more than all the others, more than my Fender, my Tokai LS-55 and even the fabulous Fernandes RST-50 I sold that I really liked, and still miss a bit. There is a resonance in the wood on my Greco’s, especially on my Greco TL-500, that I haven’t felt in my other Japanese guitars. I’m not sure if it’s down to the brand, the factory or their age. All three were made in the late 1970’s by FujiGen, I have actually never tried a Matsumoku made Greco, they changed factory around 1974-75. In my opinion FujiGen built better guitars than Matsumoku, having said that this could be down to years rather than factories, read about it here: Are all Japanese guitars good? I have two Westone guitars made by Matsumoku and three Greco’s and one Fender made by FujiGen and I feel that later are way better, again could be down to brands and years rather than factories. The Hohner Strat I have might have been built by Morris, but out of the cheapest materials around, before they started up H.S. Anderson and all of that. Now I’m seriously considering extending the Greco collection with a nice late 1970’s Strat, ideally a Greco SE-500 in a three-tone sunburst, just like my Claescaster.

Japanese guitars, MIJ, Made in JapanI have sold some of my Japanese guitars so this is more or less what’s left, from left to right: Fender Telecaster TL52-75 1987, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Tokai Love Rock LS-55 1991,  Westone Les Paul 1970′s, Jazz Bass 1978, Hohner Stratocaster 1970′s, Westone Stratocaster 1979, K.Yairi TG-40 1977, Morris WL-40 1973, Morris WL-35 1980′s

Radius gauge

Understand radius
My Westone Stratocaster is getting the strings adjusted to the 7.25″ radius of the fretboard

I recently received my Understring Radius Gauge set from the friendly Portuguese luthier supplier Guitars & Woods. If I had only bought this before I ordered four new sets of Jescar frets from Philaluthiertools. I stupidly thought that most of my old Japanese guitars had a radius of 9.5″, they didn’t feel as curved as my Fender Telecaster TL52-75, which I knew had a radius of 7.25″. It turned out that both my Greco Teles and Hohner and Westone Strats had a vintage radius of 7.25″, so now I have to order new frets for them. I have never really cared about adjusting the strings after the radius, I read somewhere that Eric Clapton and others had the saddles flat so I thought I could have that too but when I received my Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 back in September and it had really well adjusted action set after the radius I instantly fell in love. It’s such a difference on a Strat or Tele with a 7.25″ radius, you can really see and feel the curve. I adjusted all the guitars I could according to their radius and in most cases I had to raise the string height on the D and G string, which makes them really snappy and twangy, it sounds and feels awesome on my Telecasters.

Kazuo Yairi

Master Luthier, Kazuo Yairi Dies Aged 81

I just found out that Kazuo Yairi died earlier this month at the age of 81. As I mentioned before, I would love to one day afford a K.Yairi and big reason for that is the philosophy of Mr Yairi himself:

Good materials are hard to find so it’s better to make guitars through limited production by hand instead of mass production. Trees are very important “precious” things so we should make good use of them. Guitars made with “heart” are the best use of trees.  Kazuo Yairi

Martin D-45 copy, 1976 K.Yairi YW-1000
The most beautiful Martin D-45 copies in the world, a 1976 K.Yairi YW-1000

Japanese guitar brands

Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500
The Greco family, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979

I guess it will come as no surprise that I love Japanese guitars, especially Greco’s. I have over the years learned quite a lot about different brands and makers but it can get pretty confusing for me too. Luckily I found this great list of Japanese guitars brands, or rather a list of guitar makers. The list might not be complete but it’s a good start. Taken from Who Made My MIJ Guitar

This guitar manufacturer started out as a parts supplier in the early 1970’s. Atlansia didn’t begin production of guitars under their badge until infamous engineer and designer Nobuaki Hayashi of Matsumoku fame became the company’s president and chief designer in the late 1970’s. Since then, Atlansia has continued to produce cutting-edge guitar designs in Nagano, Japan. The company did not make any other badged guitars other than namesake Atlansia.

Chushin Gakki
Chushin is still in operation today in Nagano, Japan and does business with guitar giant Fender. I believe that Chushin may have been a member of the Matsumoto Musical Instruments Association listed further down because both companies produced Fresher guitars during different periods….with Matsumoto beginning production and Chushin ending it (perhaps because the Association was disbanded?). During the 1960-1980 period they were responsible for badges Bambu, Cobran, El Maya and Hisonus as well as some Charvel, Fresher and Jackson badges. The company may have possibly made some guitars with the Aztec, Maya and Robin badges, but that is not verified. Guitars made by Chushin from this period are well-made and appreciated by guitar enthusiasts worldwide.

Founded in the city of Matsumoto, Japan in the early 1960’s, Daimaru produced their own house brand, although they outsourced electric guitar production to Teisco during the 1970’s period. Daimaru appears to have gone out of business after 1980.

Dyna Gakki
Dyna Gakki began production in 1972 in the city of Nagano, Japan. They manufactured guitars for Fender Japan and Greco, so they couldn’t have been a terrible manufacturer as Fender is very choosy about outsourcing their product. Dyna was responsible for the JooDee badge and may have been a source for Japanese manufacturer Yamaki. Dyna also produced the infamous Ibanez badges for a short period of time.

Electric Sound Products (ESP)
Founded in 1975 by Hisatake Shibuya, this wildly-popular manufacturer focused on making quality basses for export as well as electric guitars. ESP survived the ‘copy’ era and is still in business today. Badges made by ESP included their house brand ESP as well as Navigator during the late 1970’s. A possible badge made by the company was Robin.

Elk Gakki (also known as Miyuki)
Makers of the Elk badged guitar from the early to mid 1960’s to 1975, although other sources indicate that the Elk brand did not stop production until the early 1980’s. Elk badged guitars came in clear acrylics in addition to colors in the early 1970’s, which was an attempt to copy clear acrylics designed by the legendary Dan Armstrong in the late 1960’s.

Fernandes Guitars started production in 1969 in Osaka, Japan. It grew and became one of the largest producers of Japanese-made guitars, rivaling competitors Fujigen and Matsumoku. Fernandes produced guitars with the Burny and Nady badges as well as house brand Fernandes. A possible badge made by Fernandes was the oddly named Orange guitar.

Fujigen Gakki
Fujigen Gakki began operation in 1960 as a classical guitar manufacturer, moving into the lucurative electric guitar markets in 1962. The company was the largest producer of Japanese guitars during the 1960-1980 period. They were known for producing high quality products, especially for the badged guitar market, which is why the company was selected by so many major American brands. It wasn’t until 1970 that the company began making products for the venerable Ibanez brand, which was an unqualified success. Fujigen Gakki was the main manufacturer of choice for Greco badged guitars in the 1970 to 1980 period. They also produced guitars for major manufacturer Yamaha. Badged guitars made by Fujigen include Antoria, Epiphone, Jason and Mann. Badged guitars that may have been made by Fujigen Gakki were Marlin and St. Moritz.

Guyatone produced electric guitars for major guitar manufacturer Suzuki. The company also produced their house brand Guyatone. Badged guitars produced by Guyatone include Barclay, Broadway, Coronado, Crestwood, Futurama, Howard, Hi-Lo, Ibanez, Ideal, Imperial, Johnny Guitar, Kent, Kingston, Lafayette, Marco Polo (electrics only), Montclair, Omega, Orpheus, Prestige, Royalist, Saturn, Silhouette, Silvertone, Vernon, Winston and Zenta, an impressive amount of names produced by a single company. Other badges that may have been produced by Guyatone are Beeton (not to be confused by the Beeton Brass Guitar company founded in 1994), Bradford, Canora and Regent.

Hayashi was one of the premier acoustic guitar makers among Japanese manufacturers from this time frame. Hayashi bought out small manufacturer Zen-On in 1968 during a period of expansion for the company. Credited with making Pearl badged acoustic guitars, Hayashi was also responsible for making Cortez, Custom and Emperador acoustics.

Hitachi Gakki/Hitachi Musical Instruments Manufacturing
I’m unsure if this company existed or not, but since many major electronics manufacturers jumped into the electric guitar market in the 1970’s, it seems reasonable that Hitachi could have ventured briefly into guitar production. A seller of the badged guitar “Splender” claims it was made by this company. Yet another seller claims the badge Slendon was made by this company.

Hoshino Gakki Ten/ Tama
Hoshino Gakki were known primarily for producing Ibanez guitars during this time although that wasn’t the only badged guitar they made. Badged guitars produced by Hoshino include Cimar, Cimar by Ibanez, Penco, Howard. Tama Industries began guitar production from 1962 to 1967 as a factory of Hoshino, producing more badged Ibanez guitars as well as Continental, Crest, Goldentone, Jamboree, King’s Stone, Maxitone, Star, Starfield (some), Tulio and Jason. Tama eventually took over badged guitar production from STAR Instruments in the mid-1960’s. There’s some evidence that Tama began producing guitars under their own badge from 1975-1979. I’m unsure at this point if this Tama had any relation to the Tama that existed under Hoshino Gakki Ten.

Humming Bird
Little-known manufacturer in operation in the early 1960’s until 1968. Humming Bird made electrics that were copies of Mosrite guitars. It’s possible they also made acoustics.

Iida began manufacturing guitars in 1958 in Nagoya, Japan. Iida is still producing guitars, but mostly in their factory located in Korea. They were mainly responsible for producing acoustic and semi-acoustic rather than electric guitars for major manufacturers Ibanez and Yamaha. There is speculation that Iida may have assisted Moridara for a short period in making Morris badged guitars, but that is not verified.

Kasuga produced their own house brand in Kasuga guitars. For a brief period of time the company produced Yamaha acoustic guitars. Kasuga guitars were first sold in America in 1972. Unlike many Japanese manufacturers who outsourced their guitar production in other factories outside the main maker, Kasuga produced all their products in-house. Badged guitars known to have been made by Kasuga include Conrad, Emperador, ES-S, Ganson, Heerby, Hondo, Mei Mei and Roland. Kasuga went out of business in 1996.

Kawai Teisco
Kawai Teisco was founded by Atswo Kaneko and Doryu Matsuda. The company also produced the popular Ibanez badge in the 1960’s. Kawai Teisco made their own house brands Kawai, Teisco, Del Rey and Teisco Del Rey. Badged guitars produced by the Kawai Teisco factories include Apollo, Aquarius, Arbiter, Atlas, Audition, Avar, Ayar, Barth, Beltone, Black Jack, Cipher, Concert, Cougar, Crown, Daimaru, Decca, Diasonic, Domino, Duke, Emperador, Heit Deluxe, Hy-Lo, Holiday, Imperial, Inter-Mark Cipher, Jedson, Kay, Kent, Kimberly, Kingsley, Kingston, Keefy, Lindell, Marquis, May Queen, Minister, Noble, Prestige, Randall, Recco, Regina, Rexina, Sakai, Satellite, Schaffer, Sekova, Silvertone, Sorrento, Sterling, Swinger, Tele Star, Top Twenty, Victoria, and Winston. Possible badged guitars made by the company include: Astrotone, Demian, G-Holiday, Lafayette, Master, Orange, Tamaki and Trump.

Kyowa Shokai
This company, which may have been a distributor as opposed to a manufacturer, was a member of the Matsumoto Musical Instrument Association. They have been credited with Camel and Fresher badged guitars, although Freshers were also made by Chushin in the late 1970’s.

Ampeg was swallowed up by Japanese electrical giant Magnavox in 1971, when they wanted to get in on the electric guitar copy craze of the 1970’s. Magnavox produced electric and bass guitars under the Stud badge as well as the successful Ampeg brand. It’s been suggested that Magnavox was also responsible for producing Selmer acoustic guitar badges during this time, but that has not been verified. Selmer was sold to Magnavox around the same time they bought Ampeg, so it certainly seems plausible they could have made Selmer acoustic badged guitars as an offering for that market. Stud badged guitars were made until ’75, with Ampeg guitar production continuing until 1980. Opus was another badge made by the company. Magnavox lost their interest in Ampeg shortly thereafter and the brand languished until it was resurrected over a decade later by another American company.

Maruha Gakki
We know this company existed in the 1970’s in Japan because of stickers found inside repaired Maruha guitars. Maruha made high-quality acoustics, some of which are badged F. Hashimoto (some long lost master luthier?) along with the Maruha badges. These guitars are highly sought-after because of the overall quality.

Matsumoku is one of the Japanese manufacturers that did not survive long after the heyday of the 1970’s guitar market despite having a long tradition of quality stringed instrument craftsmanship. Matsumoku produced guitars for major manufacturers Greco, Guyatone and Yamaha. Matsumoku made Arai, Aria, Aria Pro II and Aria Diamond badges, with Aria being their primary badge for a majority of this time frame. Badged guitars known to have been made by Matsumoku include Apollo, Arita, Barclay, Burny, Capri, Columbus, Conrad, Cortez (electrics only), Country, Cutler, Dia, Domino, Electra, Epiphone, Granada, Hi Lo, Howard, Ibanez, Lindberg, Lyle, Luxor, Maxitone (this guitar differs from Tama’s Maxitone badge), Mayfair, Memphis, Montclair, Pan, Pearl (electrics only), Raven, Stewart, Tempo, Univox ,Vantage, Ventura, Vision, Volhox, Washburn (in 1979 and 1980), Westbury, Westminster and Westone. Possible Matsumoku badges include: Bruno, Crestwood, Conqueror, Eros, Mako, Memphis, Orlando and Toledo.

Matsumoto Musical Instrument Manufacturers Association
The Matsumoto Musicial Instrument Manufacturers Association was the organization responsible for Fresher guitars. Little is known about this association, other than it did not have larger guitar manufacturers Matsumoku or Fujigen Gakki as members. Nakai Gakki was a possible member of the association. Fresher guitars began production in 1973 by the Kyowa Shokai Company, an association member, which was also responsible for the Camel badge. It’s interesting to note that Fresher guitars were eventually being produced by Chushin, which leads me to believe that they may have been an Association member along with Kyowa. The beginning production year was considered a low quality benchmark for the company. The Fresher brand continuously improved in quality until 1980.

Maya Guitar Company
Located in Kobe, Japan, this manufacturer made the famous Maya brand guitar. Maya guitars were in production from 1970-1980. It’s been suggested that Maya may have been responsible for the Aztec badge. You’ll notice that Maya has been attributed to a company known as Tahara. At this point I do not know if Maya assisted in production or if Tahara produced some Maya guitars as a subcontractor. Maya and El Maya badges have also been attributed to Chushin Gakki. More research is needed to clarify this point.

Moridaira (Morris Guitars)
Founded in 1967 by Toshio “Mori” Moridaira, the Moridaira factory produced high-quality guitars, including the infamous Morris badged guitar. Moridaira also produced badged guitars for Hohner including Coronado, Futurama, H.S. Anderson, Lotus (some) and Sakai.

Nakai Gakki
Little-known manufacturer from Osaka, Japan, this company is responsible for the oddly named John Bennet badge. Nakai has been mentioned as a possible Matusmoto Musical Instruments Association member in the past. The company still exists and is producing musical instruments, quite a feat in light of so many manufacturers who faded after the golden electric guitar age.

Shinko Musical Company
A very small, unknown company that is attributed to being the manufacturer of the Pleasant guitar from 1960 to 1966. Shinko later moved to Korea sometime in the early 1970’s where they produced the Drive guitar badge.

Shiro Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company, Limited
This little-known company is responsible for the St. George badge. This particular badge was made from 1963-1967. It also produced the rare Shiro guitar. It is possible that the company may also be responsible for the Pleasant guitar badge after 1966. This company may have been a small offshoot of Aria Guitar Company, founded by Shiro Arai, but that has not been verified as of today.

STAR Instruments
This company slowly merged into Hoshino/Tama but prior to their unification, produced instruments with the Star badge, mainly drums. They also produced guitars, including the infamous Zim-Gar badged electric and acoustic guitars. Over time, drum production was segmented to Pearl, while guitar contracts were taken up by Tama. Zim-Gar production was relatively short, as these were budget guitars made for K-mart between 1962 and 1968.

Suzuki Musical Instrument Manufacturing
Suzuki had two factories in Kiso and Hamamatsu where they made popular Suzuki guitars. The Hummingbird Suzuki guitar was manufactured in the Kiso factory. Suzuki is also credited with making the Canora and Takeharu badged guitars along with Marco Polo acoustics. Holly is another badge ascribed to Suzuki, although that has not been verified.

Founded by a father and son, Ryohei Tahara and the unknown Tahara. I do not know which was the father and which was the son. The company existed until the late 1979 when it was bought up by Saga Musical Instruments. In all, the company existed less than a decade as Tahara. Both the Maya and El Maya badges are attributed to Tahara. Saga Musical Instruments exists to this day.

Founded in 1962 in Sakashita, Japan, this manufacturer survived the copy era and is still producing guitars to this day. Takamine was among the first to make and export electric acoustics with their own house brand, although they are primarily known for their acoustic guitars. It is unknown if they made badged guitars.

Terada was one of the smaller Japanese manufacturers of acoustic guitars during the period of 1960 to 1980, producing products for Epiphone, Fender Japan, Grapham, Gretch and Vesta. Terada produced some Kingston badges until 1975. Other badged guitars produced by Terada include some Burny badges and interesting Thumb guitars. Terada has been in continuous operation since 1912.

Tokai was founded in 1947 and is based in Hamamatsu, Japan. Tokai began production of acoustic guitars in 1965 and by 1968 was producing electric guitars for the American market. Tokai still exists as guitar manufacturer. Tokai made guitars for Fernandes, Mosrite and Fender Japan. Tokai badged guitars included the house brand Tokai as well as Cat’s Eyes, Conrad, Drifter, Hondo, Love Rock, Mosrite, Sigma and Silver Star. Possible badges include Artist Ltd., Gaban, Gallan, Gession and Robin. It’s suggested that Tokai made Hummingbird acoustics as well, but if these were related to those made by Humming Bird I haven’t quite sorted out yet.

Tombo was the only Japanese manufacturer who produced Norma badged guitars. Tombo made Norma guitars from 1965 to 1970. Badged guitars produced by Tombo include Angelica, Asama, Columbus, Condor, Duke, Horugel, Kinor, Montaya, Queen, Regina, Schaffer and Yamato.

Is there anything T. Kurosawa didn’t attempt to manufacture in the 1970’s? Yes, Toyota manufactured a high-end line of acoustic, electric and bass guitars from approximately 1972. Toyota ceased manufacturing guitars in a short span of time (probably because they didn’t sell), although exactly when in the 1970’s production ended, I’m not sure.

Yamaha/Nippon Gakki
Founded in 1946, Yamaha is still going strong in the electric guitar market as a manufacturer. During the timeframe this article covers (1960-1980) all Yamaha guitars were made in Japan, although not necessarily in their factories as they outsourced to other manufacturers.

Yamaki was founded in the 1960 by brothers Yasuyuki and Hirotsygu. Yamaki exists today as a major manufacturer of guitar parts for outside Japanese guitar manufacturers. Yamaki produced a house brand, as well as Daion, Dion, Grande and Jedson badged guitars.

Zen-On (see also Hayashi)
Little known Japanese manufacturer who was out of business by 1968. Zen-On made electric guitars with the house brand Zen-on badge, as well as Beltone, Morales and Zenon badges. Zen-On bought out Hayashi, but exactly when that took place is clouded in mystery.

Thanks again to Who Made My MIJ Guitar for the extensive research. Another great source is the Japanese site Music Trade, where you can read Koyama’s first hand experience with some more obscure brands. I have only tried Fender Japan (MIJ and CIJ), Greco, Tokai, Fernandes, Morris, Suzuki, Westone, Hohner, CSL and Teisco so if you have any questions regarding these brands your are more than welcome to get in touch. I did a previous post about the quality of Japan made guitars that can be found here, Are all Japanese guitars good? Here is the Japanese section of the Claes collection, however some of these guitars have found a new home now.

Japanese guitars, MIJ, Made in Japan
The Japanese collection at the moment: Fender Telecaster TL52-75 1987, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Tokai Love Rock LS-55 1991, VOX Les Paul 1970′s, Hohner Telecaster 1970’s, Hohner Stratocaster 1970′s, Tokai Silver Star SS-36 1979, Jazz Bass 1978, Fender Squier 1993, Maya F335G 1970’s, K.Yairi TG-40 1977, Morris WL-40 1973, Morris WL-35 1970’s

Fender Telecaster Japan TL52-75

Fender Telecaster Japan TL52-75
Fender Telecaster TL52-75, ’52 re-issue, Made in Japan by FujiGen between 1987-1989

I have thought long and hard about it and now decided to put “Nancy” up for sale. It’s going to be sad to see her go but sometimes you have to sell things you love for the greater good of the collection. I’m going to focus more on Greco and Levin from now on. I also have two guitars on their way so I need to make some room for my new babies.

Fender Japan TL52-75
Fender Telecaster TL52-75,
’52 re-issue Made in Japan, FujiGen 1987-1989.
900€ SOLD
In mint condition, all original, without any doubts the best Telecaster I have ever played. Imported straight from Japan. The only reason for selling is because I prefer fat 70’s necks. There is no way to find the production year of these A-serial Telecaster with the serial number on the bridge plate. However, it must have been made between 1987 and 1989 since it’s a TL52-75. They were called TL52-70 between 1984-1986 and then changed to TL52-700 in 1990.

Fender Japan Twang catalogue 1989
Fender Japan Twang catalogue 1989

How to… refret a guitar

How to… refret a guitar
The shiny new Jescar FW47104 frets I put on my Tokai Love Rock LS-55 Les Paul Standard “Made in Japan” 1991

Here is a little update on my previous post on How to… refret a guitar. It turns out that maybe it wasn’t as easy as I first thought to level, crown and polish the frets on a guitar. I have had some small issues with both the Tokai that I refretted and my old Claescaster that I levelled the frets on. I didn’t pay enough attention to the height of the frets and I hardly used the fret rocker the first time around. This resulted in some buzzing when some frets were pressed down. I have now levelled, crowned and polished both guitars again and checked every single fret with the fret rocker to make sure they were all the same height. It would probably have helped if I had glued in the frets on the Tokai when I refretted it, which I didn’t in case I needed to take them out again for some reason. I think the frets not being glued in combination with the difference in the neck with and without the tension of the strings was enough to cause problems with on the Tokai. Now I when I levelled it again I pushed down the guitar to simulate the tension of the strings and that worked pretty well. The Claescaster was a lot easier, that was just a case of paying a bit more attention when I levelled the frets and actually use the fret rocker properly. When I first attempted to level, crown and polish frets it was evening so it got pretty dark and my main light source was the ceiling lamp above me. I have since learned that it’s a lot easier to get this done properly if you have light coming from the opposite side of you. This time I was working in front of the windows and had an even flow of natural light coming in which made it a lot easier to see if the frets were even and later during the polishing stage, if they were smooth enough. Both necks still feels a bit weird but I think that after a couple of hours of heavy playing, not playing heavy music just playing a lot, they will settle and even out a bit. Normally guitars feels weird even after just adjusting the bridge saddles, imagine after changing all the frets.

How to refret a guitar
I checked every single fret with the fret rocker and then marked any parts that was higher with a black marker. I levelled the frets and took extra care with the problem areas. I used a small Bahco file this time instead of the long fret leveller that I used last time. I checked with the fret rocker, levelled a bit more and then checked again until it was perfectly even.

How to refret a guitar
When everything was levelled I just had to crown the frets again and then polish them. I’ve realised that these little aluminium fret board protectors that I have used in the past doesn’t really work. If you have levelled and crowned the frets you have to run a sandpaper over the whole fretboard, feeling every single fret with your fingers to round them off, that’s the only way to get them smooth and nice. For that you really need to do it properly and tape the whole fretboard to protect it.

How to… refret a guitar

How to… refret a guitar
Tokai Love Rock LS-55 Les Paul Standard “Made in Japan” 1991

It’s done, it’s all over, I can retire and put my luthier’s tools on the shelf now. Everything I’ve been doing for the last year has been leading up to this moment, to refret my beloved Tokai Love Rock. I decided about a month ago to learn how to refret, crown, dress, polish and care for the frets of my guitars. A fairly wise decision I think since it turned out to not be as hard as everyone said and it has saved me ridiculous amounts of money since people charge 300-400€ for refretting guitars here. I did spend about 170€ on tools but hopefully they will last me a life time and if I refret a couple of more guitars it has soon paid for itself.

How to… refret a guitar
I decided to replace the humbucker rings as well since they were in such a bad state. When I got the Tokai I had to drill out the screws in order to replace them, so I could adjust the pickups, so the plastic rings was kind of super glued together and I have been meaning to replace them ever since. Now I did, with a fancy 3€ pair from China that I scratched with wire wool and then soaked over night in tea and later with coffee, to try to get them to look less new. The cat didn’t fully approve of my decision to spend 6 hours on Saturday refretting my Tokai when I could be rolling around on the floor with her instead. I tightened the pots too, I hate when the knobs feels wobbly, this is actually on my Westone Les Paul, I tightened the screws on quite a few guitars while I was at it. This is how bad the frets were before.

How to… refret a guitar
First step, removing the old frets. It went pretty easy, I was scared they would have been glued in so I would have to heat them with a soldering iron but the weren’t. I got a bit of chipping, I think it’s pretty hard to avoid on an old and well played rosewood fretboard. It wasn’t too bad and since the new frets will cover most of it I decided to just ignore it, sand the fretboard smooth like a babies bottom and the oil it up with lemon oil.

How to… refret a guitar
This was the part I was dreading the most, how to get the frets to fit without ruining the binding. You can get a fancy tool for doing this but I felt I didn’t want spend 85€ since I only have one guitar to refret with binding. I came up with the idea to take on fret at the time, match it to the old fret, cut it, then try to file down the under side so it wouldn’t cut in too much into the binding. I tried my best to file the edges and corners as well, since it would be hard to reach once the fret was in place. It took forever, it hurt my fingers and I hated it but it worked and I guess was worth the 85€ I saved on doing it by hand, fret by fret.

How to… refret a guitar
I made sure the neck was straight with my straight edge and then I marked the top of the frets with a black marker, just to see how much I was taking of when I later leveled the frets. Next step was to crown the frets, make sure everything was straight and even with a fret rocker, file the edges a bit more and then just polish the frets with sand paper and later wire wool.

How to… refret a guitar
How shiny, smooth and awesome is that? New Jescar FW47104 pre-radiused 12″ frets installed on a 1991 Japanese Tokai Love Rock LS-55. Just look at those freaking edges, I’m so proud I could burst. I doubt anyone could have done a better job, even if they would have charged me 400€.

How to… refret a guitar
I decided to go over my old Claescaster as well. This is the good part with having all the tools needed for taking care of your frets. It cost nothing to make sure that things are in a perfect state. I bought both Claescaster necks from the same guy in the UK, First Avenue Guitars. When I bought the first one it was pretty hard to find cheap necks with a vintage tint, especially with a logo fitted under the lacquer. I really like the profile of these too, it’s a normal C but it feels pretty fat and nice so I got a second one for the new Claescaster. The only problem, as with all cheap necks, is that the edges aren’t that smooth so I decided to level, crown, dress and polish them, with extra detail to the corners. Now it feels better than ever.

How to… refret a guitar
Looks pretty good. I decided to put a couple of drops of dry Teflon lubricate in the machine heads before I tightened all the screws and restrung the guitar. I read that these types of dry lubrication for bicycles are good because the attract less dust and crap than normal wet oils so for 4€ I thought it was worth a try. A quick adjustment of the Wilkinson brass saddles and then we are all set. Ready to play.

Ibanez Concord

I really wish that I could stumble upon a Ibanez Concord 684 or 693 in sunburst that I could afford. They don’t seem to be that rare but people want ridiculous amounts of money for them, almost Gibson money. Please get in touch if you know of any Japan made Hummingbird copies for sale, ideally one with an awesome moustache bridge.

Ibanez Concord 1976
1976 – Ibanez Flattop Guitars – Concord Series