Tokyo guitar shopping update

Music stores and pawn shops where Tokai guitars have been spotted for sale. New or used.

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ScottA
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Tokyo guitar shopping update

Post by ScottA » Fri Aug 26, 2005 5:50 pm

I just flew in from Japan (and boy, are my arms tired!)

Oh - My - Gawd!!!!!

Where do I start?

Most of the week was consumed with work (which went well, thank you very much).

But on Wednesday afternoon, I had a chance to go guitar shopping. First, one of my Japanese colleagues had identified a private dealer who had a 1980 LS80 Love Rock. It was near the plant that I was visiting in the morning so we checked it out. His store was a little room in the back of a motorcycle shop. It was in good shape, but he wanted ? 120,000 ($1100 + US). I thought this was a bit high, plus I didn't want to grab the first thing I saw. Also it didn't have a hard case. It was nice, though. Sounded pretty darn good, played well, had a graphite nut and maybe aftermarket saddles. The pickups and other hardware were apparently original. A couple of the tuner casings were separating. Also he was applying the "hard-sell". I had found out about a district called Ochanomizu in Tokyo where there are many shops (see below!!), and I told him I wanted to look there before I bought. He tried to dissuade me saying there aren't any Tokai's there; it's all a rip off, a bunch of crooks, blah, blah. I said thanks, I like your axe, I don't think it?s a bargain but maybe high end market price - if I want it I'll call you. (Btw, My Japanese colleague has an email with pictures and info, I'll try to get it and post it here. He had a lot of other nice stuff, including Yamaha's, Ibanez', Burny's etc).

So we left, and headed to Ochanomizu. I was a little apprehensive, but fairly confident his '80 wasn't going anywhere quick.

Ochanomizu was absolutely unbelievable. Japanese Guitar Heaven on Earth!!!!! A short city block with wall-to-wall music shops. Literally, I must have seen 10,000 guitars (of course no time to play them all, drool, drool), and I'm positive I didn't see it all. I spied things down side streets that we didn't get a chance to see. Similar to W 48th St in NYC but BIGGER!!! And Tokai's? Many to choose from. All kinds of new ones. I played an SEB (I think it was a 125) for awhile. Quite good. It sounded great, but the action at the nut was a little low for me and the frets weren't chunky enough. Nice medium c-shaped neck though! This shop also had a wide selection of regular LS's (up to 120) and ALS's. At Ichibashi's second story used shop, no Tokai's but I found an excellent Fender Japan Strat, with a s'burst JV serial number body and a neck of questionable Fender US origin (the shopkeeper thought that it was a custom shop) and Zan Vandt pick-ups. It was oozing vintage. Old wood, a respectable amount of wear and dings, dark spots on the fretboard, and aged orangey maple neck (and maple board - which I usually don't prefer but this axe was screaming my name), cigarette burn on the headstock. Beautiful. Needless to say, I bought it. Cheap too, at less than ? 48,000 (plus shipping). The tracking info says it should be in SF today. I can't wait!! So for the Strat it was between this guy and a 1980 Springy Sound ST80 at a shop across the street for ? 68,000. I know you Tokai purists are probably rolling over, and I struggled too because I've been looking for a sunburst ST80 for awhile, but I had to go with what my hands and ears and eyes were telling me. I thought about getting the Springy, too and shipping it then turning it on ebay (I saw an identical one go for $1100 US recently), but 1) my wife would freak (as it was I came home with two - more to come) and 2) - well there is no 2, I probably should have grabbed it in retrospect!!! But, I did OK regardless.

So a little up the street from the Springy, was a shop with a 2001 floor model LS320. It had a major gash on the side of the body and numerous dings, the knobs were eccentric (not clear if this was from the stems being bent or what), so it had obviously seen some abuse. The strings on it were so grungy that it was hard to tell what it really sounded like. But he only wanted ? 220,000! So I was seriously considering this. When I was making my second loop, I had pretty much decided I was going to get the bastard JV Strat, and the 320. Then, next door to the Ichibashi shop, I noticed another vintage shop on the second floor, so I said hey lets check this out. By this time, my poor Japanese friend is looking at his watch every five minutes expressing dismay that we will miss the Shinkansen to Osaka (and eventually Yokkaichi ? as it was I didn?t get to my hotel until midnight). I walk in and look around a bit, a lot of Gibson?s and Fender?s?.then what do I see? An ?82 LS100 prominently featured on a stand in the back half of the shop (see posting in vintage section) for ? 148,000. All original (apparently, I haven?t had time to check it out but these guys were pretty reputable and gave me a 4 month guarantee ? actually they gave it to my Japanese colleague for ease of communication). A beauty, but time is running thin. I stall. I will go buy the JV, and use the time to consider which LS to get. Unfortunately it takes over an hour for my credit card to clear. My card company puts a security block on my card!! So we get that straightened out. Meanwhile, I?ve decided that vintage wins, with help from my friend (he knows nothing about guitars but we all need a sounding board of some sort). So I go back and pick up the LS100. This time, no credit problems (I told my company to take the hold off in the process of clearing up the last deal).

So, all in all. I?m very happy. I think the JV strat was a steal, and the LS100 was probably not a bargain, but I?m sure in a year or so it won?t matter.

I highly recommend a trip to Ochanomizu. I was overwhelmed! I was giddy, like a kid in a candy store. I think all of my Japanese colleagues were goofing on me for the rest of the week (not sure ? but you pick up bits of Jenglish ? maybe they were talking about something else, I get paranoid about this kind of stuff). But then again, I could care. It was awesome!!!!! Additional sightings: ESP Navigators. They seem to be way overpriced. The top end LP model is ? 500,000!! The action was nice, but jeez. Many Burny?s some old Greco?s some Edwards and Grassroots (which are cheaper ESP lines). Just all kinds of stuff.

If you can, go. Don?t go in the summer if you can help it. It?s really hot!

I hope this doesn?t sound like bragging. I?m all wound up and felt the need to share. My wife won?t understand?.But she?s pretty cool about it, anyway. So I?ve got that going for me, which is nice.

I picked up an SEB catalogue which I will scan and forward to Ned so he can post it. I also noticed that there are more pages in the 2003-2004 catalog than what is posted, so I'll forward that as well. I also have a (very) long form and short form ESP catalog if anyone is interested in that.

One regret: I stupidly neglected to bring my camera!!
Last edited by ScottA on Tue Jan 03, 2006 9:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Cybercat
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Post by Cybercat » Sat Aug 27, 2005 3:10 am

Wow! Great report Scott!

Damn shame you forgot to take your camera!!! :roll:
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BlueFrogs
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Post by BlueFrogs » Sat Aug 27, 2005 6:17 am

Sounds like an awesome place! :D

ned
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Post by ned » Sat Aug 27, 2005 6:37 am

Scott-

Great post!!!! I've been dying to go to Japan for years just haven't been able to wrangle the trip out of work yet.

Ned

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Post by hans-j?rgen » Tue Jan 24, 2006 10:54 am

I accidentally found a very interesting thread in an interesting forum about guitar shopping in Japan here:

http://www.crisscross.com/jp/forum/m_20 ... htm#211133

Wait, nobody mentioned the Tokaiforum there? Hmm... :wink:
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shihjen
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Post by shihjen » Wed May 31, 2006 1:51 am

see any tokai es?
I'm planing to go to japan during summer.

ilovemystrat
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Post by ilovemystrat » Wed Mar 14, 2007 6:21 pm

I'll be in Ochanomizu this week...

Hopefully, I can find an LP i like!
ilovemystrat

looking at those double cut Tokai Les Paul Juniors

oldflame
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Post by oldflame » Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:30 am

Interesting read. Must go there one day. Only a stones throw from me really.

More guitars and your wife would have freaked you say. Have you told her about the hookers yet! :) :wink:

ilovemystrat
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Post by ilovemystrat » Thu Mar 15, 2007 8:24 am

oldflame wrote:Interesting read. Must go there one day. Only a stones throw from me really.

More guitars and your wife would have freaked you say. Have you told her about the hookers yet! :) :wink:
i'm not married!
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looking at those double cut Tokai Les Paul Juniors

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Post by oldflame » Thu Mar 15, 2007 9:02 am

BONUS! :D

villager
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Post by villager » Fri Mar 16, 2007 2:19 am

very good report scott....

couple points ...

the JV you needed to check neck date and routings...
the springy is underpriced by about 30000 yen ..are you sure it was an 80?
the first LS-80 with no case was overpriced at 120000...100000 is nearer the mark...
the LS-100 was correct at 148000...

you were fortunate to find 4 good old japanese....I trawled Ochinomizu for 4 days and got one ObG ...that was it....

if your lucky you see 3 or 4 vintage japanese....

its an indication of how rare these are becoming.....heh and you probably saw 100000 guitars not 10000...it becomes overwhelming after a while...

that area is the commercial hub of guitars in tokyo, there are other japanese vintage shops spread out all over the city, but you have to know where they are, and theres no garuantees that you will find any old tokais, greco, burnys ObG's etc etc ...its just pot luck...

as my buyer says to me

''all good old Japanese go underground''

there is a network of collectors and dealers, who have agreements with all the shops that when the shop gets a trade in of a vintage japanese, it goes to them for the first choice...if they dont want it then it goes on sale on the shopfloor...

MIJvintage
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Post by MIJvintage » Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:20 am

villager wrote: there is a network of collectors and dealers, who have agreements with all the shops that when the shop gets a trade in of a vintage japanese, it goes to them for the first choice...if they dont want it then it goes on sale on the shopfloor...
So, we are all getting the red headed step childs of MIJ vinatge :( crumbs........
http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dl ... ij_vintage

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villager
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Post by villager » Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:21 am

from the shops in tokyo...more or less yes...

sneakyjapan
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Post by sneakyjapan » Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:53 am

there ceratinly are a lot more people looking in cities like Tokyo...but four days is a very short time, in the much much smaller city that I live in I can go 4 weeks without seeing anything that tempts me, there is a huge element of luck as well. I go to the local shops at least 2 or three times a week and have found guitars that weren`t there 2 days before. Stores do take the time to inspect a trade in or used guitar they get and right place right time can`t be understated...and...there are in fact a couple of local shops that refuse trade ins...they think they won`t be able sell em, hard to believe perhaps but true.
After 13 years here, I`ve come to accept the fact that I`m not always getting the entire truth...not saying I get lied to per say but many times there is a lot I`m not being told simply because I`m a non-native and if thats hard to believe...well, spend some time in the country, and I mean more than a week or month then we can talk.
I have been without a doubt a very lucky guy, I own more wonderful guitars than any player could ever need but that doesn`t stop me from looking... and buying. But if I never find another great old MIJ...I surely won`t complain.

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Post by tokaigeezer » Tue Mar 20, 2007 1:13 pm

MIJvintage wrote:
villager wrote: there is a network of collectors and dealers, who have agreements with all the shops that when the shop gets a trade in of a vintage japanese, it goes to them for the first choice...if they dont want it then it goes on sale on the shopfloor...
So, we are all getting the red headed step childs of MIJ vinatge :( crumbs........
My guess is that some of the MIJ guitars on eBay are items that the Japanese themselves will not buy, or ones that the dealers believe the Japanese won't buy. It may be a stereotype, but I have read that Japanese consumers are extremely picky concerning imperfections in a product. I have heard of car shoppers refusing to buy a vehicle if it has an eentsy blem in the paint. I don't know if this extends to guitars per se. But I suspect that we often see the guitars they don't really care about, having a few dings and 85-90 percent fretwear. But that's OK with me - they're still great sounding ones, usually. I like used guitars because you can just play them, don't really don't have to baby them, or have a nervous breakdown if you scratch one, which sooner or later will happen if you play them all the time, even just around the house, no matter how careful you are.

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