Guitar shopping in Tokyo

I got into Tokyo on New Years Day to find that most places were closed. There was a couple of the Ishibashi outlets open though, including Ikebukuro (an area of the city). That’s where I ended up getting the MIM Tele Custom two days later.

It was cold in Tokes, but not ridiculously so.

cutting to the chase, this is the one I eventually bought

Didn’t actually see much of Ikebukuro because the Ishibashi joint was close to the train station.

My currency translating skillz went awry when looking at this US made ‘72—in fact I didn’t see the US made bit. I was think it was roughly $400, probably because it was beat up and the pick up looked a little rusty. Add another zero to 348. It played nice.


The next day I got over to another area, Nochonmizu, that has about ten larger, chok-full shops of new and vintage gear. I wasn’t epecting many of them to be open but most were.

This is the TL-52 SPL. That is, it’s a Japanese Fender, made to look like the 1952 model Telecaster, and the SPL means special. It’s special. And I was indeed considering it because it has that combination of a single coil and a humbucker, but the humbucker didn’t sound very good, plus the varnished woodgrain reminded me too much of YOUR MUM’S kitchen table.


This is the one I was really hankering for a few months ago. But then the hanker gave out. It’s also a Fender Japan—a MG69 RLY. Mustang 1969 style in ‘rebole’ yellow.  O RLY?

Gorgeous colour, but it sounded too samey with the Jaguar I already have here. I may still definitely give one of these a try sometime though.



Here is a bunch of pedals. At least in the 2nd hand dept, and for Japanese company-made pedals, the prices were pretty good at times, but if were not actually in the country, and were adding on shipping, it probably wouldn’t be worth it.


Bunch of original Mustangs OMG :drool:



This is a 1988 strat. It’d faded to a really nice pale yellow bananary full-moon colour. Check out the evidence of fading on the back, due to now-removed stickers. The fretboard was scalloped. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I don’t know why anyone would scallop anything other than potatoes.

Anyway, all up it was a really fun experience. The folks in the shops were always completely polite and okay with letting me have a try of pretty much any guitar that I wanted. Within reason I guess… there were a couple of Bass IVs in one shop, with the price on them at about US$4000 each, and as much as I was curious about the sound of them, I didn’t ask for a try. There’s slim chance I’ll ever own a bassIV.

But it was a cool thing to say, Hay, can I try this? and then be asked, would you prefer it through a Fender or Marshall?  Also, Japanese people’s English is pretty good. I found myself slipping into the terrible sounding pidgeon English that I mostly speak in here, only to find that it wasn’t necessary there. Maybe partly the reason is that there’s a lot more Australian and English people in Japan, so the locals are exposed to more variety of accents.

At some times the shops were quite busy and I would’ve had to wait around to try out something, but sometimes very quiet, which was when the sales staff were basically encouraging me to try their stuff, with no hard-sell tactics at the end. It was great—that style really works on me. It’s like, my brain thinks, well, if you’re not going to try and talk me into buying this $1000 dollar guitar, then it must be pretty damn good, in which case, I think I’ll just go ahead an buy it.

One thing that warmed the cockles of my guitar-purcahsin’ heart was seeing young teeny-bopper kids looking at stuff and buying stuff. In the Ikebukuro store I was watching this kid, must’ve been 14 at the most, nerdily looking at 2nd hand small clone and small clone nanos as if they were from another planet. I felt like saying to him, Get the standard one, it sounds better. In Nochanomizu there was a young teen girl with her mum buying a guitar starter pack too. It was great because I never see that here. The predominant demographic at Nagwon is old ajashis – and they own the shops.

So from the perspective of guitars and gear, I was reminded of how wealthy Japan is. Playing a musical instrument, guitar or other, is primarily a hobby—like fishing or pokemon – and in Japan people have the bux to spend on their hobby. Compared to here, where currently things are not looking good – I’m betting a few of those old dudes in the nagwon building go out of bidness soon.

In Nochan the biggest crowding I saw was at one of the shops that was having a sheet music book sale. It made me think, if there’s all these young dudes and dudettes in Jp with guitars, why don’t more rock groups come out of the country. I’m guessing, 1) the language difference is a big factor. There’s not much commercial viability in Japanese sung songs in English-speaking countries. Also 2) There’s a good dollop of the same mindset in Japan as there is here re creativity—that is – they’re more into following the rules, learning the sheet music, than wading into the murky depths or unexplored creative styles.

Even here, whenever I get to Nagwon there’s always someone shredding it up, trying out a HM-2 or something, but it was odd that as busy as all those shops were in Tokyo, I didn’t here anyone hot-dogging it with the guitars on sale.

, — yak sox @ 8:37 pm, January 20, 2009


  1. Great pics, dude. When are you going to post some unholy jams for us to listen to?

    Aslo, good Jap rock does exist (Sheena & the Rokkets!), but I have trouble finding it also. This is sometimes good:

    Comment by Nosta — January 21, 2009 @ 12:14 am
  2. We were partly working on a cover of Here Comes Your Man … but the people I had been playing with are just about to go separate ways – so it’s all over.

    I’ll have a listen at the at link—I know the 5.6, 7, 8s but that’s it. I got some interesting cds of indie artists when there last year—but it’s not as if anyone has really heard of them.

    Comment by YS — January 21, 2009 @ 1:36 pm
  3. Got any solo stuff? I listened to some of MichaelCarwford’s solo piano stuff (in ogg format of course) and rather liked it.

    Comment by Nosta — January 21, 2009 @ 6:08 pm

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