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Thread: Advice on Instruments in Japan

  1. #1

    Default Advice on Instruments in Japan

    Hi. I'm new to Mandolin Cafe. I live in central Japan, some distance from Tokyo. I'm a classically-trained pianist, and I played professionally for a short while back in the day but for the past few decades I've done non-music work. From childhood into my university years I also played violin.

    I've always enjoyed the sound of the mandolin in classical, bluegrass, rock, Celtic, and other styles, but I've never actually had my own instrument. I'm now 60 and planning to retire soon, and I am very eager to get a good mandolin. My main goal is to play bluegrass, although I'd also like to play other styles of music on the mandolin.

    There seem to be lots and lots of old bowlback mandolins made by Suzuki floating around this area since the Suzuki instrument factory was in nearby Nagoya, so I may pick one up, especially if I can get one cheap. But I'd really like to get a nice flat-backed instrument that's more suitable to playing bluegrass.

    Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any Japanese music shops nearby with a selection of mandolins, so I'm probably going to have to plan a trip to a large city, such as Tokyo.

    Does anyone know of sellers of quality mandolins in Japan? Also, given that I'm in Asia, are there specific makes of instruments -- perhaps even something by a Japanese mandolin maker -- that I might consider? I know that without knowing my price point, it's hard to give concrete advice. Suffice it to say that I'm willing to pay what it takes to get an instrument I really like.

  2. #2
    Registered User bluegrasser78's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    There are some fine instruments that come from and are built in your Country, now not to be rude but also different Asian mandolins have been Great for bluegrass the older 70's instruments such as F-5's were actually better than most Gibson so I've heard "Just not sure where they were built in Asia!" like the older Ibanez, Washburn, Epiphone, Alvarez, the older and recent Kentucky mandolins-some of these have it going on! Some built by the Legendary maker "SUMI" Eastman are also nice the top of the food chain for bluegrass machines may be the Northfield mandolins.
    I have no idea where to go to buy any if these? Place an add here on the café, do some research first, ebay has some great buys from everywhere and most places here in the states will ship! Best O' luck and welcome back.

  3. #3
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    The mandolins built by Eiichi Sumi have always been very highly regarded. Contact Scott Zimmerman at ''Desert Rose Banjo'' in Matsumoto, Japan for some info. I believe that thay are the agents for Sumi Mandolins. Here's a nice one inthe Cafe classified ads. :- https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/111224#111224

    ''Desert Rose Banjo'' :- http://www.desertrosebanjo.com/sumi.htm Also :- http://www.desertrosebanjo.com/index2.htm
    Ivan
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  4. #4
    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by InJapan View Post
    I live in central Japan, some distance from Tokyo. ...
    There seem to be lots and lots of old bowlback mandolins made by Suzuki floating around this area since the Suzuki instrument factory was in nearby Nagoya, ...

    Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any Japanese music shops nearby with a selection of mandolins, so I'm probably going to have to plan a trip to a large city, such as Tokyo.

    Does anyone know of sellers of quality mandolins in Japan? ...
    At first I thought, Tokyo was "some distance" from you, meaning that it was "somewhat near". Obviously the distance from Nagoya to Tokyo is a 1h flight or 3h train ride away. Well...

    Tokyo has the Blue G (http://www.blue-g.com/top.cgi ; adress: Japan, 〒101-0052 Tokyo, Chiyoda, 神田小川町3丁目1 須田ビル501号
    phone: +81 3-5283-7240). They have great vintage guitars and even if they donīt have any mandolins, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

    Of course there is master luthier Eichi Sumi. International sales agent is Scott Zimmerman of Desert Rose Banjo Company out of Matsumoto (quite closer to you than Tokyo; http://www.desertrosebanjo.com/sumi.htm)

    Then you have Wade mandolins (made in Japan):






    Tony Williamson will have the contact info: http://www.mandolincentral.com/2017-wade

    Well these are some bluegrass related ideas that I hope, may help you.

    On a lower price level the Saga corporation builds mandolins under various names, like Kentucky (http://www.sagamusic.com/products/sh...brand=kentucky). These days these mandolins are probably made in Korea. In the 80ies they were made in Japan. Kentucky mandolins are quite well received.

    Of course there are knowlegeable members from japan on the cafe. Maybe you could send some a pm.

    Good luck on your quest for a nice mandolin.
    Olaf

  5. #5
    Registered User Henry Eagle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    You'll find quite a few offers here: http://www.j-guitar.com/eng/

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    Registered User bluegrasser78's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    Nice, Don't think I ever heard of a Wade mandolin but they sure do look beat to death! I love it, is that natural distressing or is that the makers distressing? I ask cause looks like Gibson was gouged out like the Monroe gouging?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    There is also dolphin guitars in Osaka

    https://www.dolphin-gt.co.jp/
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

  8. #8
    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    Nice, Don't think I ever heard of a Wade mandolin but they sure do look beat to death! I love it, is that natural distressing or is that the makers distressing? I ask cause looks like Gibson was gouged out like the Monroe gouging?
    The videos represent the "Bill Monroe Model". Itīs the makerīs tribute to Bill Monroe (gouged name, broken scroll etc.). Itīs in the same line as Gary Vesselīs tribute mandolin (http://vesselmandolins.blogspot.de).

    If you follow the Tony Williamson link in my first post, youīll see the undistressed Wade F-5. I think that Marc Macglashan has/had one for sale some time back. Here he is with one:





    I find it interesting that I could only come up with contact information of the international representatives for the japanese makers without finding their spot on the web. This may be because of the fact that my keyboard and I doen't do kanji.
    Olaf

  9. #9

    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    If you are on Facebook, a simple search for 'mandolin Japan' turns up a number of posts with links to Japan-based individuals and organisations devoted to mandolin.

  10. #10
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    Acoustic World and their premium brand Iwamota. They are made in Tokyo and sold in the states by Elderly Music. Not sure how or if they are sold in Japan. The reports I have read have been mixed. I have no direct experience.
    Tony Huber
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    Registered User Mike Arakelian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    If you're interested in an excellent bluegrass mandolin that is totally hand made in Japan, you won't do any better than looking at a Sumi. As Ivan Kelsall and grass rootphilosopher suggested above, you can contact Desert Rose Banjo in Matsumoto for information and availability. I recently came across a 2007 Sumi F5 Deluxe at The Music Emporium in Lexington, MA. I was just browsing and not especially looking to buy another mandolin that day, but the Sumi absolutely blew me away. Needless to say, it went home with me. Good luck and welcome to the Cafe'.
    2007 Sumi F-5 Deluxe
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Advice on Instruments in Japan

    Thank you, everyone. You've given me lots of great leads and ideas. I really appreciate all the advice.

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