Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tokai ES-100 Guitar


I have written before about the Tokai Love Rock Guitars, which are not terribly uncommon. But this Tokai ES-100 is a rare one. I had seen them in old catalogs, but this is the only one I have ever seen in person, and I had been looking for one for awhile before my guy in Japan pulled it out of his butt.

This is a gem, but before I get to the guitar, I had better explain the name. This is obviously a Japanese knock-off of the Gibson ES-335, so why not call it an ES-335? It is certainly not because they were afraid of being sued, as everything else about the guitar was copied.

The model name of Tokai guitars is based on their price. And this ES-100 sold for 100,000 yen (about $1000 nowadays), and the LS-50 Love Rocks sold for 50,000 yen. Easy! I am not sure if they are still using this nomenclature, but that is how it was back in the 1980s and 1990s.

The guitar we have here is from 2001 (I think), and is finished in 2-tone tobacco burst. It is in excellent condition. It is not terribly heavy, weighing in at 8 pounds, 1 ounce according to my scale.

This one is all original, and has not been modified. It has a plain top and the body is bound on the front and rear. The hardware and electronics are first-class, with Kluson-style tuners (supposedly made by Schaller) and PAF Vintage humbuckers. The controls are the same as a Gibson: 2 volume, 2 tone and a 3-way switch. 3-way! It has a non-trapeze bridge and tailpiece as used on Les Paul models.

The bound rosewood neck would make the Gibson guys despair. Even 10 years later the neck is better, and the frets are more level than on any ES-335 I have seen in years. The craftsmanship is superb.

It plays and sounds fantastic. It would be good for Jazz, or fantastic for rock. It has a ton of sustain, and the electronics sound very good with no unusual noise. This is a keeper.

The value of this is a little fuzzy since they are rarely up for sale. I bought this one for less than half of what I would have paid for a comparable used ES-335. For reference, a new Gibson ES-355 has a list price of $3889, and a street price $2750. That is just too much for what you get.

Happy motoring!


  1. I have never seen one of the TLR ES-335 clones in person, either. That is a beauty.
    The trapeze tailpiece 335s are nothing to write home about- all the magic happens when you anchor the strings down behind the bridge.

    Happy guitarin'!

    Corey K

  2. I have a 1981 ES-100J a superb instrument
    Workmanship second to none

  3. how fat is the neck on the es 100?