Thursday, April 30, 2015

The End of an Era: Fender Japan – 1982 to 2015

Good day.

I recently heard through the grapevine that Fender Japan has ceased its operations after 32 years of providing high-quality instruments at affordable prices. I own, and have owned, many of these guitars and basses and this is a sad day for me…

In March, 1982 Fender Japan was created with guitars and basses being built by FujiGen Gakki. This was a period of flux for Fender as they were in the process of being sold by CBS, so while their new US factory was being built, only instruments made from leftover US parts and those from FujiGen were being sold. It is a confusing relationship of Japanese companies that handled this process, as distribution and sales were handled by Kanda Shokai (a wholesaler) and Yamano Gakki (a wholesaler and retailer). So, they would order instruments from FujiGen, and then ship them out to retailers. In case you are wondering, “gakki” translates to English as “musical instrument.”

This is not the only company that built these instruments, though. There is a convoluted timeline that includes other builders -- Tokai and Dyna Gakki (there is that Gakki, again). And there is a bit of controversy about who made the “Crafted in Japan” versus the “Made in Japan” instruments and in what years, and the serial number conventions are hopelessly messed up. I think that people who say they know exactly what happened might be making it up just so they can get more hits on their blog. Fender’s website is certainly not any help.

None of this really matters, as they are all really good instruments. If you are looking for the cream of the crop, go with a JV, A-prefix or E-prefix serial numbered instrument and you cannot go wrong. These were made between 1982 and 1987, and include some really cool instruments, including the Jazz Bass Special basses that Duff McKagan made famous.

So, as of this year, the original agreement between Fender and Kanda Shokai/Yamano Gakki has been dissolved and it appears that this is the end of an era. The Fender Japan website is gone, and stock of Fender Japan instruments at Ishibashi are lower than I have ever seen them. It is a shame…

1 comment:

  1. You forgot to mention the SQ series.

    All my best instruments have been Japanese Fenders.