Photo by Scott 97006 on Flickr
Culture

Top 10 Japanese Electric Guitar Brands

Guitars made in Japan are sought after for their superior quality. There are quite a few brands that have been making excellent quality guitars in Japan. Some older Japanese brands have made vintage guitars that are much in demand even today. Here are the top 10 brands that make electric guitars.

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  • Yamaha
  • Fernandes Guitars
  • FujiGen Gakki
  • Electric Sound Products (ESP Guitar Company)
  • Ibanez
  • Fender Japan
  • Greco Guitars
  • Tokai
  • Guyatone
  • Aria Guitars Co.

Usually, electric guitars have a smaller body compared to acoustic guitars. The necks are thinner and the gauges are lighter. These guitars are, thus, relatively easier to play. These guitars are popular among both amateurs and professionals. Let’s look at each of the above brands of electric guitars in detail.

Photo by Malcolm Espinosa on Flickr
Photo by Malcolm Espinosa on Flickr

Yamaha

Yamaha GigMaker. Photo by mobiusseo on Flickr.
Yamaha GigMaker. Photo by mobiusseo on Flickr.

Yamaha is by far one of the most famous brands for electric guitars. It is also an old and prominent brand. It was founded in 1887 in Japan. The brand has an excellent manufacturing process. Also, they put a strong emphasis on quality. The products are designed keeping customer satisfaction in mind. There is considerable research and expertise behind the guitars made by Yamaha.

Yamaha Revstar. Photo by eddy lee on Flickr.
Yamaha Revstar. Photo by eddy lee on Flickr.

Yamaha was founded to make pianos and organs. It was only in the 1940s that they ventured into guitar production. Initially, they made acoustic guitars. They started manufacturing electric guitars in 1966. The SG7 electric guitar was their first product in this category. Revstar is the latest addition to their catalog of electric guitars. It was launched in 2016.

Fernandes Guitars

Fernandes Guitars was founded in 1969 in Japan. They started making electric guitars in 1972. It is a trusted brand in Japan as well as outside. They make guitars for beginners as well as professionals. The brand combines modern technology with traditional style. They make electric guitars in innovative shapes. The guitars have a very contemporary look and feel.

Fernandes ZO3. Photo by hiroaki maeda on Flickr.
Fernandes ZO3. Photo by hiroaki maeda on Flickr.

The brand is most famous for the sustainer system. As long as the player frets the note, the string continues to vibrate using electromagnetism. This is a major step in the progress of guitar technology.

FujiGen Gakki

FujiGen PP4-380. Photo by fuyu showgun on Flickr.
FujiGen PP4-380. Photo by fuyu showgun on Flickr.

FujiGen Gakki started making classical guitars in 1960. Just two years later, the brand started making electric guitars. This is a very famous brand in Japan. It rapidly carved a niche for itself due to its expertise in manufacturing and considerable production capacity. Between 1960 to 1980, it made the highest number of guitars in Japan.

Fujigen Odyssey Red Burst. Photo by Guitar Gallery on Flickr.
Fujigen Odyssey Red Burst. Photo by Guitar Gallery on Flickr.

In recent times, the brand has been actively trying to put quality before quantity. As a result, the brand has gained recognition as a manufacturer of quality products, too. They are successfully foraying into the global market. They also take orders for modifying and repairing instruments.

Electric Sound Products (ESP Guitar Company)

ESP Ultratone. Photo by Der Rings on Flickr.
ESP Ultratone. Photo by Der Rings on Flickr.

ESP Guitar Company was founded in 1975 as a custom replacement parts shop. At the same time, they also started making guitars for the Japanese market. The brand focuses on electric and bass guitars. They have a wide range of products. The range caters to users in Japan as well as the US. This company takes the quality of their guitars very seriously. Right from the raw materials to the finished product, quality is given utmost importance.

Photo by hellboy1975 on Flickr
Photo by hellboy1975 on Flickr

In 1983 the company first launched products for the US market. They also made guitars for several artists in New York. This helped the brand quickly rise in popularity. Over the years, it launched quite a few series such as Signature, Navigator, etc. Navigator was a series of high-quality handmade guitars. In 2002, the company was recognized as the fastest-growing guitar manufacturer. They also make custom guitars.

Ibanez

Ibanez guitars. Photo by Leandro Campacci.
Ibanez guitars. Photo by Leandro Campacci.

Ibanez was founded in 1957 in Nagoya, Japan. The company has made guitars and guitar parts for other reputed brands, too. The quirky designs makes the brand stand apart. Even though this brand started out copying designs from American guitar brands, today, the brand makes exclusive guitars of great quality. The company is trusted in Japan as well as globally.

Ibanez Gio. Photo by khenshien on Flickr.
Ibanez Gio. Photo by khenshien on Flickr.

Ibanez has the J. Custom series which makes high-end exclusive guitars. They use advanced techniques in manufacturing. The Ibanez Prestige line makes guitars of great quality. Built in Japan, these are top-of-the-line models that feature expert craftsmanship. Ibanez Gio makes budget guitars. However, they copy the designs of the premium guitars made by the brand.

Fender Japan

Fender Guitar. Photo by Larry Ziffle on Flickr.
Fender Guitar. Photo by Larry Ziffle on Flickr.

Fender has been a reputed brand in the music industry. It has a notable history going back to 1946. Their guitars have been sought after in Japan as well as worldwide. They have manufactured guitars for all genres of music including country, jazz, western, and rock ‘n’ roll. Fender guitars have been used by performing artists from different parts of the world. However, they have guitar ranges for beginners, too.

Fender Squier. Photo by Cristiano Marchese on Flickr.
Fender Squier. Photo by Cristiano Marchese on Flickr.

Fender Japan, was in fact, formed in 1982. Fender was facing stiff competition from other Japanese brands. So, in 1982, Fender collaborated with two musical instrument wholesalers, Kanda Shokai and Yamano Gakki. Thus, Fender Japan was born. Then, it started making and marketing its own products under the Fender Japan brand.

Greco Guitars

Greco 013. Photo by Brocky5 on Flickr.
Greco 013. Photo by Brocky5 on Flickr.

Greco Guitars started as a guitar wholesaler. The company then made replicas of famous American guitars at a low cost. The replicas were so good in quality that the brand soon became popular. Especially, their replica models for Gibson and Fender became very popular. These models are famous even today. Their original models also started getting recognized because of this.

Greco Mint Collection Series

As of 1962, Greco had begun manufacturing guitars for FujiGen. However, it was only in 1972 that Greco launched their original series called the Super Real Series. Between 1982 and 1990, Greco launched another original line called the Mint Collection Series.

Tokai

Photo by New Music on Flickr
Photo by New Music on Flickr

Tokai was established in 1947. They started making classical guitars in 1965. Three years later, they made their first electric guitar called the Humming Bird. Tokai also made replicas of popular brands such as Gibson, Martin, Fender, and Les Paul.

Tokai Goldstar. Photo by Marlon Maribao on Flickr.
Tokai Goldstar. Photo by Marlon Maribao on Flickr.

Several noteworthy artists have used Tokai guitars. Brian May from Queen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, and Robert Fripp are some of the well-known performers associated with Tokai guitars.

Guyatone

LG 50 from Guyatone. Photo by clickerconspiracy on Flickr.
LG 50 from Guyatone. Photo by clickerconspiracy on Flickr.

Guyatone is one of the earliest guitar manufacturers in Japan. Its parent company Matsuki Manufacturing started production in 1933. The interesting thing about the name Guyatone is that it translates to “handyman music”. This is probably because a cabinet maker’s apprentice, Mitsuo Matsuki co-founded the company. The other co-founder was Atsuo Kaneko. Kaneko went on to become a famous guitar player.

Guyatone LG 250T. Photo by Jonas Eriksson Slove on Flickr.
Guyatone LG 250T. Photo by Jonas Eriksson Slove on Flickr.

Interestingly, the company adopted the name Guyatone much later in 1951. In 2013, Guyatone collaborated with DeMont Guitars, USA. They now manufacture their guitars in both Japan and the US.

Aria Guitars Co.

Aria Pro Cardinal. Photo by rroonn on Flickr.
Aria Pro Cardinal. Photo by rroonn on Flickr.

The company Aria Guitars Co. is a fairly old company. The company started in 1956 in Nagoya, Japan. The name Aria means “expressive melody“. The company was retailing acoustic guitars in 1960. They started making electric guitars in 1966. In late 1975, the brand was renamed Aria Pro II. Aria Pro II is a name usually associated with electric guitars.

Aria Pro II. Photo by Skipper Tail on Flickr.
Aria Pro II. Photo by Skipper Tail on Flickr.

Several well-known artists played the Aria guitars. Some were associated with the brand as ambassadors. Notable names are Jack Bruce, Henrik Flyman, Neal Schon, and others. The brand is famous for its innovation and quality in guitar manufacturing. Aria is a brand that comes with a lot of expertise in the music industry and experience in manufacturing techniques.

The above are the top Japanese brands for electric guitars. With these brands, you can never go wrong! Hooked to music? Here are the best Japanese brands for speakers so that music never stops!

Eli Civil

A software engineer, entrepreneur, and Japanese culture enthusiast. I travel the world while working from my laptop and try to visit Japan as often as I can. About Eli Civil

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