Japan has long been one of the hot spots of the ukulele culture. This page is about the history of the Ukulele in Japan and especially the production of ukuleles in Japan.

Pictures, Videos, Audios

My reportage about ukulele dealers in Tokyo-Ochanomizu (2015)


Yamaguchi Iwao plays the Holoholo Rag on a Shimo-Ukulele (2014)

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Advertising of the confectionery label Fujiya in Tokyo (2017)
In front of Fujiya chain shops there is always a “Peko” figure, which is dressed and decorated differently depending on the advertising campaign

Sweet Hollywaiians: My Girl From The South Sea Isles (2009)

Futamura Teiichi, voice; Sakai Tōru, Ukulele; Ernest Kaai Jazz Band:

Share-otoko (cover of Frank Crumit: A Gay Caballero)

Ukulele Baby
Victor Japan No. 51013, December 1929
(s. Kikuchi Kiyomaro: Nihon Hayariuta Hensenshi: Kayōkyoku no Tanjō kara J-Pop no Jidai e. Rinsōsha 2008, S. 138)


Natoyama Ryō: Way To Go!!~Athlete (2015)

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain in Japan 1994 and 2004
At the end, Maki Shinji has a cameo

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Toy ukulele from the 1970s, unknown Japanese manufacturer

Suzuki Violin

In 1885 Suzuki Masakichi began mass production of violins. After major successes in the world market, the company expanded its production on guitars, mandolins, shamisen and finally from 1928 the Ukulele. After the war, the company was split at the instigation of the US occupying power. At the Nagoya headquarters Suzuki Violin (often referred to as Nagoya Suzuki Violin) remained, in Nagano Prefecture Kiso Suzuki violin settled. The ukulele production at the headquarters was discontinued in 1971. What is sold today under the name “Suzuki Ukuleles”, are products of the company Suzuki Music founded in 1953 in Hamamatsu.

Kiwaya

Okamoto Kitaro originally founded Kiwaya キワヤ to repair gramophones. Since then, however, the company changed under his son Ryōji in the 1950s for instrument making and is today the oldest and most important Japanese ukulele maker. Their ukuleles were aiming at the designs of Martin and Kamaka. Most of their ukuleles are produced in Maebashi by Mitsuba Gakki. Most of their ukuleles are produced by Mitsuba Gakki in Maebashi.

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Pinapple shape Luna Ukulele
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Label of a Luna Ukulele
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Mitsuba Gakki workshop
(source: Yano Ukulele Island)

Other Brands

Unfortunately, little is known about the brand Academy, which was sold out in the 1960s and no longer exists today.
Acoustik World distributes today ukuleles in the design of the Martin 3M built in solid mahogany in soprano, concert and tenor sizes.
In 1956, Arai was founded in Nagoya. Under its brand Aria (established in 1960) it sells guitars and high-end ukuleles in different sizes.
In 1962, the Asturias manufactory was created in [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurume|Kurume]], where today for Ohana ukuleles (also custom-made) are produced.
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In the Asturias workshop (Source: Ohana)
Other manufacturers that supply Ohana are Sofla by Yamazaki in Tokyo, M'sCRAFT Kai Ukulele in Saitama, Kige Work Shop in Osu, Chihale Works in Osaka, Shiihara Ukulele Factory in Seto, Ukulele Studio Shichirigahama in Kamakura, Juntla in Kanoya and Toda in Yonehara. All of these companies are small workshops that do valuable manual work. The prices are correspondingly high.

Links

References

  • Ōki, Yūko: “Innovation of Ukulele making: Case study of Urabe factory in Kyoto”. In: Journal of Informatics for Arts, Shōbi University 2011:3 Bd. 19, S. 27–39.
  • Yano, Christine R.: “Plucking Paradise: Hawaiian 'Ukulele Performance in Japan”. In: Japanese Studies 2015 Bd. 35 H. 3, S. 317–330.