All The Emperor's Guitars
Tony Bacon on the trans-oceanic hotline
Who makes which Jap electrics? Check ERRATA
Have you ever wondered whether "Japan" is just one big factory with guitars churning off the production line while an oriental chap at the end stamps Aria on one headstock, Ibanez on another, and Yamaha on the next, as the fancy lakes him? Not so. But our exhaustive and exhausting enquiries have revealed that the majority of Japanese electric guitars, even bitter rivals, come from one of three big factories in the Nagano region of the country. Two or more brands of electric guitar coming from the same factory won't necessarily turn out looking and sounding the same — Squier are designed in the US, Vox in the UK, for example — but it does imply a similarity of manufacturing, and finishing, at the very least. Did you know, for example, that Washburn electrics, although designed in Chicago, are made at four different Japanese factories: Matsumoku, Chusin, Kasuga, and Tokai? No? Nor did Washburn UK. We also picked up a case or two full of unprintable rumours and accusations — A's necks are really made in Taiwan, B's guitars are made in a shed in Hiroshima, and so on — but felt that you'd prefer facts. So here we go.
As the ink was drying we realised, with glum faces, that our geography was amiss. On page 55 (All The Emperor's Guitars) it should be Ibanez, Roland GR and Squier at the Fuji Gen-Gakki factory and Cimar, Maya and Washburn at Chusin. Seiwa are made at both places. Our brains were manufactured in a shoebox.
Feature by Tony Bacon
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