August 2009 Archives

The financial crisis sweeping over the world markets is severely affecting music products sales in Japan. Business remains flat and doesn't seem to pick up in a short time. Japan Music Trades interviewed 43 music retailers throughout Japan to gauge business performances for the last 6 months and projections toward the coming most expecting business season.
From the interviews, we have confirmed quite positive attitudes of the music dealers coping with the current adverse conditions through extensive day-to-day promotional activities. Not a few replied that their businesses were hardest hit for 3 months from the beginning of the year, but looked to be improving after April. The industry is backed by growing interest in electric guitar inspired by the popular animation featuring a senior high school girl band. Music dealers definitely observe increasing demands for electric guitar and band activities.
Those dealers seeing signs of reversal in business climate share some common strategies. The first point is that they regularly organize concerts, seminars, clinics and other events to better serve needs of local community and promote music making in given area. They are seeding and cultivating the market with well-planned incentives making consumers relaxed at the stores and feel pleasure of music making. Live performances by professional musicians are without doubt most influential for first time players and stimulate their desire for music.
The second point is they are winning confidence of customers by providing them with valuable products, fine selection of instruments in inventory, and complete after-sales and repair services. Obviously, consumers prefer shopping dairy products at cheaper price and heavy discount. However, the musical instrument as discretionary item, has its own value and beauty, whether it's body structure or tonal characters. Purchasing musical instruments can never be the same as buying everyday necessities. They are special for everyone. Because they aspire to be good at playing music stepping up their performance skills, discounting can't be an instant stimulus for discerned shoppers.
The 3rd point is dealers' full commitment to music education. It's widely agreed among the music dealers that music studio operation can complement slow store sales when economy is slow. The music retailers reporting improved business are quite enthusiastic in running teaching studios. They are not only making efforts to expand locations and recruit new students, but also concerned about keeping students continue their study. They present their students immediate and long term goals organizing mini concerts for the students, and encouraging them to form bands with classmates. They boldly suggest generation-free concerts by students and adult players. Some music stores urge instructors to give concerts regularly.
Here are some clues from competitive music dealers to fight back stagnant economy and tightening consumer spending.
"More than ever before, music promotional activities based on principles are what we count on." (Ryuichi Akimoto, president, Yamaha Music Hokkaido, Sapporo)
"Consumers stayed home in fear of swine flu. That helped our Internet sales increase from April through May. As a result, our guitar sales during the period jumped up significantly over previous year. However, we see this just buying interest of consumers which has kept slipping down seems bottomed. Consumers are buying the products recognized for a good balance of price and value." (Katsunori Igarashi, manager, Ishibashi Gakki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo)
"We see successful stores fully capitalize their strength and can advocate it to customers." (Kenji Onizuka, manager in chief, Ikebe Musical, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo)
 "We understand there is no magic formula in improving business other than dedicated and consistent promotional efforts. Price isn't the only factor to close business. Good communication with customers makes great difference in our business. All the time we welcome customers visit us for clues on anything about music and music making. I think our business starts when our tuning engineers visit customers' house and have talks." (Hiroshi Takagi, manager, Kunitachi Gakki, Kunitachi City, Tokyo.)
"Providing our customers with high quality instruments is our policy. We want to do business with differentiated services not relying on discount." (Yoshiyuki Tashiro, store manager, Dac Musical Instruments Shop, Shinjuku, Tokyo)
"Our business has not been much affected by economic fluctuations since we have worked hand in hand with local government and school administrators for long. Our customers commend our well established relationship with community and decades of extensive music promotional activities." (Tadahiro Sato, president, Star Gakki, Ohta-ku, Tokyo)
"We are most concentrated in marketing strategy centralized on versatile types of musical events including primary guidance seminars designed for current and prospective parents of under school children. The question and answer sessions and the demonstration of actual Electone lessons in classroom by our instructors were very well received." (Morikazu Ogawa, president, Nihonya Gakki, Sumida-ku, Tokyo)
"We believe that our businesses further expand as long as we come up with attractive and well-prepared marketing and promotional programs at individual sales floors. The most critical issue is to generate interest in music among non music makers." (Masaaki Shimizu, manager, Yamano Music main store, Ginza, Tokyo)
"The industry has music education at its base. Bearing this in mind, there's no need to be excessively pessimistic in our business." (Mitsuo Ishigaki, president, Octave, Yokosuka)
"Heavy discount can damage value and image of deserved musical instruments. Music retailers should learn marketing know-how to get substantial margin in the time of faltered economy without resorting to discount sales." (Takeshi Imanishi, president, Reedman, Kobe)
 "Music retailers seek businesses to grow. That's quite natural, but what we keep in mind is how to raise businesses that bring us reasonable profit." (Fumihiro Shimomoto, president, Gakkido, Kochi-shi, Kochi Pref.)

Tokyo Guitar Show 2009

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Yamano Music and Fender Musical Instruments co-staged Tokyo Guitar Show 2009 on June 27 and 28 at TFT Hall, Ariake, Tokyo. Totally dedicated to guitar enthusiasts, the visitors were welcomed to see, play and buy the instruments on display. A total of 3,700 guitar fans visited the site for the two days. Admission fee was ¥500 except for the students under 16 years old who were admitted free visit.
 Sixteen guitar retailers set up their booths at the exhibit floor to introduce carefully selected valuable instruments and vintage models. While, eighteen manufacturers introduced new and show models.(photo center: Mark Kendrick, Fender senior master builder, was present to meet the visitors.)
Originated in 2007, the 3rd annual event sold 107 instruments of 54 million yen worth, exceeding in unit, but slightly less in value than last year.

Live performances by popular artists including Yosuke Onuma, Shigeo Nakano and bands drew more than 300 audiences each time. As with the two last shows, Boss and Fender co-staged demonstration performances and seminars to present latest Boss products and effects processors. (photo bottom: Boss/Fender joint demo session)   

 For the first time, the show opened exhibit space to acoustic guitars and related products at a special pavilion in an effort of making the event more integrated and devoted to guitar players.
Tsutomu Iwasaki, Sales & Marketing Manager of Yamano Music Overseas Division, who managed the show commented, "In addition to the on-site sales, the exhibitors can expect further businesses after the show. They look the event as a very successful promotional tool. We understand that the amps and effects offered for the visitors to try also greatly appeal to guitarists. There are lot more things we can do to make it a much more influential show by meeting requirements of the exhibitors and visitors as well."

Yamaha's Flagship Store In Ginza Comes Back

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Yamaha Ginza Bldg., now under construction at 7-chome, Ginza, Tokyo, is scheduled to get back on February 26. It will be a twin building with a 12-storey main store facing the busy Ginza shopping street, and a 7-storey annex at its back. The main store has a total of 7,600 sq. meter space including 3 basements, and the annex comes in 4,900 sq. meter space with 2 basements. Except the land for the annex, Yamaha has invested 8 billion yen for building the complex.
The main store has sales floors from basements through 5 stories above ground, which will be the largest and exclusive retail shop for musical instruments and music-related products in Japan, a multi-purpose mini music hall named Yamaha Ginza Saloon on 6th floor, and Yamaha Music Avenue Ginza teaching studios exclusively designed for adults which allow enrollment of 3,000 students on 10th, 11th and 12th floors.
It also has Yamaha Hall fabricated with best conceivable acoustic conditions on 7th, 8th and 9th floors. The second basement is reserved for Yamaha Ginza Studio, a live spot, and car park space is available on the third basement. The annex serves as offices for Yamaha Artist Service (Atelier Tokyo) to provide adjustment and repair services for wind, string and percussion instruments, and Yamaha Music Tokyo.  (photo right: Yamaha Hall)
Yamaha expects the new Yamaha Ginza Bldg. to be a communication center providing all music makers from entry level musicians, music enthusiasts to professionals with broad range of information on music.
The concert venues in versatile sizes and structures will serve music makers with advanced environment to enjoy music of all types. The buildings represent a concept of Yamaha, "Fusion of Tradition and Innovation" on both interior and exterior designs. 
Details of the Yamaha Ginza Bldg. will be available from:

Yamaha Management Changes

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Yamaha named Hirofumi Osawa, president of Yamaha Corporation of America, and Masato Oike, president of Yamaha Music Europe as Executive Officers on June 25.

Yamaha Music Trading Distributes Breedlove Guitars

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Yamaha Music Trading in Tokyo began distribution of Oregon-based Breedlove acoustic guitars exclusively in the Japanese market on August 1. Launched in 1990, the Breedlove guitars are rapidly increasing their awareness in the U.S. market for their high level of woodworking technology and delicate inlay works. Plans are going at YMT to extensively distribute custom shop models made of selected wood materials and brilliant inlay patterns.


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Zen-ichi Noda, president of Piano Service Noda, Hamamatsu-based distributor of used pianos and Electone organs, passed away of pancreatic cancer on June 26. He was 60 years old.

Yamaha Synthesizers

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S90XS, 88-key ¥280,000
S70XS, 76-key ¥260,000

Yamaha has introduced new S XS series synthesizers. Succeeding the concepts of the S90ES which is a favorite of professionals, both models feature MOTIF XS sound engine, advanced piano voices, much improved user interface, remote control function for DAW software, recording/playback capabilities of audio files, and balanced Hammer keyboard with initial and after key touch sensitivity.

A total of 456MB wave ROM incorporates 142MB newly sampled piano voices and diversified sound of MOTIF XS, 1,024 normal plus 64 drum kit voices, and 128 GM-compatible normal plus 1 drum kit voices.

The new piano voices efficiently simulate key off sound generated when fingers leave keys and action hammers recur to strings thanks to sampling waves based on stretch tuning of acoustic piano.

Other features include damper resonance to realize resonant sound characteristic of grand piano, carefully laid out buttons and sliding knobs on the front panel for instant control of functions during performance including self-lit LED-employed Performance Control buttons to instantly recognize operating conditions of performance parts, arpeggio and hold functions.

The Performance Creator function provides layer and split capabilities of favorite voices and assigning drum voices instantly. It's easy to produce performance in simple controls capitalizing effect and other settings of individual voices. The Panel Lock function protects players from mal-operation during performance. Tap tempo capability for arpeggio is another helpful function in live performance.

Having audio record/playback function in WAVE format ( 44.1kHz/16bit/stereo), they can record audio source into USB memory or internal memory, and playback audio files produced with DAW software. Audio data can be used in various situations such as CD production via PC, singing along while performing with a microphone plugged into MIC INPUT, or enjoying live performance backed with played back audio files.

The DAW Remote Function can storage control data of major DAW software programs and 50 types of control templates compatible with VST instruments.

The S90 XS/S70 XS Remote Editor to produce control templates, S90 XS/S70 XS Editor VST for Steinberg Cubase 4 and upper versions are also provided.

A Cubase AI 4 is standard to both models.

Further information is available from:



Casio Digital Pianos

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PX-730/PX-330 ¥88,000 each

PX-130 ¥63,000

Casio has added 3 new models incorporating Linear Morphing AIF sound system and 3-sensor Scaling Hammer Action keyboard to the Privia series digital pianos. The newly developed sound system expresses tonal nuances produced by velocity level, exerting individual factors note by note with Casio's exclusive digital processing technology. The result is natural, rich and smooth flow of music with wider dynamic range from pianissimo to fortissimo.

The 3-sensor Scaling Hammer Action keyboard detects key strokes at 3 points instead of 2 of the conventional models. It allows pianist to enjoy similar playing feelings of acoustic grand piano with fast repetitive key stroke before keys return to normal positions.

The PX-730 comes in a stylish cabinet with 3 pedals. A sliding top cover is provided. Two cabinet colors in blackwood and dark cherry types are available.

The PX-330 features 250 instrumental voices including GM sounds, 180 rhythm patterns and 16-track recording capability all of which are helpful on stage and in studio as well. It comes in a black metallic cabinet.    

The PX-130 with basic functions comes in a sophisticated pearl white or black metallic cabinet selectable for room interior. 


AP-620/AP-420/AP220 Celvianos



Three new models incorporating Linear Morphing AIF sound system and 3-sensor Scaling Hammer Action keyboard joined Celviano digital piano line.

Acoustic Resonance System reproduces resonant effect generated when damper pedal is used to make players experience natural and authentic expression of acoustic grand piano.

The music library contains 60 songs to be played in music lesson and for private entertainment. It has a sliding cover top.

The AP-620 top model has automatic backing patterns, 180 built-in rhythms, and comes in a sophisticated cabinet. The AP-420 standard type model features a damper pedal capable of playing incrementally in half pedal, basic functions helpful for music lesson. The AP-220 entry model provides rich basic functions.

Blackwood type and oakwood type cabinets are available for the AP-420. While the two other models come in a blackwood type cabinet.

Further information is available from:



Suzuki BCH-48 Full-scale Chord Harmonica ¥87,500

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Suzuki has added a new model incorporating octave bass tone to individual chords to its chord harmonica line. 

The upper row provides major and seventh chords, while the lower row has minor, diminish/augment chords. A total of 48 chords, 24 each for major and minor chords are available.

Since the individual chords have octave bass tone, players can enjoy an effect of playing bass and chord harmonicas at the same time, or trio style performance with two players.

The bass range has two tones in different octaves to deliver fuller sound. The bass and chord tones are closely laid out so that inexperienced players can casually enjoy the BCH-48.

Employing single reeds and no valves involved, it's characterized for fast sound attack.

The BCH-48 has resin body with nickel-plated steel, and 5 chord patterns with octave bass tone. Twelve key models are available. It comes complete with matched standard type and shoulder worn cases. 

Further information is available from:



Oriente Mini Double Basses

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MB-33 ¥330,000
MB-38 with pickup ¥380,000

Featuring 1,040mm string length for 1,650mm long body, they are slim and compact size double basses to be easily carried around. The body top is expanded with additional wood to achieve playability and playing feeling similar to standard size instrument.

It's made of solid maple body with flat back, solid spruce top, and ebony fingerboard. The MB-38 has a built-in pickup.

Further information is available from:







ESP GazettE Aoi Signature Model Electric Guitar

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A-II en-v ¥500,000

A new model Aoi performed during the GazettE live concert in March makes a debut as his signature model. It features a symmetrical V-shaped body with an original head stock, alder body, hard maple through-to-body neck, 628mm medium scale, Lace Sencer Hot Gold & Seymore Duncun SL59-1n Little '59 pickups for the front, and Hot Gold Bridge & SLSD-1b Screamin' Demon pickups for the rear, which produce versatile sounds with simple control of a mini switch, and Floyd Rose original tremolo system.
It's finished in black and comes with a matched hard case.

Further information is available from:




Aria SWB-03SHX Electric Upright Bass ¥145,000

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Arai & Co. has refined the SWB-03, a solid body standard model of the series, with a Shadow SH-950 pickup built in tor richer bass tone in full volume, and tight well sustained tonal color. It can be played with a bow.

Other features include 43mm wide nut, 3mm wider than conventional models to be played like acoustic bass. It's made of alder body, maple neck, and simple treble, bass and volume controls, and finished in Soft Antique Violin color. 

Further information is available from:










Yamaha Electric Acoustic Guitars

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NCX2000R/NCX2000FM ¥380,000 each
NCX12000R ¥120,000
NCX900R/NCX900FM ¥90,000 each
NTX1200R ¥120,000
NTX900FM ¥90,000
NTX700/ NTX700BL ¥62,000 each

Nine models incorporating newly developed A.R.T. (Acoustic Resonance Transducer) pre-amp system joined the NX series nylon string electric acoustic guitar line. The two-way pickup for treble and bass ranges and a 2-band equalizer deliver warm sound only produced by nylon strings with enhanced middle range. They produce natural body resonance.

While inheriting traditional classic guitar designs, they feature a well defined headstock, contemporary sound hole inlay works and a new 'smile-shape' bridge. They well respond to requirements of guitarists from classical, Latin, jazz to rock.

The NCXes with a deep classic guitar body feature a neck jointed at 12th fret, and one-piece top for high quality sound. The NCX2000R and NCX2000FM, top models of the line have solid Ezo Pine top which has undergone special process by A.R.E (Acoustic Resonance Enhancement) technology, which greatly improves wood quality to add tonal characters of seasoned instrument, solid rosewood(R) or framed maple (FM) back and sides.

The NCX12000R features solid spruce top, solid rosewood back and sides. While, the NCX900R and NCX900FM are made of solid spruce top, rosewood (R) or framed maple (FM) back and sides.

The NTXes in original thin body with the neck jointed at 14th fret feature solid spruce top and come with a sound hole protection cover. The NTX1200R has solid rosewood back and sides. The NTX900FM and NTX700/BL have framed maple (FM) and nato (BL) back and sides, respectively.

Except the NTX700BL which is finished in black, all models come in natural finish.

A semi hard case is standard to the NCX2000R, NCX2000FM, NCX12000R and NTX1200R.

Further information is available from:



Korg padKONTROL MIDI Controller Black ¥23,500

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Korg has added a padKONTROL MIDI studio controller in black chassis. Besides 16 trigger pads which produce distinctive drum patterns, such helpful functions as X-Y pad control, two assignable knobs and a pedal jack, and Illuminated mode to add extra excitement to performance are all maintained.

A USB-MIDI interface, and an Editor Librarian software is standard.

Further information is available from:



Korg GA-1 Tuner ¥2,400

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The light-weight, compact size LCD needle meter type guitar/bass tuner is compatible with 6-string bass and 7-string guitar as well as acoustic guitar and other instruments as it has a built-in high sensitive microphone. Tuning sound is audibly confirmed with help of Sound Out mode which delivers reference pitch through the built in speaker. Quinta flat tuning mode is capable of handling 1-5 semi tones flat.

Since the level meter shows calibration range from 430Hz to 450Hz, it can tune instruments off the range. It measures tuning ranges from B0 to B6, with less than plus, or minus 1 cent irregularity.     
Auto Power Off function shuts down the GA-1 when it's left idle for over 20 minutes. It works for about 100 hours continuously with two 1.5V batteries.

Further information is available from:



ESP Custom Labo Finger Rest ¥2,500

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Specially designed for bassists to support their stable finger picking play, it's made of curved out solid brass galvanized in copper bronze. The L-shaped design simulates feeling of a thumb laid on lower strings. Sleek surface promises smooth and comfortable fingering. It can be screwed up side down as well for fast passage and rhythmic phrase. Two stainless steel screws are included for set up in the package.          
Further information is available from:



ESP Artist Guitar Picks

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the GazettE TOUR 09-DIM SCENE- original picks ¥100/each

Three different picks designed in cerebration of 09 summer concert tour of the GazettE are now available. Each pick represents three members of the group, Aoi, Rei and Reita.

Further information is available from:



To develop truly authentic snare drums
Sakae Rhythm in Nagoya has a long history of drum manufacturing as an OEM products supplier dating back to 1925. Last December, the company introduced its first original SAKAE snare drum line which has gained instant reputation from drum shops in Tokyo and Osaka. General users welcomed the new models for their makes reflecting original technology and a distinctive policy from an established drum manufacturer.

Eizo Nakata, president, says that it had been his dream to build Sakae original instruments in the future when he joined the company to succeed his father's business. However, he has made his best efforts in improving product quality and design as an OEM supplier by the time he is confident to take a bold step toward the manufacturer with original product lines. Through the times, Sakae has won confidence and credibility from its business partners. (Photo:from l. to r., Takashi Wariishi, Eizo Nakata, Shunsaku Tsuji)

Snare drum development project first came up 3 years ago, but it took another year to go over actually. It was quite natural that a drum specialist picks up snare drum as its first product with original brand name.

The R & D team had drawn a clear image in details of the snare drum from tonal color, shell material to body layer, strainer design and overall durability. They collected data on sound, acoustic characteristics, etc. at numerous concert halls and clubs. What they targeted was instruments free from fad and fickle taste of drummers changing from time to time. (Product photos: SD1465BV TEQ, top, and SD1465BE SS, bottom)

Innovative Structure
A host of prototypes were built and scrapped in course of extensive development works. The new snare drums reflect not a few ideas collected in the last 2 years.

They feature Mighty and Righty Halos available for hoop which provide characteristic sound by difference of generating overtones. Shunsaku Tsuji, assistant manager, explains, "Many of conventional snare drums employ Righty Halo that is outwardly curved hoop edge. With Mighty Halo, certain range of frequency response is trimmed and it delivers comfortable somewhat muted sound."

The strainer is designed to be smoothly set on and removed. The patented tilted snappie hook is increasingly durable as it has multiple contact points.(Photo left)

The Union lugs come with round surface, and look like tubes. Actually they are solid metal designed to project better controlled sound.

Made of high-dense carbon steel, the snare delivers more crispy sound than conventional models on the market. Individual models come with matched snare depending on shell materials.

The line is consisted of 16 models in 6 types of shells made of Mahogany, Mahogany with Zebra, Beech, Beech with Silky Oak, Bubinga and Bubinga with Castor Aralia. They come in 6-ply 6mm, 8-ply 6.4mm or 10-ply 10mm shell structure and thickness.

One of the characteristic finishes for the Sakae snare drum is larger sparkle specially developed for extra effect on stage. "It came after intensive study at our laboratory, and countless tries and errors," recalls Takashi Wariishi, assistant manager. Twenty color finishes including Lake Placid Blue, Burgundy Mist and Sonic Blue familiar with electric guitar are employed for the line.        

Another feature of the Sakae snare drums is that almost all parts are built by the company. They have re-examined every single component, lacquering and assembly from the very early stage, and came to a conclusion to make original parts themselves. That tells how much the engineers expected and dedicated in designing the first snare drums bearing Sakae brand name.

Expanded dealership is the key for distribution
Sakae began distribution of the new line last December. Despite limited dealer network, they are favorably accepted by consumers for their high standard of originality. They are rather expensive, not affordable for entry level drummers. However, customer cards sent back to Sakae tell that purchasers are diversified from young drummers in their 20s to seasoned veterans. They are all welcoming the new launch.

For the future marketing, the company plans to expand its dealership while providing in-store clinics for users. They are enthusiastic in sending brochure to music stores and studios throughout Japan in hopes of increasing their awareness in the music scene. Product information is also made available at its newly designed website (

T. Kurosawa Opens A Mega Guitar Shop 'G'Club Shibuya'

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A giant guitar shop operated by T. Kurosawa opened on May 30 at the commercial center of Shibuya. The utterly guitar-dedicated building has more than 2,000 electric and acoustic guitars massively displayed on 8 floors.

The ground floor is allocated for accessories and printed music. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors are shared by electric guitars including over 200 Gibsons and 280 PRSes. And 5th and 6th floors are home to such acoustic guitars as CF Martins which T. Kurosawa distributes exclusively in the Japanese market, Gibson, K.Yairi, Takamine and other top brands. Named Bass Center Shibuya, the basement has custom built ZON and MTD professional basses.

The store drew massive crowds through the opening days as it hosted the visitors with a series of live sessions inviting Jiro Yoshida, Kenji Suzuki and other professional musicians, Kazuo Yairi Special Event to introduce history of K. Yairi Guitar with photos. Initial sales exceeded prospects.

Kaita Nose, store manager, says, "Given the location, we have customers of all age groups. 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors are filled with young people all the time. We expect more enthusiastic guitar players to visit the professional 4th floor as it increases awareness in the coming months. As many as 2,000 selected guitars and basses displayed on the sales floors are definitely attractive for musicians. Our goal is to increase music makers serving their needs with good selection of high quality instruments and complete after-sales servicings."

T. Kurosawa's another retail outlet for ukulele started business in adjacent to East Exit, Japan Railways Shibuya Station, on May 28.