September 2009 Archives

Academies generated demands for music products

Ochanomizu means special to Japan's music products industry. Total sales of the area are estimated to be 20 billion yen* including Internet sales. There are 48 music stores located in an about 70 hector space starting from Japan Railways Ochanomizu Station down to Akihabara which is renowned by shoppers of PC and consumer electric appliances. Majority of them are MI stores with guitar as a main line. More recently specialist stores for used instruments are increasing their existence. (*Total annual sales are an estimate brought by Japan Music Trades in reference to previous data as no sales figures were provided from part of the stores.)

Looking back the history of the area, there are some credible reasons that the mega town for musical instruments was formed and developed to this day. The first point is its historical background dating back to Meiji Era. During the period, Meiji, Chuo, Senshu and other law schools founded one after another, and Tokyo University of Music (then, Toyo School of Music) which is the first music academy in Japan was established in 1907. Japan's first orchestra was organized in the academy to achieve national sensation. (photos above: Holy Resurrection Cathedral, Nicholai-do, a landmark of Ochanomizu, top, and the crossing from where the musical instrument town begins.) 

Today extended Ochanomizu area including adjacent Kanda has become one of the largest academic towns having nearly 20 universities, art and language institutes. There existed substantial demands for musical instruments for those schools from earlier times.

The second point is the area also raised book stores of versatile fields serving the needs of the students. Well known Kanda Book Street emerged along with increase of the schools. A town guide book lists up as many as 160 book stores in Kanda.

The third point much relates to prolific music activities by students in the area. From early to middle of the 20th century, mandolin became a popular instrument among university students. Harmonica was another favorite of students and citizens. The music stores mainly sold violin, mandolin, guitar and harmonica. Only a limited number of retailers had piano on their sales floor. With outbreak of The Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, brass bands budded throughout Japan which helped stimulate demands for wind instruments.

The customers for the music stores in Ochanomizu are 73% adults, and 27% students. Despite the origin as academic town, they chiefly serve businessmen today. That reflects fewer youth population and increasing involvement in music making by adults.

The 48 music stores in Ochanomizu have following products displayed at their sales floors:
12,590 electric guitars
4,670 electric basses
4,430 acoustic guitars
320 trumpets
470 saxophones
210 flutes
147 clarinets
1,210 violins

Growth associated with surging demands for guitar
Origin and advent of Ochanomizu as a town of musical instruments are deeply rooted into its peculiar factors much associated with the area. It's ideally located between Japan Railways Tokyo and Ueno mega terminal stations of Metropolitan Tokyo. It budded in early 20th century backed by demands from the schools in the area.

After the World War II, Ochanomizu revived from the ashes relatively earlier than other towns as much of the area survived the raids. As humble shops opened, people flocked, more shops came up, and a good cycle developed to form a larger commercial area.

Such established music stores as Shimokura Gakkiten, Suga Gakki , Kawase Gakki, Miyaji Shokai, Ishibashi Musical, Shimokura Gakki and Taniguchi Gakki prompted further growth of Ochanomizu. Later, guitar boom brought by popular folk and rock music also greatly accelerated their success.



Electric guitar sales flourished after 1972. Domestic sales in 1972 were 45,000 units which nearly doubled to 82,000 units next year, and reached 103,000 units in l976. After the industry sold 230,000 units in 1978, business successfully expanded.   
While, acoustic guitar market enjoyed favorable growth with average annual sales of 650,000 units from 1965 through 1979, however, it went into a downward trend in 1980s. All in all, huge demands for guitar built a solid foundation of music retail business in Ochanomizu.

It was the middle of 1980s that music stores for used instruments began increasing existence in the area. Present structure of the music town forged in this period. It's not a surprise that competition magnifies as more players join the game. At one time, cut-throat discount by music retailers in the area was a major concern for the industry.

Whereabouts of the musical instruments town cast significant influence on performance of music products industry. It's trend and business climate are easily penetrated to other areas. Hopefully, Ochanomizu remains as one of leading powers in music business in the years to come.

Here is a list of 48 music retailers in Ochanomizu.

Shimokura Gakki main store
Ishibashi Musical main store
Taniguchi Gakki
ESP Technical House
G-Club Tokyo
Kurosawa Wind
PAN Music Used Insts. Center
PAN Music
Shimokura Violin Co.
Shimokura Second Hands Part I
Shimokura Second Hands Part II
Kurosawa Violin
Guitar Planet
Akio Gakki
Kurosawa Gakki Ochanomizu St. store
Old Guitar Garage
Big Boss Tokyo
Figaro Guitars
Ishibashi Musical Ochanomizu Annex
Gakki Center Tokyo (Show Room)
Big Boss Tokyo SOUND LINER
Guitar Workshop Andante
Wood Magic
Kurosawa Gakki Dr. Sound (Electric Guitar & Bass)
Kurosawa Gakki Dr. Sound (Acoustic Guitar)
Kurosawa Gakki Dr. Sound (Classical guitar)
Rim Shot
Sankei Shoten
Suga Gakki
The Dream
Kuroda Gakki
Blue-G Acoustic Guitars
Hobo's Trading
Guitar Workshop
Kawase Gakki
LLuck Guitar
Miyaji Gakki Kanda Store
Vintage Strings
Media Calm
Ken Guitars
Ikebe Gakki Revole Akihabara Store
Ikebe Gakki Bass Station Revole Akihabara
Ikebe Gakki Drum Station Revole Akihabara

Inherits original compact and light weight structure
First introduced in 1989 by Tokyo Sound, competitively priced Guyatone micro series effect processors in 250-gram light weight chassis now extended to more than 20 models and have kept stayed in main stream in the music scene for over 20 years.

The line has upgraded recently and 8 models out of 12 of mighty micro series models are now available in the market. Hiroshi Matsuki, manager says, "We were more inclined to cost-effectiveness to be competitive in developing the micro series. Sharing same chassis then used for our foot switch, they came as effect processors capable of producing above-level effect sounds in compact size, simple-operation and easy setup."

In the last 20 years which brought new standards to musical environment and music gears, Tokyo Sound had to recognize that the compact structure and reasonable price of the micro series effect devices were loosing competitiveness in the market. The users and market requested higher quality sound, improved functions and product image. The company felt the needs that new, more attractive models to be developed.

Matsuki explains about the development works of the might micro series, "The conventional chassis had no extra space for additional circuitry. Using smaller parts didn't make the price points we originally set. So we have decided to reset our old manufacturing and start again from the very beginning." (photo left: Hiroshi Matsuki, left, and Kazuya Takashika.)

A year after the project to develop the mighty micro series started 3 years ago, the company introduced 4 new models which became the last of the micro series. It was fortunate for Tokyo Sound that Toshihiko Torii joined the engineering team as R & D adviser. The greatly improved tonal quality of the new models won reputation among musicians.

Matsuki recalls, "The success of the distortion/boost effects gave us much confidence in prosecuting the mighty micro project. Torii has worked with many manufacturers with much success. Not a few musicians both in Japan and abroad very much appreciate his ideas and sounds. Their comments played significant role in our development works during the last 2 years."

Tokyo Sound had over 30 musicians examine prototypes of the mighty micro models. Their voices are fully reflected on the specifications which satisfy requirements of discerning professionals.

Torii tells about design concepts of the new series, "What we were determined in developing new products was that those Guyatone assets which include compactness and easy operation on live stage should be retained. They would be designed for musicians, not by production reasons set by manufacturers. I say we packed nearly 100% of what we intended in the new line. They are new standards of Guyatone."

Though the mighty micro models come in a little bit fatter chassis than the predecessors, they maintain same base size as the micro units. With the In/Out jack laid out on upper area of the chassis and compact size, they easily fit any effect board.

Greatly enhanced sound and functions
Another advantage of the new models is that they feature highest quality parts to provide much improved sound. Cost never came first. Saying it in a nutshell, they were strict to principals to build products without compromise.         

The light aluminum chassis is designed in every detail with brand-new parts including bolts built after exclusive molds developed for the mighty micro series. Matsuki explains, "Just redesigning chassis into a little larger size won't impress customers. We have definite concepts for our products, and new models are destined to be more exciting and easier to play. They deliver really astonishing sound! We believe musicians will instantly identify the difference, and expect they add these new units to their gears."

Battery is replaced simply by turning 2 Smart-Screws 4 and a half turns. Professionals will appreciate Load Scope function with which they can check battery load through a hole on the pedal. The chassis sole comes flat so that the units can be locked safely on floor by elastic tape.

The might micros have a characteristic stomp guard (photo right) which prevents wrong control in live performance and protect knobs. Besides, it keeps knob settings by attaching the other way around. The switches come with self-lit Luminous Foot-SW spacer to indicate controls on dark stage.

Most of the units incorporate a Dip switch to select input level to be capable of handling keyboard and other devices. These innovative functions were developed in response to the requirements from musicians and roadies.

Torii is more specific saying, "We sought after sound better associated in session play because it's more important how sound comes out as total when played in band. That is we don't place priority in guitar solo sound. The mighty micros are our answer to meet the demands of guitar players. It's a simple solution. The brilliant, resonant sound with fine overtones will be more polished and sophisticated in the upcoming models."

The mighty micro comes complete with 12 models. Tokyo Sound is now developing a new line of high quality effect machines employing new concepts using by-pass system. The mighty micros are expected to revive the legendary Guyatone brand which was once a leading innovator of electric guitar, amplifier and effect processors in Japanese music scene.

ESP Electric Guitars

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HORIZON-III Deep Candy Apple Red ¥350,000
Candy Apple Red finish is now available for the HORIZON-III, one of the ESP flagship models which has alder body, hard maple through-to-body neck with long sustain, and unsymmetrical contemporary body shape. It features Seymour Duncan SH-2n (Jazz) and TB-4 (JB) pickups at the front and the rear individually to be capable of producing versatile sounds from delicate clean tone to wild distorted types.






SNAPPER-CTM24-FR ¥450,000
A variant model with 24 frets and Floyd Rose tremolo system joined the SNAPPER-CTM highest standard type electric guitar line. In addition to re-shaped cutaway design, it provides players with flexible, stress-free performance over high positions with help of new ERGO bolt-on neck joint system. It has quilted maple top, alder back, hard maple neck, maple fingerboard, and 2 single ESP Custom Lab and 1 humbucking pickups. New Mix Variation Switch allows players to enjoy desired sound selecting pickup combinations of front, center and rear, or front and rear. The Master Tone control comes with a capacitor select switch which provides 0.047μF or 0.01μF capacitors. When it's pushed up, 0.01μF capacitor is selected to deliver mellower sound.

Two color finishes of See Thru Black and Magenta are available.



VP-L-FR ¥330,000
A new model of the VP Series much favored by loud music guitarists features a Floyd Rose tremolo system, 45mm deep alder body, 3-piece hard maple neck, ebony fingerboard with 24 frets, and new ERGO bolt-on neck joint system.

The output jack at the body side has a boat type plate. The bridge is recessed shallower than conventional models to be compatible with non-floating setting. Seymour Duncan SH-1n (The 59) and TB-14 (Custom5) pickups are mounted at the front and rear individually.

Black and Deep Candy Apple Red finishes are available.

Further information is available from:



Yamaha Acoustic Guitars

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Kosetsu Minami signature models
LJ36KM HANA ¥600,000
LJ36KM ¥480,000
Yamaha has announced two new acoustic guitars in tribute to Kosetsu Minami who has been Yamaha artist for decades, and celebrates 40 years career as singer song writer. Also they are anniversary models commemorating his concert, Summer Picnic Forever in Tsumagoi to be held on September 20 at Tsumagoi. They employ Minami's original paintings. 

They are built to order until December 31.

Built after the LJ36ARE advanced hand-made model, they feature solid Engleman spruce top which has processed with A.R.E (Acoustic Resonance Enhancement) technology, Minami's favorite cherry blossom motif inlay on headstock, fingerboard and bridge. Each model comes with his original autograph on a label inside the sound hole.

The LJ36KM HANA has pomegranate flower patterns Minami painted himself, and finished in traditional Japanese lacquer artwork (makiye).

They feature solid Indian rosewood sides & back, 5-piece mahogany and padouk wood neck, ebony fingerboard, and glossy natural finish using high quality lacquering material. A matched hard case is standard.

Further details are available from:



Suzuki Chromatic Harmonicas

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Gregoire Maret Signature Models
G-48 metallic covers ¥38,000

G48W wooden covers ¥42,000

Two new signature models feature dark tonal color which Swiss harmonica player, Gregoire Maret, is pursuing.

The G-48 has specially plated brass covers in characteristic dark blue, and delivers massive, brilliant and aggressive sound.

The G-48W is the world's first production model which features rosewood covers, mellower and dark tonal color.

Both models have 12 holes, 48 notes, from c1 to d4 tone range, a cross tuned slider, and come with a matched plastic case.

Further details are available from: