サムライ・ベース 其の一 - TC楽器 - TCGAKKI


In this column, we would like to introduce some of the most famous Japanese electric basses that have passed through the ages.
Samurai" is a word that is often used to describe the temperament of Japanese people, although it does not exist in the modern age.
This word, which is no longer even aesthetically pleasing, is synonymous with a hero of justice who rides into enemy territory with a single sword and defeats the mighty enemy. The Samurai bass, a product of Japan's battle since the 1960s to catch up with and overtake the electric bass that originated in the United States, continues to attract many fans today without ever fading away.

The history of handling wood, an important factor in the manufacture of musical instruments, is a long one, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is a history of ingenuity.
Originally one of the most forested countries in the world, Japan is known for its wooden architecture, and many architectural beauties, such as Horyuji Temple, the oldest wooden building in the world, are still in existence.
The wisdom of wooden architecture with a history of more than 1,000 years, the abundance of lumber, and the climate are all factors that have contributed to the rapid development of the Japanese electric bass over the past 50 years or so.

In terms of wood uniqueness, for example, many models up to around the 1980s were made with corks (sen), which grows wild in the country. Sen is similar in grain to ash wood used in Fender models, so in the early 1980s, sen was used as a substitute for various brands of domestic wood regardless of price range.

Later, Sen became popular as a high-end furniture material because it has few knots and is easy to work, and when colored, it has an elegant appearance reminiscent of Japanese cypress. It is said that the price of Sen has skyrocketed, and nowadays Sen is rarely used for musical instruments, but it is a versatile wood with a straightforward sound that is similar to that of Alder, with a sound that is free from any habits. Perhaps because it is a little softer than alder and ash, many of the basses are quite close in tone, but contain a little stickiness and sweetness, which may have played a role in the sound of Japanese basses of the time.

Another factor behind the rapid rise of domestically produced basses was the economic situation in which the exchange rate of 360 yen to the dollar continued until 1971, and remained below 200 yen to the dollar until the first half of 1985, making it very difficult to obtain American-made instruments. The price of Rickenbaker 4001S was about 500,000 yen at the time, which was a very high price considering that the starting salary for working people in 1975 was about 90,000 yen and the first ride on the Japan National Railways was 30 yen.

Considering that the list price of a Japanese-made high-end model at that time was 100,000-200,000 yen, we can see how much effort was made by domestic manufacturers to ensure that the quality was comparable to that of American-made models.

The samurai spirit of the Meiji Restoration, which was a time of feudalism before the Meiji Restoration, is a legendary story of brave Japanese samurai who crossed the sea and strode down Broadway in New York City. Since the 1970s, Japanese brands have been competing more and more to produce instruments of the same high quality as their foreign counterparts, and we are entering a period of great enthusiasm and passion among the Japanese.

The history of musical instrument manufacturing in Japan, a country blessed with rich forest resources and the blood of the samurai, is not so short. Although electronic musical instruments started in the U.S., many manufacturers continued their own research and development to catch up with and overtake them.

Among the well-known manufacturers, one of the oldest is Yamaha, which was founded in 1887 and established in 1897, already more than 100 years ago. The world's top brand in electric guitars, Gibson, was founded seven years later in 1894, which shows how long the company's history is supported among the many musical instrument makers. In 1908, Hoshino Gakki was founded, following YAMAHA. This was the year before Leo Fender, the father of the electric guitar, was born.

As rock music became popular in the 1960s, many musical instrument brands were established in Japan, and even earlier manufacturers began to focus their efforts on electronic musical instruments. Kanda Shokai, which had been selling musical instruments wholesale since the late 1940s, established the Greco brand in 1960 and began selling it in 1963. Hoshino Gakki, which had previously manufactured mainly acoustic guitars, established Tamitsu Manufacturing (later TAMA) in 1962 and began manufacturing electric guitars, focusing on exporting them overseas under the Ibanez brand name. In 1969, Saito Gakki entered the market under the Fernandes brand name, and in the 1970s, Arai Boeki with its Aria Pro and Tokai Gakki joined the market, plunging the company into a period of warfare for domestically produced musical instruments.

GRECO, now a leading domestic manufacturer, was started in 1948 by Kanda Shokai as an intermediary distributor of mainly overseas guitars.
GRECO was one of the earliest manufacturers in Japan, and in 1960, the original GRECO brand was born. In the 1970s, Greco became the flagship of the Samurai brand, which was split in two with Tokai due to the high quality of its products. It is a well-known fact that the Samurai brand is known not only for the excellent sound quality of its copy models, but also for its commitment to originality, which led to a major breakthrough in Japanese-made models.

The GOB series is a masterpiece of GRECO's legendary GOB series, which is characterized by its construction that makes the best use of the sound of the body.


The "Project Series" PMB1000, a Rickenbacker 4001S copy model, has a single-string neck construction, which gives it a rich string sustain and a clear sound with the bright and crisp sound of maple wood. The top-of-the-line model with a list price of 100,000 yen at the time may seem outrageous considering its construction and specs, but it is understandable if you consider that it was more than one month's salary at the time.


In 1969, Saito Gakki was established in Bunkyo-ku and started mainly as a musical instrument wholesaler.
In 1972, the company changed its name to Fernandes and entered the market as a full-fledged guitar manufacturer.

Fernandes' development was largely due to its primary start in the wholesale business, where it was able to accurately grasp information and customer needs in the store, which, combined with the HardRock movement that followed, led to a tremendous leap forward.


The brand's signature model FYB-70 by Eikichi Yazawa, one of the most popular artist models, is still a fan favorite.

The neck is made of maple with bolt-on JazzBass pickups, and the sound is bright and crisp.


Arai Boeki Kaisha, Ltd. was established in 1956 and introduced its own brand, Aria, in 1960.
The company started mainly with acoustic guitars, but in order to distinguish itself from acoustic guitars, it began to produce original basses as AriaPro in 1975. The Super Bass series is still one of the most popular and representative products of the company.
Many of the necks are still in good condition, showing the solid construction from the time of production.
The elaborate and uncompromising workmanship of Matsumoto's master craftsman Matsumoku Kogyo, who was involved in the production at that time, attracted the world's attention as a master craftsman samurai. During the band boom in Japan in the 80's, most amateur artists were passionate about becoming professionals with Aria instruments in their hands. Aria's instruments were also a part of the band boom of the 80's in Japan, when most amateur artists were passionately aiming to become professionals.
Also, the fact that John Taylor of Duran Duran, Neil Murray of White Snake, Cliff Burton of Metallica, and others were using Aria's instruments shows that it was greatly appreciated by overseas artists.

Particularly outstanding was the through-neck construction, which was quite reasonable at that time with specifications equivalent to those of the 150,000 yen class made overseas, even at the regular price of 60,000 yen class.

It is astonishing to be able to enjoy the quick rise and rich body tone characteristic of through necks at this price range. The passion of the craftsmen of the time can be seen in the uncompromising quality of the instruments, from the high-end models to the entry-level models.


In 1897, Nippon Gakki Seisakusho was established with the primary focus on piano manufacturing. The company expanded with a wide variety of businesses and became a leader in the field of pianos and keyboards in the 1970s and beyond, becoming the leader in the field of electronics. The wisdom and experience of the oldest and most experienced of the company's veterans is still impressive enough to keep the young samurai at bay. The BB series of electric basses, which is still popular today, is a representative work from the early days. It had the power of persuasion that made it the world standard sound.
In the PA situation before the band boom of the 80s and the many contests and outdoor gigs, the BB2000, a reversed Precision type called Reverse P, appeared to cover the lack of output with bass.

It was also used by a number of Japanese artists who are currently active, such as Ken Watanabe (Prism), who is famous for his melodic playing using a multi-string bass (as seen in instructional DVDs), Kenji Sano (VOWWOW), who supported Japan in the 80s, and Tetsuo Sakurai (Cassiopeia), who is still energetic in competing with other exciting artists. In those days, many of them used it for fusion music. The through-neck construction, which vibrates inside the body, allows the sound to rise up when slapped, making it a favorite of many people. This model was released as a high-end model, and with its brass bridge, pegs, and other features, it can be said to be a world-class Samurai bass from Japan, both in terms of performance and overall appearance.


In 1962, Hoshino Gakki established Tamitsu Seisakusho as a manufacturer of its own brand of musical instruments, including guitars and amplifiers.

The brand name "Ibanez" was derived from the fact that the company had been importing Spanish guitars made by "Ibanez Salvador" since before World War II, and the company started out as a brand specializing in exports. Through thorough market research, Ibanez accurately grasped the tastes of the overseas market and became a successful Japanese brand that gained recognition and high reputation in the overseas market. We will continue to release original models based on new ideas, without being bound by conventional concepts.

Afterwards, it is distributed to Japan as a reimported brand, and it reaches the present as a popular brand in Japan with the medal of high evaluation overseas on its back.


The MC-924 was released at a time when Ibanez was at the height of its popularity and was known as the "Ibanez of the world.
The original shape with through-neck construction, especially the low noise and wide range pickups produce rich bass and sustain through the through-neck.

History of MC-924 Transition
The specification of MC-924 varies from period to period. In the early MC-924, the body material is ASH/MAHOGANY, and the controls are 1Vol/1Tone, 1Boost/Cut, 3 EQ-B, and 3W Switch for detailed sound creation. After '82, the pickups were changed (SUPER4 -> SUPER5), and the control specification also changed to 1Vol/1Tone 1Barancer 3EQ-B.
After minor material changes, the pickups were changed from SUPER5 to SUPER J60 and the controls were changed to 2Vol/2Tone in the later model after '84.

The active pickups, which can be cited as one of the characteristic parts of the later MC-924 models, are low-impedance output models known as split-coil bar polepiece type pickups, which did not get buried in the sonic part in the era of the synthesizer heyday, but instead had an artificial sound with a strong It has a strong presence due to its artificial sound, but not buried in the sonic part in the age of synthesizers.
With its highly original body shape and rich bass sound, this legendary Samurai bass is always mentioned as one of Ibanez's representative models.


Fuji Stringed Instrument Manufacturing Company, which has produced the majority of Japanese manufacturers, was founded in 1960 in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture. The original factory was a converted cattle shed, and from here many legends were nurtured.
The company started out producing classical guitars, but in anticipation of the electric guitar boom in the U.S., it shifted to electric guitars the following year. With the samurai spirit of "Fuji" in its name, the company aspired to be the best in Japan and became one of the top manufacturers. The company then introduced Greco, Ibanez, and others to the world, and its high creativity and rich technology attracted the world's attention.
Since then, through the relentless pursuit of Japanese craftsmen, Fujigen has continued to improve the quality of its "reproductions," which were supposed to be popular products, and as a result, Fujigen's technical level eventually reached a point where it surpassed that of the United States.

In 1982, Fuji Stringed Instrument Manufacturing Co., Ltd. formed a partnership with Fender, one of the two major U.S. manufacturers, and began OEM production as Fender Japan. What started as an imitation of Fender's original products, was now recognized as "made in Japan" and soon gained worldwide acclaim.
The fact that Fender Japan does not follow the models of the home country and develops models to meet the needs of the customers is an advantage of a domestic manufacturer. I have one myself, and I have the impression that the neck is very strong.
I have the impression that the neck is very strong, and even today, it does not bend, which reminds me that it is made for the Japanese climate.
The sound itself is as good as that of American-made models, and it is made with great care.

The trajectory of the Samurai bass started with admiration and eventually accelerated with the momentum of catching up with and surpassing the rest of the world. It was this that led to the establishment of Fender Japan under a patent from Fender, the world's top brand. This was the moment when Japanese musical instrument manufacturing technology was on par with the rest of the world. It is not hard to imagine that this was the most motivating event for Japanese craftsmen, who had always been supported by their high aspirations. Regardless of the circumstances of the original Fender USA, it was time for the Samurai spirit to come together and take over the world. Even today, when you hold one of these instruments in your hand, you can feel the spirit of the pinnacle, and this may be one of the reasons why they are so popular in the market today at prices that exceed the list price of the time.

The spirit of Fender Japan has been passed down to the present, and the company continues to produce products with a noble spirit, while at the same time attracting high acclaim from overseas.


In recent years, there has been a growing demand to re-evaluate Japanese basses manufactured in the 1970s and 1980s. In addition to the originals, copy models of the highly popular Fender and Rickenbacker basses are available at music stores and auctions at regular or higher prices due to the extremely high quality of the sound and the instruments themselves as well as their appearance. The main reasons for this are that the number of popular high-end models produced is small, and the number of existing models manufactured 30 to 40 years ago is scarce, and musicians in Japan and abroad started actually using Japanese-made guitars in the 70s and 80s, and magazines and other media picked up on the popularity of these guitars. In those days, Japanese-made guitars were made with high quality, and their sound quality was as good as that of American-made guitars. However, not all old Japanese-made guitars are of good quality, so we recommend that you buy from a store that offers reasonable prices and reliable maintenance.

At THE Used Musical Instrument Store, we will continue to offer a wide selection of Samurai Vintage instruments, and we look forward to your visit to our store.
Thank you very much for your patience.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before publication