There are literally dozens of other noteworthy brands of vintage and new Japanese guitars. Most of the below brands are
either extinct now, or are so rare that dedicating a separate section to them is just not possible…
A funny thing happened to me a while ago. One of my good Japanese friends told me about this brand of guitars that was
really one of the best in Japan; Guitars-R-Us. I had never heard of it, but he said they were really rare and that I should
buy one if I could find one. Well, 3 years of collecting finally enabled me to find a used one. The strange thing was that it
said "MADE IN USA" on it...? But it was supposed to be a Japanese guitar. Hmmm. So I emailed only 3 people I knew in
California, since apparently they were made there, and one of the 3 people who wrote back said "Hey, Andrew, these
are MY guitars! I make them! I was completely amazed that out of 3 people I wrote to, the guy who actually made these
guitars by hand wrote back! I guess it was fate. Albert Molinaro is his name, and hand-crafted Fender-style guitars are
his thing. He used to (GRU ceased building guitars in 2005) build amazing Fender replica guitars for sale in Japan only.
AirMusic Japan was the sole dealer until 2004 and then GuitarsJapan took over distribution for a short period until 2005.
Albert is a good friend of mine and his guitars took a l-o-n-g time to make, since they were custom-made by hand and
made-to-order. His guitars rank at the top of my list for Fender clones, bar none. Even Fender Master-built guitars.
A company that is known for its keyboards and pianos once made one of Japan’s most interesting and cool guitars of
all-time: the Kawai Moon Sault. Shaped like a crescent moon, it was loaded with active EMG pickups and was adorned
with green abalone inlays and sparkle finishes. They were made in the early 1980’s, and have been recently
(and pathetically) reintroduced in bolt-on neck form. Kawai also made copies of Alembic guitars of exceptionally high
quality and those are somewhat popular to collectors as well. No model can compare to the popularity of the MoonSault,
though. They are now extremely rare. I search for guitars in Japan 24/7 and haven’t seen one in over 2 years.
One man started Kid’s with a desire to make the most amazing one-off guitars in the history of the Japanese guitar
market. He used woods that are next to impossible to get (my gold Lenny Kravitz Flying V replica has real Korina wood)
on many of his models. He made Gibson, Fender and Zemaitis replicas and custom one-off guitars as well. His guitars
are regarded by the Japanese as one of the best and most rare brands of all Japanese vintage guitars.
This company primarily made bass guitars of incredible professional quality and unique design, but they also had a
thing for making Zemaiti’s copies. Tune made a few different models, mainly the “Hearts” and “Wild” versions. They
are rare and valuable today and tune models differ from the Kid’s models in that they have 6 petals on the adjusting
bolt flower of the bridge, whereas Kid’s Zemaiti’s copies have 8 petals on the adjusting bolts. Tune also is noted for
their intricate engraving on the tailpieces on these guitars.
Zemaiti’s copies that were made in Japan and Korea. A few ways to tell them apart, as the Korean ones are junk, but
the Japanese ones are really nice: 1) Both versions are ZST models, but the Japanese versions have Zemaiti’s-like
tailpieces and bridges. The Korean models have Les Paul-style bridges and stopbar tailpieces. Also, the Korean
models have multiple pieces of wood for the neck/headstock. The Japanese versions have 1-piece mahogany necks.
Both versions have nice abalone inlay work, though, of the same quality and design.
Crews and Combat (both are different companies)
There is not much information about these two Japanese companies, but they still make excellent Fender-style guitars
of high quality (and high price). Their Fender replicas are beautiful and have a vintage feel. Combat also makes
Gibson-style Les Paul copies with painstaking detail.
Westminster, Heerby, El Maya, Fresher
Three extinct Japanese companies that made very good and very early Fender and Gibson replicas in the 1970s.
They were out of business by 1980, although Fresher has been reintroduced in Japan. Some of them are marked with
the “Matsumoku” stamp, indicating where it was made. Matsumoku also made the early Greco guitars prior to 1976,